Nostalgic tour de force from The Illegal Eagles

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The Illegal Eagles – another one-day wonder from the Theatre Royal, Brighton – is the best tribute band I have seen.

The six-strong group played Brighton last Friday in the middle of a hectic Autumn tour, which takes in 36 venues across England, Scotland and Wales including a spell at the O2.

I have to confess a shard of Eagles groupieness back in the day when some of their songs, Desperado, One of These Nights, Takin’ it Easy - were the backdrop anthems to our post-sixties, cynical youth. Plenty of others in the auditorium were of the same vintage. Towards the end of the programme, when the audience is traditionally roused to its feet, I noted the occasional orthopaedic walking stick and creaky knee.

It was hard to pick out the best of this extraordinarily talented bunch; we were told they play 37 guitars between them, but more than that, exceptionally authentic vocals were evenly divided as were skills on the mandolin, drums, keyboard and saxophone. As one reviewer points out: ‘Close your eyes, it’s the Eagles’ and the evening prompted me to dig out my ancient CDs at home, then wish I had bought one of the ‘Illegals’ on sale in the foyer.

The programme covered practically the whole of the Eagles’ repertoire, including the heavy rock numbers recorded in the 1980s after their long vacation.

The stage set was simplistic and apart from atmospheric lighting, there was no need to concentrate on anything but this nostalgic tour de force – from the days, as Phil Aldridge stated, ‘when singers never mimed and instrumentalists played live.’

Congratulations to the Theatre Royal, which drops these unexpected gems into its seasonal schedule, already replete with the glories of ballet, opera and stellar Coward.....rather like finding a date palm in the middle of a bluebell wood. My next, much anticipated visit to this glorious, velvet-lined jewelcase of a theatre is for an evening with Michael Palin.

But if it’s the Illegal Eagles you need, you’ll have to wait a while. Their next, South-based performance is October 3 in Dartford, October 10 in Fareham and October 19 in Richmond. But they’ve promised to come back to Brighton so check the theatre’s website.