The Eagles’ set-lists from the two shows roughly a week apart during the summer of 1974 didn’t vary terribly much, but the performances did. Moving from the informality of the Lenox Music Inn and then on, in very short order, to the one-of-a-kind shed that remains the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the band seemed to change right before the eyes and ears, metamorphosing from earnestly confident musicians trusting in their craft to a stellar performing unit so fully committed to their original body of work, it was if they were actively beckoning to the super-stardom that was to befall them in very short order.
Based on the increasingly hungry passion the band displayed, a naysayer might read the Eagles’ trust in their work for hubris. On the contrary, it was more a healthy recognition that, as they sang and played the pinpoint harmonies and tightly structured arrangements of songs like “Tequila Sunrise,” which they nailed one after the other with great aplomb. The Eagles not only knew they were good, they knew it was only a matter of time before a (much) larger audience agreed with them.
The bright sun and heat on the grassy hill in the Berkshires was something to endure for both the group and its audience in the late summer, but all involved paced themselves in various ways: curly haired Don Henley toked up just offstage prior to the set while long-haired Glenn Frey spending an inordinate amount of time adjusting his sunglasses on his head during the performance. A random shout from upfront to “Play All Night” evoked an immediate dismissal of that thought via bassist Randy Meisner’s dour expression, but his demurral belied the incisive precision of Bernie Leadon and especially Don Felder’s guitar work: on songs like “Already Gone,” the instrumental sounds soared as high as the practiced vocals on the de rigeur opener of “Take It Easy.”
The exertion so obvious from the stage that afternoon disappeared at somewhat slighter distance in the open air of the summer home of classical music, ballet and jazz in upper New York. In fact, the Eagles made it all look and sound effortless near the site of the famous healing springs of Saratoga, so much so in fact, they were able to radiate their cool throughout this much larger amphitheater and, in practiced anticipation of increasingly bigger audiences in the not too distant future, project their (mostly) charming nonchalance out on to the expansive lawn. In doing so, their sound evoked the free spirit of the summer season and it became especially vivid during the tranquility of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” as that ballad presaged an ever-so-colorful sundown and a delicious dusk.
Still a good distance from the ‘Number One’ status “Best of My Love” from On the Border would achieve the following spring, the Eagles were teaching themselves how to rise to the occasion with performances such as these, and in doing so, conjured up a momentum that, in retrospect, seems like inevitable steps of destiny as they homed in on a mega-fame that would arrive three years later with Hotel California.
Eagles at Music Inn, Lenox, MA, USA 8-22-1974
Take It Easy
Peaceful Easy Feeling
Chug All Night