Reformed non-conformists of a certain age are fond of saying “if you can remember the Sixties you really weren’t there”. It became a rather tedious refrain to those, like one Brother Rue, who was born during that decade but as a teenager fully embraced the more rebellious counterculture of punk in the late Seventies.
There were brash bands like the Ramones, The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks, New York Dolls, Sham 69, Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Madness and, of course, The Sex Pistols. Dark, dingy bars packed with spiky-haired, pierced antagonists were venues of choice, stark in contrast to the open-air festival fragrancy of Woodstock and the Isle of Wight where hippies literally hung out.
So, there was much revisionist music history to discuss as we set off to watch Forever Eagles at the Radisson Blu. Soon one Brother Rue, who shall remain nameless, was mischievously mentioning how the Salwa Road really did resemble the Pacific Coast Highway. He made a mental note to check likely side effects of the vitamin supplements taken prior to departure.
The Eagles were formed in Los Angeles in 1971 when selling vinyl (they sold 150 million) was a touch more significant than “going viral” on You Tube in 2017. They were considered a country rock band back then but such a generic label does not do a jot of justice to the incomparable sounds generated by founder members Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner.
As one Brother Rue correctly commented, it was the rare use of twin lead guitars (Fleetwood Mac, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy being other notable advocates) that contributed greatly to the glorious harmony of the Eagles.
Upon arrival we were greeted by Ray McRobbie, Radisson Blu’s dapper director of entertainment, and ushered back stage to meet the evening’s entertainers. After reassuring the band’s affable manager Gary Mac of the GRT Group that ten minutes would be sufficient, we stayed for a most convivial half hour and concluded our chat later after rousing applause had abated inside the ballroom.
For Gordy Marshall, Keith Atak, Patrick Duffin, Jeff Green and Nick Kendall, Doha was only their second live performance after . . . Eastbourne, a small resort town in the south of England. Globetrotters they have quickly become!
First, the category “tribute band” should require refined definition. Imitation has rarely been the highest form of flattery within a mini-industry populated too frequently by karaoke amateurs masquerading as proper musicians. Forever Eagles are highly talented professionals.
Gordy was drummer with the Moody Blues for 25 years; American guitarist Jeff starred in the UK’s original and successful touring Eagles production; Keith is keyboards player and guitarist of Bonnie Tyler, David Cassidy and Child fame; Patrick is bass player and renowned for roles in West End hits Jersey Boys, Fame and Hairspray; Nick is guitarist of Alice Cooper, Brian May and Pete Townshend fame. Oh, and they all write music as well.
So perhaps a different classification is warranted. “All-star appreciation band” was one of our suggestions. And they were also genuine Eagles historians, recollecting the early Seventies when Laurel Canyon, nestled in the Hollywood Hills, became a creative commune for the likes of the Eagles, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. “Being ‘high’ in the mountains obviously had its rewards,” remarked one Brother Rue out of earshot.
As the packed audience finished sampling the treats of the resplendent international buffet the first set began with “Seven Bridges Road”. The impressive collective harmony of Forever Eagles’ vocalists with subtle acoustic guitar delivered an immediate “wow” factor and duly set the scene.
Building anticipation is a stage skill quickly mastered by this newly formed band and with the mellow “Take It Easy” next, the twin guitars commanded centre stage. The song was originally written by Glenn Frey and his Laurel Canyon cohort Jackson Browne, containing the immortal line: “Well, I’m a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona and such a fine sight to see.” It described a girl in a flatbed Ford and made the tiny town famous. “Trust me, many hopeful visitors have left disappointed since,” one Brother Rue with adventurous experiences inside the Grand Canyon State attested.
If a show’s success can be measured by early dance floor participation, “Tequila Sunrise” would ensure a memorable night. Nick, who could pass for a young Tom Cruise and lowers the average age of the band by a few years, was outstanding on guitar. It is amazing to consider that the song only reached number 64 on the Billboard Hot 100. “It did work wonders for the cocktail though,” quipped one Brother Rue while working up a thirst.
Next came “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, the soft country rock ballad from the Eagles’ debut album, performed again in perfect harmony. At this stage, it felt even more remarkable that this was only their second live collaboration.
Forever Eagles would also master “New Kid In Town”, which won a Grammy Award for best vocal arrangement for two or more voices in 1976 soon after the legendary (a word to be used sparingly) Joe Walsh joined the group to add even more panache.
Our entertainers would then make a brief detour from the Eagles repertoire by performing “The End Of Innocence”, the title track from Don Henley’s third solo album. Here Keith stepped up on keyboards and vocals with obvious passion.
“How Long”, the J D Souther anti-war classic originally recorded in 1972, took us forward to the 2007 “Long Road Out of Eden” album for which the Eagles won another Grammy. Then Nick took us back again with a pure Frey vocal treat, “The Heat Is On”, which was recorded for the 1984 American movie Beverly Hills Cop. “One Of These Nights”, the title song for the Eagles’ fourth studio album in 1975, and “Witchy Woman” from the band’s formative years ushered in the interval.
There was little room at all on the dance floor after the break but it did not stop one Brother Rue from gracefully barging his way through to pull a few muscles to the sounds of 1975 Grammy winner “Lyin’ Eyes” and an excellent rendition of “Take It To The Limit”, both from the album “One Of These Nights”.
For the non-active Brother Rue who prefers to soak up the atmosphere (and a few beverages besides) the highlight of the evening was “Desperado” with Patrick simply sublime as the band played with orchestral precision, peppered with clever keyboard improvisation. Fantastic.
The tempo lifted markedly with “Rocky Mountain Way”, Walsh’s signature rock song from his time with the band Barnstorm, and was maintained by Grammy winner “Heartache Tonight”, which featured on the Eagles’ 1979 album “The Long Run”.
“Life in the Fast Lane” followed swiftly with Keith excellent on lead vocals and rapturous appreciation rightly ensued. “After Eastbourne and Doha, it was an obvious choice,” one Brother Rue remarked with some hint of humour.
The entire evening was brim with anticipation but most of the audience had predicted that the abiding Eagles anthem “Hotel California” would feature as the finale. They would not be disappointed and the delivery was delightful.
The Eagles are justifiably revered worldwide for their wide range of harmonious musical composition but they were also eminent lyricists. The entire “Hotel California” album is a masterpiece and whether it should have lost out to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” at the 1978 Grammys remains a subject of fierce debate.
At least the single did earn a Grammy gong. It contains the immortal line that sums up our combined 40-plus years spent in Doha: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!” Forever Eagles have departed and are certain to have a busy schedule, but they can check back in here anytime.
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