Fly Like an Eagle

The Eagles did more than simply blend a sound and style with heavy harmonies wrapped around skillful instrumentation — they created musical magic. While they were turning a lot of heads at a time that was ripe for musical changes, they built a mood, and mountain of hit songs that have stood the test of time.
They also created the best selling album in U.S. history with Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) release. When the guys sang about “Lyin’ Eyes” and that “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” they struck all the right chords with fans — literally and figuratively.
It is no wonder that The Eagles have spawned almost as many tribute acts saluting their music as Elvis has sequined jumpsuit singers. Just like the Elvi, no two Eagles’ tributes are the same. There are some who stand out from the sea
One such tribute act makes a return appearance in Laughlin when The Long Run — Experience the Eagles plays the Tropicana Laughlin’s Pavilion Theater on Saturday, April 13 (8 p.m.).
The Long Run, a.k.a. TLR, was formed in 1999 in Los Angeles by a group of well-rounded professional musicians with a love of harmony and a deep respect for one of the greatest rock bands of all time. After months of painstaking preparation rehearsing a long list of The Eagles’ chart-topping hits, The Long Run set out to win over audiences across the country. The strategy was to provide authentic live performances. It’s a strategy that’s been working fine for many years now.
They quickly became regarded as one of the finest Eagles tribute bands out there by consistently delivering the lush harmonies and rich instrumental arrangements that made The Eagles an unforgettable part of rock history. TLR continues to successfully blend the classic Eagles sound into their own genuine live performance style, delighting audiences young and old with faithful recreations of some of the best music ever written.
We talked with group founder Gary Grantham about the music, the band and the show they’re bringing to town. Here’s his take…

It’s been a while since you guys were here last. What have you been up to?
Like many groups, we were featured on AXS-TV’s “World’s Greatest Tribute Bands.” We did a full live 90-minute concert in Hollywood that was televised to five continents.
We have also done multiple tours of Southeast Asia.

Don’t you find it interesting that places like that know the Eagles?
Yes, and what’s also interesting is they love the ballads. That is what just makes them swoon. In some of the Asian countries like Sri Lanka they are the only places we have ever performed the Glenn Frey solo song entitled “The One You Love,” which features the saxophone heavily. So we had to have a different saxophone player in every country and city and we would break into that tune, which is just really slow, and people would just go nuts. It’s almost as though they tolerate the requisite songs like “Life in the Fast Lane,” and “Already Gone,” and all of the upbeat numbers and waiting for songs like “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and “Best of my Love,” and the really slow ballads.

Who is in the band these days?
There’s me, I play guitar and sing Glenn Frey songs; Chris Sobkowich plays guitar and performs Joe Walsh vocals; Larry Hampton does Don Felder guitars and vocals; Whit Petrell, he does bass and other things as our Timothy B. Schmit and Randy Meisner; James Brown, he does Don Henley vocals and we have him playing keys and drums, but he’s not full-time on drums. We do it much more like the Eagles have done it since the mid-’90s, where he’s out front a lot. Then we have Berto Z and he is on drums and percussion.
You know, I always bill myself, half jokingly as the “game show host.” I just stand in the middle and I’m the mouthpiece. I say hello and try to ingratiate us to people and try to make ’em feel that they are welcome.

There’s also a slight name change?
People really refer to us as TLR, our initials. We usually say that early in the show, we let everybody know that we’re The Long Run, but friends have come to know us as TLR. We sort of make a joke about that. One of the reasons we’ve done that is because there have been other Eagles’ tribute shows in this country that have cropped up, since our inception, and they call themselves “The Long Run,” but we have adopted the initials so feel free to pepper that in.

What do think it is that sets you guys apart and makes you different…you’re harmonies, the instrumentation?
All those go with it. You can’t survive as an Eagles’ show and work with any consistency at all unless you have most of those components in play. For us, one of the comments we get most consistently after shows is that just the fun we seem to have with each other and with the audience. We do get audience engagement and our energy is something we just long ago decided we needed to have. You see some acts approach the performance — I don’t want to say stoic — with a less than energetic approach, which seems perfectly legitimate because as Don Henley has said of the Eagles in multiple interviews, “We’ve been accused of loitering on stage.” They are the Eagles, so they can do whatever they want to. We know we’re not. We understand we’re not in the music business, we’re in show business, and so putting on a show is important to us. The music and these great songs that we are so privileged to borrow are the propellant but then we have to turn that into a show, that showcases throughout it, each member’s personality. And I think that’s the biggest distinction that I find. We’re very accessible, by the time the show is done, people feel they kind of know us and they always say, “You guys seem to love playing together so much,” that’s ’cause there are smiles on stage. I think that’s it. I think that if anything we hear that our show is infectious that way.

