Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, The Eagles - Tribute Bands

Experience the Eagles Live, with The Long Run - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)

"The Long Run"

The Best Eagles Tribute Band

More than any other decade, the 1970s were fertile times for innovation in the genre known as rock and roll. A great deal of what we remember as happening in the 1960s actually happened in the early 1970s. The history of 1970s rock events, especially concert dates and lineups are often incomplete or garbled. For instance, I remember seeing Linda Ronstadt opening for Neil Young at the Long Beach Arena in the early 1970s. Although I Googled each performer and the venue, I could not find definitive documentation regarding that magical night. The best I can say is that it happened sometime between 1970 and 1972.

Arriving late at the arena that night, Linda Ronstadt had already taken the stage. When I say that Linda had, “taken the stage”, it was as if she owned it. As we entered the far end of the arena, a beautiful sound echoed down the concrete tunnel that led us to our seats. Already, the First Lady of Rock had captured the house. As she sang "Desperado",  her clear voice extended out, reverberating off the back wall and then harmoniously to our ears.

Just as startling and beautiful as Linda and her voice was the sound of her band. From their acoustic backing of Linda’s ballads to their all-out rocking solos, they had the inevitable sound of greatness. Every note and every backing vocal sounded just right. They knew it and we all knew it. Later in her set, Linda announced her backing band as, “The Eagles”.

Author's note: In June 2014, I received the following comment from Ms. JG Wilcox, who also attended one of Linda Ronstadt's Long Beach Arena concerts in 1972. As you will see, her experience was different than mine.

Jim - thank you for your memories! Regarding Linda opening for Neil at the Long Beach Arena? Am not sure how many nights they were booked, but my memory of the concert I attended (at age 13) was that Ms. Ronstadt - of whom I was/am a HUGE fan - was pretty tipsy and got booed off the stage. Then, Neil Young - of whom I was/am a HUGE fan - came on and the audience was impossibly rude, shouting out requests even as he played. He got angry, brought out Crosby and Nash, played Cinnamon Girl, and walked off the stage! Sounds like your experience was better than mine. I just remember sitting on the curb outside the Arena waiting for my mom to come and pick up my friend Sally and me...the parking lot was empty when she arrived because the concert had been so short! It was the summer of '72. And not long after that, the Eagles entered my world as well. Thanks again, Jim!
That night was the start of my love for the Eagles unique style, which blends rock, country rock and folk rock. With a string of hit singles and six albums, the Eagles songs fit perfectly with my life’s events. Their breakup paralleled the breakup of my first marriage. From “Life in the Fast Lane” until “After the Thrill Is Gone”, my personal experiences paralleled the lyrics of the Eagles’ songs.

Years later, after buying two of the forty-two million copies of The Eagles Greatest Hits album sold worldwide, I yearned for new music from a group that broke up in 1984. Between then and their reunion in 1994, we heard plenty of solo efforts by various band members, but rarely did those songs resonate like the Eagles songs of old. When the Eagles resumed recording and touring in the mid-1990s, I listened again for new songs from the Eagles.
  "New Kid in Town"
On December 31, 1999, I attended the Eagles Millennium Concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. In a repeat of my first Eagles experience the early 1970s, we arrived at our seats after the concert had begun. This time, a bomb-scare, not traffic, delayed our entry into the arena. While thousands waited outside, security took their time checking every ticket and “wanding” every attendee. Once again, Linda Ronstadt was on stage, her voice often lost in a crowd that was milling around or trying to find their seats. On any other night, the promoters would have waited for at least half the audience to be inside before starting the show. By the time Jackson Browne arrived onstage, things settled down, but from our $145 seats at the far end of the stadium, most of the music that night seemed vacant and distant.

When they finally took the stage, the new Eagles sang just like the old Eagles, but a chorus of numbskulls sitting behind us insisted on singing along to every word of every song. As midnight approached, the songs seemed out of order, and then the music ceased altogether. Inaudible to most of us in the arena, Glenn Frey gave his Millennium New Year’s Eve salute to the world on live TV. By the time that the Eagles got back to their music, but the thrill was gone.

To be sure, the Eagles in their 1994-to-present incarnation have written and produced some great music. In recent concerts, the Eagles pay homage their old fans by singing some of their early songs. Like the rest of us, however, the Eagles have moved beyond the ethos and the pathos of the 1970s. Just as they have moved on in their lives and with their music, they hope that we will move right along with them. With $450 concert tickets now the norm, that is not likely.

The Long Run, Live at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center - (http://jamesmcgillis.com)That is where the Eagles tribute Band, “The Long Run” comes in. Taking their inspiration from the title track of the Eagles final pre-breakup album, “TLR” takes us back to yesteryear when country rock ruled top-40 AM radio. Having attended several of The Long Run’s concerts in recent years, Carrie and I were thrilled to hear that they would again play live at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center in Southern California.

A former church, the Cultural Arts Center splits its four hundred seats between the main floor and a balcony. Having last seen TLR at this intimate theater on a rainy night in December 2010, we bought our tickets early for their September 9, 2011 show. Upon arrival, we were pleased with our seats, which were in the third row of the orchestra. Although TLR did not sell out their two nights in Simi Valley, the many fans in attendance were not disappointed with their show.

In an email update a week later, TLR wrote, “First, a special thank you to all who joined us at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center this past weekend.  Both nights you gave us one of the warmest receptions we've had anywhere and we shared an energy that far outweighed the capacity of the theater. Friday night felt like playing at the Nokia and Saturday night felt like the Greek! We still don't know what they served y'all at intermission but we're gonna find out and then stipulate in our contract that it's served at every show.”

As The Long Run played all of our old Eagles favorites, we remembered why we love live music. It is not so that we can make some corporate ticket agency rich. It is not because we like fighting crowds and overcoming bomb scares to watch a show. It is because there are still performers out there like the members of TLR who love the same music that we do. At the end of the accompanying “The New Kid in Town” video, you can hear Carrie say, “They’re so good”, and she means it.

Admission ticket for The Long Run - "Experience the Eagles Live" concert September 9, 2011. - Click for larger image (http://jamesmcgillis.com)In true bootleg tradition, that night I also recorded videos of "Hotel California", “Desperado” and the Jackson Browne classic, “Take it Easy”. The cheapskates at Warner Chappell Music must have thought that TLR sounded too much like the Eagles, so they blocked two my YouTube videos on "copyright grounds". Although TLR’s big sound overpowered the tiny microphone from time to time, you can still hear that authentic Eagles sound echo off the back wall of the Cultural Arts Center. Next time I hear that The Long Run is playing anywhere near my town, I will purchase tickets as soon as I can. The Long Run’s version of the “Eagles Experience” is so good that we hope to be there when they “Take It to the Limit”, one more time.
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