Saturday, September 21, 2013

Concert Review: Eagles at United Center, Chicago - September 20, 2013

"Seems like a dream now, it was so long ago."

The Eagles are the definitive American rock band. Outside of the Beach Boys, no other American act even comes close to matching the ups, the downs, the good, the bad, the spot on music of life quite like the Eagles.

They did their first of two nights (they will appear for their second night in Chicago on October 19 at  the All-State Arena) in Chicago at the United Center on Friday, September 20 in front of a sold-out crowd of hard-core fans; and a few nominal fans.

Don Henley and Glenn Frey are two gifted composers/lyricists. They took the stage in silence and it went from you could hear a pin drop to a deafening roar of approval. The lovers of the timeless music catalog known as the Eagles were beyond content. They opened the show with two little heard ballads from their first two albums. Train Leaves Here This Morning is off the 1972 debut album, Eagles. That lovely piece of music segues into Saturday Night off of the Desperado album. No band defines musicality better than the Eagles. They were and are gifted songwriters, musicians, singers and clearly, the best harmonizers in all of recorded music. Lest one think hyperbole is being used. It's not.

Original member, Bernie Leadon rejoins the Eagles on this, Their History of the Eagles tour. Even though we are being led to believe and I believe it is true, that this will be their last tour as Eagles, it is wonderful to have him back.  He plays the mandolin on Saturday Night and it is beyond a welcomed moment in life itself. The only missing element is Randy Meisner. Randy Meisner's ill health has prevented him from taking part in this retrospective of a career. Glenn Frey did say from the stage that Randy was recovering. Unfortunately, his nuanced and beautiful presence on the stage will not be felt during this tour.

The acoustic open to the show with the earliest of Eagles songs is beautifully done. No theatrics. It's the music. Period.

They play through a near mind-numbing series of hit songs. Peaceful Easy Feeling, Witchy Woman, Tequila Sunrise, Best of My Love, Already Gone and One of These Nights. They launched into a scorchingly subtle, beautifully poetic and hauntingly cow jumped over the moon moment with their non-Randy Meisner version of  Take It To The Limit. Randy Meisner is obviously not there to craft and mold the moment that only he can take to the limit, but the memories of the original recorded version are so deeply rooted in the mindset of the lover of the music that it will no doubt never fade away during the earthly life of the fan. The current stage version of Witchy Woman is newly arranged with a driving downbeat. It took on a life of its own. Bernie Leadon, in his intro said he wrote the song with Don Henley and then got a laugh out loud moment with "no one in the band ever dated anyone like this woman." One of them probably did.

More hits - Lyin' Eyes, New Kid in Town, Life in the Fast Lane, In The City, Heartache Tonight and then they rolled us into a post hypnotic trance on their encore songs, including Hotel California, Take It Easy and they move quietly into the sunset with the most gorgeous and simple take on Desperado. They play it straight with the original arrangements of many of these songs, but they mess around (in a good way) with Heartache Tonight. Glenn Frey admits he loved what the Beach Boys did with Barbara Ann. A group of musicians having fun with their guitars talking to one another. There were no heartaches last night.

Lots of humor and talking on this tour. I've seen them several times over the years and they talked more last night than they have in their entire career on the stage. Frey had some good moments with his Lyin' Eyes tune dedicated to his ex-wife. I won't give you the punch line.

Those Shoes was so spot on I literally could have closed my eyes and thought my turntable was playing my Long Run copy.

Joe Walsh adds a tremendous amount of humor and rock to the evening. His superb artistry with the guitar lends itself wisely to the band. His inclusion in the band may be one of the most brilliant decisions Glenn Frey ever made. By the way, he looks great. Talk about aging well. Joe's highlight moment was Rocky Mountain Way. You get a Colorado backdrop to ease you while showcasing his still remarkable set of gifts.

Timothy B. Schmit off of a bout with cancer is in top form. He drives home the appeal of the country rock roots and he delivers on the hard driving rock songs. TBS (Glenn Frey called him TBS, so let's go with it) pulls out the harmonica on Doolin' Dalton.

