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The Eagles celebrate 40 years of History with new show

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2013

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It's been 41 years of runnin' down the road for the Eagles -- sometimes taking it easy, sometimes taking it to the limit.

But it's a longevity and legacy the group has decided to spend some time celebrating.

The History of the Eagles Tour comes this year in the wake of last year's well-received documentary "The History of the Eagles," which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival before a run on Showtime and a subsequent DVD release. Timed to the group's 40th anniversary, both the movie and the tour revel in the career of a band that's sold more than 150 million records worldwide, with six No. 1 albums, six Grammy Awards and a lengthy list of enduring hits such as "Take It Easy," "Take It to the Limit," "One of These Nights," "Hotel California," "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Heartache Tonight," co-written by Bob Seger.

"It's a big story," says Glenn Frey, the Royal Oak native who co-founded the Eagles with singer-drummer Don Henley after the two played in Linda Ronstadt's band during the early 70s. "We really all prefer doing new things, whether ourselves or with the band, but it felt like a good time to maybe look back a minute and take stock and be proud of everything we've accomplished over four decades."

The Eagles have certainly had a colorful history, the group's musical achievements balanced with tales of inner-band turmoil that Frey maintains "was about making the music the best it can be more than anything else." The group actually split up in 1980 but reunited in 1994; it's released two albums since then -- "Hell Freezes Over" and "The Long Road Out of Eden" -- while "Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)" jockeys for position with Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as the top-selling album of all time. The group has toured frequently and now functions as what Frey calls "a mothership. We go out and do individual stuff and then come back to the Eagles and it's fresh again."

"The History of the Eagles" documentary, meanwhile, was an idea that sparked the interest of all the members -- Frey, Henley, guitarist Joe Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmit. The group had been "accumulating footage seriously for the past 10 years," according to Frey, "We found Super 8 footage, photographs, interviews and stuff we didn't know we had. We've interviewed 20, 30 different people, gotten every sbot of footage we can, especially from the 70s." Academy Award winner Alex Gibney ("Taxi to the Dark Side," "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room") directed the project, which also incorporates comments from co-founder Bernie Leadon, who's part of this year's tour, as well as former members Randy Meisner and Don Felder.

"Everybody got a chance to say their side of the experience, and it was fun to see everybody's take on the history of the band," says Walsh, 65, who joined in 1975 to replace Leadon. "It's told from all different perspectives, and it worked. It was a hoot to hear what I said about them and what they said about me."

But Felder -- who was fired by Frey and Henley in 2001, with subsequent lawsuits that were settled out of court six years later -- is not a big fan of the film. "Overall I thought it was OK, but I didn't think it was really an accurate documentary," he explains. "It was more of a Henley/Frey-glorified documentary of their work, literally giving very little of the credit to all the other people who worked so hard on the whole kind of history of recordings, including Bernie, Randy, myself, the other things that people brought to it like (producer) Bill Szymczyk.

"To me it's like a football quarterback who has just won the Super Bowl saying, 'I'm great. I won the game, and I did it all' as opposed to realizing it was a large team of a lot of people working together the make it happen."

Felder, along with Meisner, is not surprisingly part of The History of the Eagles Tour, though both were on hand for the group's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1998. But Leadon is on board again, part of long evening that rolls through the group's career in mostly chronological fashion and has returned rarities such as "Saturday Night" and "Train Leaves Here This Morning" to the set. "We thought maybe we'd cut our hair, then grow it and cut it again halfway through the show," Frey, 64, quips. "We could start out wearing cowboy boots and then put on Reeboks."

Walsh, meanwhile, call it "quite an evening" and is particularly happy to be sharing the stage with Leadon. "Bernie's brilliant," Walsh notes. "He's a great guitar player. I never really got a chance to play with him 'cause I kind of replaced him, but we've been in contact. We see him from time to time, and I'm really glad he's out because it takes the whole show up a notch."

The Eagles' tour is currently booked into mid-January, including three-night stands in New York and Los Angeles. Adding to The History, however, is another matter. Frey and Walsh each released solo albums in 2012, and Henley is working on one right now. Frey says the group has "got some ideas" about new music, but nothing is formally in motion just yet.

"We plan the Eagles a year at a time; we can't be any more forward-looking than that," Frey says. "That keeps you from getting ahead of yourself and putting one foot too far ahead of the other. We've been fortunate; we've struck a pretty good balance between our personal lives, our personal careers and the Eagles' business, and that keeps us from burning out on (the band) like we did 30-odd years ago."

The Eagles and JD & the Straight Shot perform at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $49.50-$189. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.placenet.com

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