The Eagles reopened the refurbished Forum Wednesday night with a concert that emphasized the care and precision that went into their records in the 1970s, a perfect night of nostalgia for fans who care to remember the Forum when Jerry West was the Lakers star and “One of These Nights” was a hit on FM radio.
Arranging their set chronologically, as they have for the last year, Glenn Frey and Don Henley reinforced the story behind the documentary “History of the Eagles,” their material beginning bare bones and folky and developing in complexity and sound. The emphasis, especially early on, was gently swaying country-rock made for clubs and backyard barbecues; on the other end, “Hotel California” provided a climactic finish not just in the scope of the song, but in its ability to engage the crowd of 13,700 and fill the arena with sound.
The approach, with original guitarist Bernie Leadon playing the entire first set, meant the Forum’s acoustic improvements, part of a $100 million renovation, would be gradually tested and in ways the average 21st century show would not (clear harmonies, multiple acoustic guitars, no visual effects). Henley, sounding particularly strong, and Frey opened the show, dominated by mid-tempo numbers, as a duo and one member after another joins on ensuing songs. It sounded best when the band was working all of its signature elements — four-voice harmonies, a gentle rhythm track with a smooth electric guitar solo — and in need of sonic enhancement when the accompaniment was just two acoustic guitars.
Late in the second set, Frey gave a short speech encouraging people to return to the Forum to see other acts and to note that it is the only large venue unencumbered by the schedules and needs of the NBA or NHL. “It’s going to become the premier large venue (in North America),” he predicted. “It’s about the only facelift I care for in Hollywood.”
Frey and his band mates had a slightly different view of the venue than the paying customers. The building has nine dressing rooms, seven of them built to headliner specifications; a lounge adjacent to the floor seats for friends and family; and a game room. The private Forum Club was buzzing with invited guests prior to the concert, most notably with ELO’s Jeff Lynne, Edgar Winter and CAA’s Rob Light.
Improvements for fans included carpeted and improved concession stands in the corridors and, for the first time, on the floor level, new, heavily cushioned seats, and the absence of a scoreboard in the center of the arena.
The bare bones nature of the building remains intact. You can still walk from the floor to the last row and there is not a single advertisement in the room.
The unseen side of the improvements include steel reinforcement in the ceiling and roof that allow banks of PA speakers to hang from the rafters 72 feet above the floor. The Eagles six-night stand has behind-the-stage seats blocked; the venue can be scaled down to 9,000 seats with the upper sections curtained off via eight sheets on a mechanical operating system or expanded to a 17,000 capacity.
Madison Square Garden officials have told Billboard they see that flexibility as a key selling point in competing with the L.A. Live venues, Staples Center and Nokia Theater, and giving the venue a shot at replacing the razed Gibson Amphitheater that seated just over 6,000. In the coming year, they expect to present about 100 concerts.
“Whatever Happened to Saturday Night”
“Train Leaves Here This Morning”
“Peaceful Easy Feeling”
“Best of My Love”
“One of These Nights”
“Take It To Limit”
“Pretty Maids All in a Row”
“I Can’t Tell You Why”
“New Kid in Town”
“Love Will Keep Us Alive”
“Victim of Love”
“In the City”
“Life’s Been Good”
“The Long Run”
“Life in the Fast Lane”
“Take It Easy”
“Rocky Mountain Way”