The Eagles Have Landed A gentle start gives way to a soaring sound of sweet rock from the reunited country-rock band

September 14, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Washington -- A funny thing happened to the Eagles on the way to the '90s. It seems that all those country rock songs the band made its name on in the '70s have since become more country than rock. A lot more.

Maybe that's why much of what the band played last night at RFK Stadium tended more toward the sweet-voiced precision of Nashville vets than the rabble-rousing ruckus of stadium acts.

That's not to say the Eagles didn't rock -- the knife-edged reading of the band's current single, "Get Over It," showed that these guys could still kick when they wanted to.

Thing is, they generally didn't want to unless they were playing something from somebody's solo repertoire. So they bopped with a vengeance Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry," got down and dirty with Glenn Frey's "Smuggler's Blues," and went into full foot-stomping overdrive for Joe Walsh's "Funk 49."

But even the toughest Eagles oldies tended to emphasize the sweetness of the singing over the crunch of the guitars. That was certainly the case with "Victim of Love," where the harmonies were cranked higher than the Gibsons.

Even the show-opening "Hotel California" seemed to stress the tart melancholy of Henley's vocal over the slashing interplay of Walsh's and Don Felder's guitars.

As a result, the first half of the band's set was remarkably low-key for a stadium show. Yet to the band's credit, that quiet touch merely drove home how strong these songs still are.

"New Kid in Town," for instance, found Frey's vocal sounding ever bit as poignant as it did two decades ago, while "I Can't Tell You Why" -- masterfully sung by Timothy B. Schmit -- actually seemed to have improved with age.

Best of all were the tunes that made the most of the vocal talents on stage, like "Wasted Time," which Henley sang beautifully, and "Lying Eyes," which framed Frey's lead with some of the evening's most gorgeous harmonies.

Still, it wasn't until the band generated some genuine rock and roll momentum in the second set that the Eagles truly soared. As the group rolled from a jazzy, joyous "Heartache Tonight" into the full-tilt boogie of "Life in the Fast Lane," it seemed clear that no matter how much claim country music might have on their sound, this band's heart still belong to rock and roll.

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