The Eagles at US Airways Center: They Can Still Sing the Hits

Categories: Concert Review
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Luke Holwerda
The Eagles long after hell froze over in Phoenix.

"We should just close our eyes, and maybe they'll sound the same," she says about The Eagles, the band we're headed to see.  I'm sitting next to her in our crowded light-rail car. She smells of strong perfume, too strong, but her visibly excited manner makes her fun to listen to.  "I mean, they're almost 70 years old," she finishes.

Her husband beams with pride as he rattles off concerts he's attended, "Springsteen, Tom Petty, Foreigner, Journey," he drones on.  "But this is my first time seeing The Eagles." 

"I went to their farewell tour," another passenger chimes in, a gentleman with a sand colored goatee.  "You know, the first one.  It was retardedly expensive.  But it was totally awesome." 

As we zoom along, their conversation turns to the economy.  I listen silently as they chat about recession, real estate, Silicon Valley and Obama.

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Luke Holwerda
The Eagles.
​"Things are weird right now, but they seem to be getting better" perfume lady says.  "But it's hard to say."  

"Oh well," laughs another woman, accompanied by her husband in a Jimmy Buffett shirt, her unenthusiastic son and his impossibly fake-tanned girlfriend.  "Tonight's a good night.  We're gonna hang out, and we're gonna party!" 

Everyone laughs. Tickets weren't cheap, and it becomes obvious to me that these folks are looking to The Eagles to provide more than mere entertainment. They're looking for a little relief, a night to try and shake loose some of the concerns, a night to provide some proof that things are indeed getting better. Relief, and of course, the hits.

"I just hope they don't play too many songs from the new album," she laughs.  

While the band did indeed play songs from the new album, they didn't skimp one bit on the hits. Over the course of two and a half hours, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit played just about every hit you could think of - including selections from their solo careers. Last night's concert showcased the strange synthesis the band has managed to create over their 40-plus career- the spry pop of Henley, the amiable country of Frey, the madman blues of Walsh and the blue eyed soul of Schmit, and all of the intersections therein.

Songs from "The Long Road Out of Eden" dominated the early part of the set, as well as the vocally driven "Seven Bridges Road," showcasing the bands still stellar harmonies.  I was prepared for some roughness, but the band still sounded fantastic, though the small army of guys manning keyboards, horns, drums and (even more) guitar certainly couldn't hurt, as most of them were singing, too.

Once the obligatory new songs were finished, the band wasted no time giving the crowd what they wanted, launching into "Hotel California."  Bob Lefsetz writes in his recent review of The Eagles at Hollywood Bowl: "You can't find a boomer who doesn't know "Hotel California.'"

Judging from the rapturous response of the audience, he couldn't be more right. Though the song's near constant play on classic rock radio makes it easy to disregard, I couldn't help but be impressed with the sheer "structure" of the song: the classically derived solos, the creepy-as-hell lyrics.  

"Welcome to the assisted living tour," Frey announces.  "We are The Eagles: The Band That Wouldn't Die!" 

But they were a band that needed a break. The band took a fifteen minute break mid-way through the show (perfect for buying shirts, Henley reminded), but while on stage, they hardly relaxed. Solo songs from the bands catalog made welcome appearances.  Walsh's "In the City," originally a contribution to the Warriors soundtrack but later re-recorded by the band, won the crowd over with it's projected image of the Airways arena on the big screen behind the band. The screen had an adverse effect on one of the evenings best songs, the Henley solo hit "Boys of Summer."

Fewer songs illustrate the death of the sixties in such stark terms, but the sexually charged themes and elegiac lyric about a "Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac," were utterly at odds with images of boys tossing footballs, dogs scurrying about and surfers rocking waves. Maybe Henley "doesn't look back" at the screen behind him.

Though the band clearly has put many of their past rivalries behind them, it was impossible not to notice the power Joe Walsh brought to the stage, and the band acquiesced to his whims as often as they good.  Though he's looking his age, Walsh bounced about the stage with the energy of a much younger man, Chuck Berry-walking across the stage and fret tapping his over-driven guitar.  "You know this one," he blurted, introducing "Life's Been Good" in his heavy Jersey accent, "Glen told me I wrote this one." 

Leaving the crowd chanting for more after "Life in the Fast Lane," the band returned for an encore.  As the band launched into "Take It Easy," I looked around and thought about the conversations I had heard earlier on the light-rail.  The people around me people seemed to be having the best Wednesday night ever: my neighbor to the left was 6 or so ten dollar beers deep, grinning from ear to ear, the guy behind me was wearing his freshly purchased Eagles shirt OVER his button up, the ladies to the side where dancing and shouting about how hot Henley looks.

The millionaires on stage singing "Take it Easy" weren't singing about solving any problems -- but maybe for one night they didn't need to sing about that -- for the thousands of people crammed into US Airways Center, it was enough to drink overpriced beer, hear some good music and just forget about the troubled world until the morning. 

Last Night: The Eagles at US Airways Center

Better Than: Being stuck in a non-moving light-rail car on the way to the show because some dipshit kicked the door. Yeah, this happened, and then the idiot lied to the rail-attendant about it. Then fessed up. It was weird.
 
Personal Bias: I work for an independent record store, and I haven't quite forgiven The Eagles for snuggling up to the behemoth that is Walmart.  While The Eagles have never shied away from making cash, the decision to exclusively sell their album at Walmart made their liberal guilt material like title track "Long Road Out of Eden" nearly unbearable.   

By The Way: I sure would have enjoyed hearing "New Kid in Town" or "Ol' 55."  I'd have taken either over closer "Desperado."

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