Eagles

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author AP date 10/06/19 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

Eagles were never in heavy rotation in my childhood home, and as such, I did not grow up with the Los Angeles-born country rock icons like so many other people. But be that as it may, I am not one to say nay to an opportunity to experience living legends like Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh in concert, which is why I find myself at Royal Arena tonight amongst a crowd of generally much older people than myself, ready to judge how well classic albums like “One of These Nights” (1975) and “Hotel California” (1976) have aged in the past four decades. The show is a seated affair, which I am normally not a big fan of, but having taken a sneak peek at the setlist from a previous show on this tour and discovered its length, I am actually pretty grateful to have a chair on which to rest my laurels for the next two and a half hours.

Eagles

To my surprise, when the lights dim six of the musicians that comprise Eagles anno 2019 line up at the front of the stage, acoustic and electric guitars at hand, to deliver a stylishly harmonised cover of Steve Young’s classic “Seven Bridges Road” as the opening track to their set. Although I always prefer originals over paying tribute to the work of other artists, honestly this beginning catches my attention better than any Eagles classic could have and serves as a fine lead-in for the boogie rocking “Take It Easy”, the band’s first-ever single and the opener to 1972 début full-length “Eagles”. If my counting is correct, there are no less than eleven musicians on stage now wielding an impressive assortment of instruments, and miraculously, whoever is in charge of the sound mix tonight manages the unlikely feat of striking a perfect balance between all of them to produce a soundscape that is dense, punchy and incredibly well saturated all at once. It makes listening to these 40+ year-old tracks a much more powerful experience than I dared to expect, though I must admit that not all of it strikes my fancy. The likes of “One of These Nights” (the title track to the band’s 1975 album) lean a bit too heavily into soft pop music to sit well with me, albeit applause must be directed at drummer and vocalist Don Henley, who, despite his 71 years of age, absolutely nails the falsetto parts in this song.

Henley is one of several persons to take on vocal duties tonight depending on the song, with the legendary guitarist Joe Walsh, bassist Timothy B. Schmit, country musician Vince Gill and the late lead vocalist Glenn Frey’s son Deacon all given their own opportunities to shine. Gill seems to prefer the slower, balladic tracks such as “Take It to the Limit”, “Tequila Sunrise” and his own solo piece “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away” (off his 1992 album “I Still Believe in You”), while Walsh tackles the more bombastic cuts such as “Those Shoes”, his solo track “In the City” from 1979’s “The Warriors” and the covers of “Walk Away” and “Funk #49” by his original outfit James Gang. An interesting realisation for me is that I actually prefer Walsh’s bouncier, funkier solo and James Gang material to the balladry in most of the Eagles songs we are treated to here. The band is accompanied by a four-piece brass section for added effect during those, resulting in a bombastic and, at times, sleazy sound of which I am a huge fan and which reminds me to a certain degree of Aerosmith & Run D.M.C.’s iconic collaboration “Walk This Way”. It is no surprise thus, that when more and more of these hard-hitting tracks start to appear after the halfway mark, my overall impression of the concert also receives a big boost, with only really the terrific “Witchy Woman” (another take from Eagles’ 1972 début) leaving a truly lasting mark on me in the first half.

It does not reflect too kindly on the continuing relevance of a large portion of Eagles’ own songs that they should be eclipsed by the potpourri of covers and solo tracks spliced into the setlist, but at the very least, there is not a single moment during the entire ~150-minute performance when it feels like the three surviving members have lost their touch. It all sounds staggeringly good, which is why it perplexes me that the audience should be so unenthusiastic. Even when the proceedings take on a noticeably more rock’n’roll character and a litany of iconic songs like Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” (off his 1984 album “Building the Perfect Beast”) and “Life in the Fast Lane” (taken from Eagles’ immortally revered “Hotel California” album) is aired, the atmosphere inside the arena is more like a Sunday bingo session than a nostalgic celebration of one of country rock’s greatest ever purveyors. “Heartache Tonight” (which appears on Eagles’ 1979 album “The Long Run”) is the only song that beckons people up from their seats to show their appreciation — unless explicitly told to do so by the band. What discipline it must require the musicians to deliver on such a high level in these circumstances!

With the atmosphere so muted, the three encores fall short of producing the climax I had been expecting. “Hotel California” sounds as gorgeous as ever, but in a clear sign of “Let’s just get this thing over and done with”, the band cuts it short instead of allowing its legendary guitar solo send us all into a California dream, and by the time “Desperado” hits its halfway mark in the end of the second encore, most of the audience is already busy shuffling out of the arena amidst the flowing smart phone flashes that substitute for lighters these days. After “Best of My Love” (from 1974’s “On the Border”) has brought the show to a conclusion, the band receives a well-deserved standing ovation, but I cannot shake the ambivalent feeling of having obviously witnessed something special, but also something that could have been so much grander yet.

7

Setlist:

  • 01. Seven Bridges Road (Steve Young cover)
  • 02. Take It Easy
  • 03. One of These Nights
  • 04. Take It to the Limit
  • 05. Tequila Sunrise
  • 06. Witchy Woman
  • 07. In the City (Joe Walsh cover)
  • 08. I Can’t Tell You Why
  • 09. New Kid in Town
  • 10. Peaceful Easy Feeling
  • 11. Love Will Keep Us Alive
  • 12. Lyin’ Eyes
  • 13. Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away (Vince Gill cover)
  • 14. Those Shoes
  • 15. Already Gone
  • 16. Walk Away (James Gang cover)
  • 17. Life’s Been Good (Joe Walsh cover)
  • 18. The Boys of Summer (Don Henley cover)
  • 19. Heartache Tonight
  • 20. Funk #49 (James Gang cover)
  • 21. Life in the Fast Lane

— Encore I —

  • 22. Hotel California

— Encore II —

  • 23. Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh cover)
  • 24. Desperado

— Encore III —

  • 25. Best of My Love

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