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No heartache for admiring Eagles fans

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John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press

The Eagles brought their 'History of the Eagles' tour to the MTS Centre Monday night.

It's impressive to consider that, over the course of just one decade and six studio albums (not counting 2007's Long Road Out of Eden for the diehards keeping score at home), Eagles established themselves as one of the most enduring American rock bands of the 20th century.

They were, at varying points, also one of the most volatile, as chronicled by this year's History of the Eagles -- an exhaustive two-part documentary chronicling the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll narrative behind those golden harmonies and sunny, blissed-out country rock. The in-fighting, the legal battles, the onstage death threats hissed at each other between songs -- it's a minor miracle they're still speaking to each other.

It's been a long road, of course, culminating in this, History of the Eagles tour, which may well be their last.

Monday night, there was no drama, no resentment. Just a peaceful, easy walk down a golden, sun-dappled memory lane with nearly 11,000 adoring fans in tow. See, that's the thing about Eagles tunes; they were nostalgic before they were nostalgic.

There was a roar followed by a hush as Glenn Frey and Don Henley took the stage just after 8 p.m. for a tender acoustic performance of Saturday Night. And so began a career-retrospective, filled with stories from the good ol' days. Bernie Leadon, who rejoined the band for this tour, joined Frey and Henley for Train Leaves Here This Morning before Timothy B. Schmit took the stage for that summertime love letter Peaceful Easy Feeling.

They might be a little older and a little grayer, but those warm, rich harmonies were as they ever were. When it was on, the band was on.

Applause erupted when guitar-slinger Joe Walsh sauntered onstage for a slinky, sexy uptempo Witchy Woman, bringing a shot of energy with him. There was a noticeable change in the room.

From there, it was a veritable hit parade.

It's easy to see why Eagles have been able to soar (sorry) on the lift of various Greatest Hits packages; their first, 1976's Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) is the second best-selling album in history, second to Michael Jackson's Thriller. (Both have unseated each other from that title at various points.)

Tequila Sunrise benefited from Frey's weathered vocals; he sells the lyrics better these days. An anthemic, show-stopping performance of Desperado was another first set highlight, but the energy came in peaks and valleys; a slow, shuffling The Best Of My Love was a bit of a snooze.

Thankfully, the band turned it back up for that gold-standard ballad Lyin' Eyes, which apparently was written in just two days -- just one of many fun facts sprinkled throughout the evening. One Of These Nights stuck pretty close to the recording, although somewhat disappointingly, that iconic Don Felder guitar solo was handled by a touring sideman and not, as this writer hoped, Joe Walsh. The first set ended on a high with the rafter-reaching Take It To The Limit.

After a short intermission, the band continued its trip through the catalogue, entering the later years with Walsh's Pretty Maids All in a Row from Hotel California (there were some ardent Walsh fans in the stands, all right). That song was followed up with Schmit's I Can't Tell You Why, his boyish falsetto providing a striking contrast to Walsh's gruff delivery. The solo vocal performances served to illustrate just how well such individual voices work together on those definitive harmonies.

The second set clipped along at a nice pace with a rousing, honky-tonk rendition of Heartache Tonight, Walsh's chugging rocker Life's Been Good -- one of the night's few forays into the members' solo output -- and The Long Run, which Henley dedicated to the audience. "This has become kind of our anthem because we're still here and you're still here," he says. "We're here because you're here."

The second half of the three-hour show (including intermission) skewed a bit more arena rock. A charging Life in the Fast Lane, complete with crowd-pleasing guitar heroics, powered Eagles into the final victory lap, which included, of course, the song everyone was waiting to hear, Hotel California.

Revealed in individual spotlights to a thunderous crowd, the band turned out a solid, if dutiful, performance of one of its most famous songs -- and it was the only moment of the night that felt a little phoned in. Still, the satisfied crowd roared its approval. The Eagles followed that up with the one-two punch of Take It Easy and Walsh's hard-charging blues stomp Rocky Mountain Way (complete with talkbox, natch). Onstage, there was no heartache tonight. Just a peaceful easy feeling.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 17, 2013 C1


Updated on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 6:47 AM CDT: Replaces photo, adds slideshow

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