Eagles leave no one’s spirits dampened
FOXBOROUGH— “Who likes country rock in New England,’’ asked Keith Urban Saturday night at Gillette Stadium
The answer was about 35,000 folks. Or at least that’s how many were willing to pony up the money, shlep to the Patriots’ home field, and sit through rainfall that varied from drizzle to brief downpours in order to see the bulletproof bill of Urban, the Dixie Chicks, and headliners the Eagles.
It was a peaceful, soggy feeling for the audience who got not only a sublime night of harmony-drenched country rock but also all the other flavors the musicians had to offer from folk and pop to R&B and bluegrass.
At this point, nearly 40 years in, you either buy what the Eagles are selling or you don’t. And for fans there was no need to resist near-perfect versions of 21 of the band’s classic rock radio staples, performed with heart and skill by the core quartet of Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Timothy B. Schmit, and Joe Walsh and backed by a crack touring band. A special nod must be given to post-reunion touring guitarist Steuart Smith, who went toe-to-toe with Walsh in terms of solos.
Improvisation has never been the group’s bag and it’s hard to argue that it should be as they laid out the gorgeous stairstep harmonies of “Seven Bridges Road’’ or “Take It Easy,’’ replayed the familiar licks of “In the City’’ and “Life in the Fast Lane,’’ or retold well-crafted tales like “Lyin’ Eyes.’’ What little straying from the script they did worked well, including a dramatic trumpet solo leading into “Hotel California’’ and a hearty-voiced Henley letting loose with spirited vocal ad libs at the close of “The Long Run.’’
Large video screens occasionally floated accompanying images, including a parade of tabloid madness during Henley’s ever-more-relevant solo hit “Dirty Laundry’’ and vintage footage of the band during Walsh’s endearingly cheeky ode to rock star decadence “Life’s Been Good.’’ And Frey supplied a few corny jokes, such as: The Eagles have been together so long that when they started “the Dead Sea was just sick.’’
The Dixie Chicks, in the midst of an extended hiatus that finds members Martie Maguire and Emily Robison working on a side project called the Courtyard Hounds, chose a diverse setlist for their hourlong middle performance. Fronted by newly shorn Natalie Maines, the trio and its terrific band played pristine versions of hits like “Wide Open Spaces’’ and “Ready to Run,’’ deeper album cuts including the pensive “Easy Silence,’’ and a jaunty cover of Train’s irritating/irresistible current hit “Hey Soul Sister.’’ Although Maines’s demeanor sometimes felt guarded, her vocals were expansive, and never more so than on “Not Ready to Make Nice,’’ which remains a majestic ode to defiance that drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
The group dedicated its delicious, furiously picked mattress-dancing manifesto “Sin Wagon’’ to Charles Barkley, the former NBA star and now TV commentator who was sitting in the front row, and who was a vocal supporter during the controversy surrounding Maines’s 2003 remarks about President George W. Bush.
The always charismatic Urban was the first to take the crowd’s mind off the weather with a spirited hourlong opening set. A killer guitarist and performer, he moved easily from sensitive ballads like “You’ll Think of Me’’ to fun boot stompers like “You Look Good in My Shirt’’ which found him bounding out into the crowd to play for those in the back of the stadium.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.