Toronto, ON, Canada 2010
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photo courtesy of Tracy

The Eagles kick off tour with Dixie Chicks

Musical birds of a feather flocked together at the Roger Centre on Tuesday night as The Eagles and Dixie Chicks teamed up for a well-suited night of classic and contemporary country, rock and pop in front of 40,000 fans.

The occasion was the kick off of The Eagles' North American stadium tour with country star Keith Urban also on the bill in the U.S.

But despite the large setting, The Eagles singer-guitarist-keyboardist Glenn Frey, singer-guitarist-drummer Don Henley, guitarist Joe Walsh and singer-bassist Timothy B. Schmit, now all in their early '60s - began their two-hour set of greatest hits without much fanfare.

The foursome stood side-by-side on a stripped-down, compact stage performing the harmony-heavy Seven Bridges Road and How Long before moving into fan favourite Take It To The Limit.

"Great to be back here in your beautiful city," said Frey, who last visited Toronto with The Eagles in 2008 in support of their last studio album, 2007's Long Road Out Of Eden.

A trumpet solo - the backing band grew to include five more musicians plus a four-man horn section - dramatically heralded the next song, Hotel California, as the silhouette of a hotel at sunset was projected onto a semi-circular video backdrop, and Henley moved behind the drum kit for his lead vocal turn.

But it was Walsh's guitar playing during that song - and Peaceful Easy Feeling - that stole the show early on (along with that of Stuart Smith) and he also animatedly took over on lead vocals for The James Gang's Walk Away and Funk 49, his own In The City, Life's Been Good, the latter featuring some great stock footage of The Eagles, and Rocky Mountain Way.

In fact, it was Walsh who provided some much needed comic relief about an hour into the leisurely paced show.

"He is familiar to law enforcement and hotel staff around the world," said Frey introducing Walsh. "Never met a man he didn't like, or a room he couldn't wreck."

Countered Walsh of Life's Been Good: "Here's something written last century. If I knew I'd still be singing it, I'd have written something else, but it's too late now."

Otherwise, Schmit was in exceptional voice during I Can't Tell You Why as was Frey during Peaceful Easy Feeling, Lyin' Eyes, and Take It Easy, Henley on One Of These Nights, The Long Run, Desperado and his own solo hits, Boys Of Summer and Dirty Laundry.(It sure was a nice change from Henley's solo show last November at Copps Coliseum in nearby Hamilton in which he struggled vocally.)

If The Eagles offered up solid hits from the last four decades, The Dixie Chicks provided shock value courtesy of lead singer Natalie Maines' shaved head given her usual longer blond locks.

"Well, long time no see," said Maines. "I see a few of you look a little different," she joked after opening the show with Wide Open Spaces.

When a fan yelled up some encouragement on her drastically changed hairstyle, the feisty Maines responded: "He said he liked my hair. You're the only one."

Maines was joined by her fellow Dixie Chicks and sisters Martie Maguire on fiddle-mandolin and Emily Robison on banjo, who have been busy on their side project Court Yard Hounds which was released earlier this year.

And despite not being on the road together for the last four years, Maines' voice and the Chicks' harmonies were strong and clear.

The trio, backed by a six man band, delved into their 12-year catalogue with highlights like Taking The Long Way Around, the rollicking Sin Wagon, Mississippi, and Lubbock Or Leave It, covers of Fleetwood Mac's Landslide and Train's Hey Soul Sister, the poignant Easy Silence and their anthemic Not Ready To Make Nice, which provoked the strongest response of the night.

The only other Canadian date on The Eagles/Dixie Chicks tour is June 22 at Winnipeg's Canad Inns Stadium.

RATING: 4 out of 5

DIXIE CHICKS SET LIST:

Wide Open Spaces
Truth No. 2
The Long Way Around
Landslide
Sin Wagon
Mississippi
Cowboy Take Me Away
Hey Soul Sister
Long Time Gone
Lubbock or Leave It
Easy Silence
Not Ready To Make Nice
Ready To Run
Goodbye Earl

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