When the lights dimmed at around 8 p.m., the stage looked downright bare. Four pairs of lights hung above a bare stage, and a length of dark curtain was the sole backdrop. Glenn Frey and Don Henley emerged from different sides of the stage to little ceremony, and they headed to a pair of stools and picked up acoustic guitars. Neither offered any introduction to "Saturday Night," a tune from the pair's first collaborations in 1971. It was only after the two wrapped up their straightforward take on the harmony-laden song in waltz time that Frey formally greeted the audience.
After the obligatory shout-out to Colorado, Frey explained that "Saturday Night" was written when "we were just putting this band together" in the late summer of 1971. They'd penned the song in a little shack in the San Fernando Valley, after Frey and Henley decided to quit Linda Rondstadt's backup band and strike out on their own.
Frey casually recalled that Rondstadt had recommended a lead guitarist named Bernie Leadon, a talented songwriter who also played banjo and sang lead. On cue, Bernie Leadon emerged from behind the black curtain and strapped on a six-string. Decked out in a Jim 'N Nick's BBQ T-Shirt, Leadon led the trio in a version of "Train Leaves," a country blues number he wrote in the early days of the band.
Frey continued to recount the early days of the group, and each recollection ended with the appearance of another member. Bassist Timothy B. Schmit came out to play on a stripped-down version of "Peaceful Easy Feeling," while Joe Walsh entered for a version of "Witchy Woman" that saw Don Henley playing a small drum kit with lush five-part harmonies.
The stagecraft remained minimal for these first songs, and it felt like this coliseum show could easily fit into a smaller venue. But then a video interview with Don Henley started on one of the screens, and the curtains went up to reveal a sprawling set. The Eagles hadn't lost their flair for large-scale theatrics.
As the band shifted into tunes from Desperado, background screens lit up with old footage of the band and high-res prairie and cowboy scenes. A full backup band, including guitarist Steuart Smith, Richard Davis, Will Hollis, Scott Crago and Michael Thompson rounded out the group's stadium sound.
Still, the focus of the setlist remained rooted in the group's history. A video clip of Glenn Frey preceded a suite of songs from the group's third record from 1974, On the Border, a selection that included the band's first number-one single, "Best of My Love." Selections from 1975's One of These Nights followed, as did the colorful animations and vintage footage beamed on the rectangular screens.