When the four principals in the Eagles took the stage at the Scottrade Center last night, they were bedecked in dark gray suits, white dress shirts and thin black ties, all strategically loosened at the collar. The sartorial choice was a slick one – it was hard to tell if they were paying homage to Reservoir Dogs or claiming their spot as their generation’s Rat Pack. It’s closer to the truth to say that the quartet – Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit – looked and acted like businessmen. That’s not a bad thing – when the premium tickets cost $185, you expect some professionalism and efficiency. That these men look like CEOs at the end of a long board meeting is fitting, all things considered.
While it would be easy to dwell on the more business-like aspects of the current incarnation of the Eagles – the aforementioned ticket prices, the litigation that that resulted from Don Felder’s exit from the band, the decision to initially sell last year’s double-disc Long Road out of Eden exclusively at Wal-Mart – it’s safe to say that the crowd got exactly what they bargained for. The Eagles' deep catalog and new songs (along with a few solo numbers from Henley and Walsh) made for a well-paced show that showcased what made the band such superstars to begin with – unbeatable harmonies, country-flecked story-songs and plenty of hot guitar action.
Backed by a drummer/percussionist, guitarist and three (three!) keyboardists, the Eagles began the show with a four-song set of new tracks from Eden. Each Eagle got a shot to take the lead, with Henley’s “Too Busy Being Fabulous” emerging as the standout. Across the board, each singer’s voice remains strong, clear and immediately identifiable (this is a nice way of saying that Walsh still sings as if his larynx is perpetually being squeezed in a vise). Some of the high harmonies are now out of reach, but the layering of their voices was seamless.
A mariachi-colored trumpet solo introduced “Hotel California,” which introduced a string of classics that lasted until the intermission. The Eagles get props for playing its signature song so early in the set; “Hotel California” would be a natural set-closer or encore performance, but last night it served as a nice pivot between old and new. It’s easy to forget how many of these songs are ubiquitous: the mellow mood of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” the dark heart of “Witchy Woman” and the cautionary tone “Lyin’ Eyes” have all been fully absorbed into our collective subconscious.
While it’s more than a stretch to think of the Eagles as America’s country-rock version of the Beatles, each singer’s style and personality was evident at last night’s show. Glenn Frey writes the McCartney-esque populist songs with big choruses; like Sir Paul, he’s also the funny one, though some of jokes as the Eagles emcee were groan-worthy. Like Lennon, Don Henley’s songs have a little more depth and poetry to them, with more than enough moralizing to go around (his tabloid-bashing “Dirty Laundry” got aired toward the end of the night). Joe Walsh is the wild card, Ringo Starr recast as a guitar god and drug casualty – he’s good for a cheap laugh and a muggy facial expression for the cameras. That makes bassist Timothy B. Schmit the George Harrison in this paper-thin analogy, but like George, Schmit is the dark horse whose songs bring a coy sweetness to the group; his “I Can’t Tell You Why” was a standout in the first set.
After a twenty-minute intermission, the band returned for an acoustic set of mostly new material. “Take it to the Limit” sounded fine in this arrangement (although I’m amazed that they didn’t bust out “Seven Bridges Road”). As may be expected, the acoustic numbers provided a bit of a lull that didn’t pick back up until Walsh sang “Walk Away,” a holdover from his days in the Cleveland group the James Gang. The proper set ended with “Heartache Tonight” (which was nicely augmented by a four-piece horn section) and “Life in the Fast Lane.” The two-song encore began with “Take it Easy” and ended with “Desperado,” with Henley taking center stage and stepping out of character to extend the song’s final long note. Time will tell if the Eagles will tour again, but last night’s show proved that there’s still some magic in those old songs and in the interplay among the musicians.
*During “Boys of Summer,” the video projection screen was switched to black and white, a nod to the iconic music video.
*Timothy B. Schmit is the American version of Rush’s Geddy Lee: both bassists have preternaturally high voices, equally high cheekbones and long, stringy hair. You also can’t look at either one for too long.
*Joe Walsh put on a “hat cam” during his solo hit “Life’s Been Good,” while a Joe’s-eye-view was portrayed on the screen.
*Even though Henley and Walsh got to sing their solo songs, Frey did not bust out “You Belong to the City” or “The One You Love,” let alone “The Heat is On.” A missed opportunity.
*Frey joked that this was the Eagles’ “Assisted Living Tour” that quip received the biggest laugh of the night.
1. “How Long” 2. “Too Busy Being Fabulous” 3. “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore” 4. “Guilty of the Crime” 5. “Hotel California” 6. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” 7. “I Can’t Tell You Why” 8. “Witchy Woman” 9. “Lyin’ Eyes” 10. “Boys of Summer” 11. “In the City” 12. “The Long Run”
13. “No More Walks in the Woods” 14. “Waiting in the Weeds” 15. “No More Cloudy Days” 16. “Love Will Keep Us Alive” 17. “Take it to the Limit” 18. “Long Road out of Eden” 19. “Somebody” 20. “Walk Away” 21. “One of these Nights” 22. Band introduction / “Life’s Been Good” 23. “Dirty Laundry” 24. “Funk 49” 25. “Heartache Tonight” 26. “Life in the Fast Lane”
27. “Take It Easy” 28. “Desperado”
-- Christian Schaeffer