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February 25, 2011

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Bald Eagles to soar in Shanghai

THE Eagles promise to give their Shanghai fans the classics straight up. Says Don Henley: "The song's the song. It's the way we wrote it and that's the way we will do it." Yao Minji talks to the band.

The Eagles, all four members now in their 60s, will finally alight on the Chinese mainland next month with their "Long Road Out of Eden World Tour" in Shanghai and Beijing.

The Shanghai gig, priced from 350 yuan (US$53) to 2,580 yuan, will be staged on March 9.

Nearly half the tickets were sold on the first day they were available. About 20 percent are still available.

The cheapest tickets quickly sold out, then the 1,080-yuan tickets.

The band - Joe Walsh (vocal and lead guitar), Don Henley (vocal and drums), Glenn Frey (vocal, keyboards and guitars) and Timothy Schmit (vocal and bass) - is looking forward to their first trip to China and hopes for some free time to look around.

"I don't know what to expect, every country is different. Any way the audience reacts is fine as long as they have a good time and hear the songs they came to hear," Walsh says.

"We're running out of places we've never been to, so it's like a whole different energy going somewhere for the first time."

The band is one of the few Western bands that enjoys a large fan base in China, especially for "Hotel California" (1977) frequently heard on radio, TV and in films.

"Almost all Chinese who listen to Western pop music know about The Eagles, which has one of the largest fan bases on the mainland," says local DJ Zhang Ming, who hosts a radio program specializing in introducing Western rock and pop.

"The song 'Hotel California' is so loved here that its 1994 version from the live album 'Hell Freezes Over' is still used by many technicians to test sound effects and recording systems," he says.

Zhang went to the Eagles' Melbourne stop last winter and he looks forward to the latest live version of "Hotel California."

Though there's a lot of speculation about the song, Henley says, "The song's simply about a journey from innocence to experience. It's about loss of innocence."

He says they will play some classics, including "Hotel California," exactly as recorded, and change others a little bit.

"People like to hear them the way they were. Sometimes you go to a Bob Dylan concert and you have no idea what song he is singing," he says.

"We aren't the kind of artist who says I'm going to do whatever I want to do because I'm an artist. We want the people to be happy because it's their money. They paid a lot to get in and we want to make them happy. The song's the song. It is the way we wrote it and that's the way we will do it. Sometimes we jam a little and sometimes we stretch out a bit, there's a nice balance."

The legendary band has won six Grammys, including one for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 2009 for "I Dreamed There Was No War." Over nearly 40 years since the formation in 1971, it has also become famous as one of the most commercially successful bands.

In the "Long Road Out of Eden" world tour, they have played more than 100 gigs since 2008. After Shanghai they will take a break and then tour Europe again in June.

For Chinese fans, the concert is a dream coming true. Fan sites have started to organize group ticket purchases and group tours to Shanghai and Beijing.

"This is probably the biggest event since The Rolling Stones. They are unlike all the other international superstars. It's miraculous that they are still together, playing all around and now in my home city," says 34-year-old Jeremy Chu.

"I never dared dream such a wild dream."

In 2008 Chu heard the band on tour in London where he was studying.

The band members are also proud that they are still playing, rare for rock bands, and they say they're taking care of their health, so they can continue to perform as long as people want to hear their music.

"In America, writers and journalists worship the people who died young in rock and roll, they make you a hero," says Henley. "We didn't want to do that. In other professions, people work until they're 65, but in rock and roll you're not supposed to do that. We did.

"So there's no reason to stop, for a while. We'll know when to stop."

Date: March 9, 7:30pm

Tickets: 350-2,580 yuan

Venue: Mercedes-Benz Arena, 2000 Expo Ave, Pudong

Tel: 962-388


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