Don Henley and Glenn Frey still offer supremely worthwhile lead vocals throughout the multiple sets, although, keep in mind they are 66 and 65 years of age respectively. No, they don't sing like they used to, but they are better than anyone else out there. Their voices have to strain a bit and they are no longer effortless voices. They are two of the finest vocalists, phrasers and interpreters of their own music in the last sixty years of recorded music. Song for song, there is no act quite like them. The Beatles may reign with range and depth, but for sheer joy, solace and peace in rock/pop music I would rather have the catalog of the Eagles on the desert island, wherever that may be. On a cold  day I'm pulling out On the Border

The only song missing - Seven Bridges Road. This song defines the pure genius of their harmony abilities. They've sung it since the 1970's in their live shows and they use it to open their History of the Eagles documentary. I don't know why it's not on their set list, but here's hoping they add it back to the show.

A couple of verbal hiccups. Glenn Frey said his hometown of Detroit was like Chicago with more garbage. Clearly, he hasn't read a great deal of news lately, but Don Henley's verbal faux pas of referring to Linda Ronstadt as a smart "girl" was a bit much. "Girl?" She's 67 years old; and then after he called her a smart girl he mentioned she wrote her autobiography by herself. Patronizing to boot. They are clearly forgiven, but they may want to check themselves on the next go-round.

I don't say this lightly, but in my life I have been comforted deeply by my faith, my immediate family and by the music that has so stirred my emotions. The Eagles have been with me on my own personal journey since that lofty late spring day when I first heard them back in May, 1972. I sincerely can't imagine not having them as my backdrop.

I shared this evening with my two surviving siblings. I also had two elementary school friends join in. The evening was like a walk into my youth. Amen to that! In the end, it was much more than a walk backwards. It was a walk into my very present life and ultimately, a walk into the future. The music of the Eagles will be with me until I take my own last breath.

Oh yeah, "the bluebird was high on the wind."

This show is something to behold. May they have the wind be at their back as they loiter effortlessly through the balance of their days.

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2013

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day Trip - In and Around Chicago - To Oregon, Illinois

Try telling someone you are going to Oregon and they'll look at you and ask - "I thought you said we'd get together for pizza later" or "which airline are you flying on?"

Visiting Oregon, Illinois is a nice way to spend a day out of town. Now that fall is setting in, you can take advantage of a brisk fall morning and stare at the hawks gliding above as you peer into the skies. The treelines will soon be carpets of fall foliage lounging throughout the heart of the Northern Illinois landscape.

There is a wonderful authenticity to the outdoors. Trees are beautiful with large swaths of color dotting the horizons every which way you look. The skies are dripping gold, orange, red, burgundy and assorted other shades of bountiful color. There is a tremendous richness to the season we are approaching, but taking a trek to Oregon is lovely at any given point in the calendar year.

If you are coming out of the city center you can reach Oregon in 1:45. Seriously, get yourself onto the I-88 corridor and you will have yourself a lovely scenic drive. We took I-88 to Route 39, but you can drive along surface streets the entire way if you choose to spend a bit more time resting and relaxing on the drive.

Once in Oregon, you have to head to the 48 foot tall statue erected in honor of the Sauk chief, Black Hawk.  The statue has absolutely nothing to do with the Chicago Blackhawks hockey team outside of the name. Having said that, this would be a unique way to share a bit of fun with some of your fellow Blackhawks fans.

Black Hawk Statue

The statue stands proudly along the gorgeous Rock River in the Lowden State Park. Think, lots and lots and lots of trees. There are some paths to walk and the State Park is surrounded by several city parks that offer the comforts of rest and relaxation.

The statue is listed repeatedly as just "the statue," so don't look for Blackhawk signs anywhere. Some people will refer to the statue as the eternal Indian statue.  The statue was dedicated on July 1, 1911 and it is part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.  Lorado Taft was the sculptor.

The town is small, but we let the local Dairy Queen source us with calcium and we walked along the town's blocks and witnessed a gigantic war memorial and a non-descript tribute memorial to the nation's 35th President, John F. Kennedy.

Take your car, bring your bikes and go to Oregon, Illinois for a memorable day trip.  The town is easily accessible from all points whether you are coming in from Chicago, Southern Wisconsin, Southeastern Minnesota, Iowa or the Illinois towns that surround the area.

Ogle County is one of the smaller counties in the state of Illinois, but the town of Oregon offers up some amazing architectural specimens, so enjoy the art of the buildings.

This is a pleasant way to spend a leisurely Saturday or Sunday.

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2013