When Jason Manning picks up his guitar and steps on stage with bandmates of 7 Bridges: the Ultimate EAGLES Experience, he doesn't just play Eagles music. He becomes Glenn Frey. Though he doesn't try to look like him or even dress like him, he uses his instruments, including keyboards and his voice, to musically transform himself into one of the founding members of the legendary rock band.
Same goes for the rest of the tribute band: Keith Thoma portrays Don Henley; Race Godson steps into the role of Joe Walsh; Douglas Gery plays Don Felder; Bryan Graves has a duel role as Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit; and Vernon Roop portrays Joe Vitale, who played drums and keyboard on the road with the Eagles.
"Our goal is that when we're up on stage when you close your eyes you think you're at an Eagles concert," said Manning, who also serves as 7 Bridges bandleader.
Eagles fans can see — and hear — for themselves Feb. 18 at Pasco-Hernando Community College when the show comes to the Performing Arts Center in New Port Richey as part of the 2012 PHCC Foundation Performing Arts Series.
Although the Nashville-based 7 Bridges has a couple of extra band members compared with the original Eagles and current four-member band, they work hard to be as authentic as they can.
"A lot of people call themselves tributes because they play the music. They don't portray the character," said Manning, 42, who has been with 7 Bridges since 2007. "Everything we do on stage is exactly how the Eagles would do it. I would guess 50 to 60 percent of the tribute bands are just cover bands."
That authenticity includes live harmonizing instead of using harmonizers or recorded tracks. It's that technically challenging music that makes playing Eagles tunes so enjoyable, Manning said.
"I like it because it's heavy harmony-laden. The songs are well thought out," he said. "It's very technical so not a lot of bands can do it. A lot of bands can play the Eagles, but not a lot can play them well."
With between 50 and 70 shows a year, 7 Bridges, named of course for Seven Bridges Road, has a lot of practice getting it right. They're also not newcomers to the Tampa Bay area, having played gigs including the Main Street Blast and Hernando County fair.
"They (audience members) can expect 90 minutes to two hours of hits done exactly like the Eagles would do them," Manning said. "It's a family show. We don't cuss. We don't drink on stage. That's the way they do it. They're total professionals."
The hits often include Life in the Fast Lane, but also Eagles band members' solo hits, like Henley's Heart of the Matter, and Walsh's Life's Been Good.
"If you don't play Desperado you're in trouble," Manning said. "If you don't play Hotel California you're in even bigger trouble."