It was a history lesson like no other.
The instructors rocked. The students applauded. Drinks were had. And T-shirts were being sold for $40 a pop. About the only thing that resembled a regular classroom setting was that cellphone use was strongly discouraged.
It was the History of the Eagles Tour, which soared into the SAP Center in San Jose on Wednesday for the first of two shows. It was a very educational, and sometimes interesting, affair -- but I'm not sure I'd want to take the course again. (If you do, the show repeats Friday.)
The tour supports the documentary of the same name, which debuted last year at the Sundance Film Festival, aired on Showtime and eventually was released on DVD and Blu-ray. The concert mimicked the documentary, as the band told its own story onstage through words and songs. Some parts worked well, but others fell flat. Overall, this pseudo-documentary concert didn't turn out to be quite as enjoyable as a regular old Eagles show.
The roughly three-hour history lesson was organized, to some degree, chronologically, starting in 1971 and zooming through the decades. Glenn Frey and Don Henley took the stage first, strumming acoustic guitars and harmonizing on the forgettable early composition "Saturday Night."
"This portion is intended to give you some idea of what it was like in the late summer of 1971," Henley told the crowd, which, for some reason, erupted in approval. "Yeah, like you remember that (time period).
The evening featured quite a bit of humor, with comic anecdotes filling the breaks between many songs, yet the warning against the use of cellphones was no joke. Public service announcements denouncing texting, videotaping and other handheld activities were made on the large overhead screens, while ushers worked tirelessly to enforce the rule.
Someone suggested that it was the Eagles' attempt to really take us back in time to the early '70s. If so, it didn't work, since the ticket prices ($49-$189) definitely confirmed that it was 2014.
The best blast from the past was founding member Bernie Leadon, who was in the Eagles until 1975. He joined Frey and Henley for the oldie "Train Leaves Here This Morning" -- which, let's just say, is not exactly an essential Eagles cut -- then appeared on other songs.
Overall, it was a rather mundane opening to the show, but things improved somewhat once the musicians conjured up the familiar "Peaceful Easy Feeling," one of three landmark tunes found on the band's 1972 eponymous debut.
Guitarist Joe Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmit soon joined the party, as the group devoted the first of two sets to playing -- and talking about -- its first four albums. That translated to such fan favorites as "Witchy Woman," "Tequila Sunrise" and "Already Gone" as well as some lesser-known tunes.
There was little variation in material, and even less in tempo, which made the first set feel a tad monotonous. It was just one slow, folksy number after another -- which pretty much sums up the group's early recordings. That's where the whole chronological guideline really hurt the concert. Mixing the early folk cuts with the later-era rockers would have worked much better.
Things improved in the second set, as the Eagles flew through both rockers ("Heartache Tonight," "Life in the Fast Lane") and ballads ("Love Will Keep Us Alive," "I Can't Tell You Why"). Also, Walsh -- by far the group's most interesting member -- was given an ample share of the spotlight, which he put to good use on "In the City," "Life's Been Good" and "Rocky Mountain Way."
Then, of course, there was the dueling guitar bit at the end of "Hotel California," which still stands as one of the shining achievements in rock 'n' roll history.
Too bad the rest of the Eagles' history lesson wasn't as enjoyable.
Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.