What do you think are the biggest mistakes other tributes make?
That is a good question. I do think tributes — regardless what music they decide to pay tribute to, or what band — the tributes that don’t know any longevity and seem to fizzle quickly probably make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes it’s just the choice of catalogue. With the Eagles we can play three hours and not play everything people want to hear. With others, when you choose to do a tribute band and they have three songs everybody recognizes, that’s a bad way to start from the beginning, even if it’s a band that you love. I think another mistake that people make in putting them together, is not really recognizing that you have to have a show. Far beyond just playing the music accurately, people have to quickly trust that they are in good hands with you, that when you walk out on that stage, they realize, “wow, these are professional entertainers, and they’re gonna take us somewhere and that’s what they’re doing, so we go willingly.” We have a hurdle in the tribute business to begin with, there is a suspension of disbelief that we ask for — that’s something every tribute band does. I believe, for my personal taste, the tribute shows that seem to work best for me as an audience member are the ones that somehow transcend the “pretending to be” and for that two hours that band becomes my Eagles, or my Led Zeppelin or my Journey or my Fleetwood Mac. They don’t necessarily have to look and sound just like the original, there just has to be an authenticity to them, and a connection to the music and a connection to the audience.

Does that stigma associated with tributes in general seem to fade because of your attention to detail?
What’s amazing to us to is how often we receive the comment after shows, where people will say, the old cliché, “yeah, if I close my eyes, I thought I was at an Eagles concert.” That always takes us aback because we don’t look like the individuals and nobody is a dead ringer look-alike or sound-alike of their Eagles counterpart by any stretch. But there seems to be something that happens when you approach it earnestly, as the fans we are of the music. We try each night to serve the music well, and then just do it honestly, I think that resonates with people.
We had an experience, too, we had gotten back from one of our tours of Southeast Asia, and we got back. We were jet-lagged and the next day we had two performances, a matinee and an evening show at a lovely theater in Hollywood. We did the afternoon show and then about 10 or 15 minutes prior to the evening show, one of our guitar players came down to the dressing room, and said, “guys, gather ’round, I don’t want to freak anybody out, but Randy Meisner is here.” Those were the last words we expected anybody to come down to the dressing room in this theater here to say that one of the original Eagles just happened to show up and we were incredulous. We decided to dedicate the song “Take It To The Limit” to the man who wrote it and made it famous. Afterward we got a chance to chat him up and take some pictures with him. When I asked what had brought him and his group there, turns out they were driving by the theater, saw the sign and decided to go. Randy had never been to a tribute show in his life. This was his first one and he chose an Eagles tribute by us. I also asked him what was it like watching us. He just so graciously and warmly and sweetly, with a smile, just said, “ah, it brought back a lot of memories.” That was a slightly surreal experience.

What do you think about how things have turned out for the band?
We have a great job, and we get to do a lot of things ’cause of this music and this endeavor, and I’ve had some wonderful experiences. But the thing that is never lost on us, is the only reason we have a job is ’cause back in about 1970, Glenn and Don were playing as part of Linda Ronstadt’s backing band. They met each other in that group, and Don went to Linda and said, “We kind of want to have our own band, we think we have a chemistry, would you mind if we left?” She gave them her blessing and they created what became the monster that is the Eagles, and that is the only reason that we get to do what we do.
Another mistake other bands make, they stop being appreciative of the fact that you get to do this. You didn’t create any of this music, you don’t own it, you can’t take any credit for it, and many, many tribute musicians we know do make their livings doing this. So, hey, be humble and grateful and be genuinely so.

The cool thing is you are keeping the legacy and the music alive.
It is a blend of things, people don’t buy tickets to your show again and again unless you’re doing it well. But initially, those who don’t know your group, they’re buying a ticket because of the work the original did really, so we’re all pretty damn lucky. People do come often I think because they want to hear a song played closer to the way they grew up hearing it on the radio and on the records. Most tribute bands do it faithfully.


THE LONG RUN – EXPERIENCE THE EAGLES

Pavilion  Theater at the Tropicana

Saturday, April 13 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info