Music Matters

Life as a sixtysomething Eagles groupie: Epic tour closing with rare warmth from cellphone phobic legends

A sixtysomething Eagles groupie's notes: Tour closing with surprises

The Eagles at Toyota Center February 2014
The Eagles concert tour, indeed, is just about over. Photo by Jane Howze
Don Henley at Eagles concert at Toyota Center February 2014
Don Henley in action from February 2014 concert at the Toyota Center. The band prohibited photos at Tuesday night's concert.  Photo by Jane Howze
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The Eagles in a formal portrait.
Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit perform at Eagles concert
File photo of Glen Frey and Timothy B. Schmit at the Eagles concert in Houston in February. Photo by Jane Howze
The Eagles in concert
A formal portrait of the Eagles. Photo by James Glader
The Eagles at Toyota Center February 2014
Don Henley at Eagles concert at Toyota Center February 2014
News_Austin City Limits Music Festival_ACL_The Eagles
Glenn Frey and Timothy B. Schmit perform at Eagles concert
The Eagles in concert

The Eagles landed in the Toyota Center again Tuesday night for the next-to-the-last performance of their "History of the Eagles Tour," which launched in Louisville 15 months — and more than 100 concerts — ago. The band visited both Dallas and Houston twice on this tour, with a sold out Houston performance in February, which I wrote about back then.

Again this time, the nearly sold-out crowd was closer to retirement age than college age, though there were a number of younger fans who were there because their parents introduced them to the music. 

This newbie Eagles fan fell in love with the group not in the '70s when college friends were rocking to their many hits. I was introduced to them as more than background music in their highly-acclaimed documentary, History of the Eagles, which premiered at Sundance in 2013  As I wrote then, what I liked about them was, of course, the music, but also the back story.

 But because this tour is at its end, there was a more obvious and palpable looseness and warmth to the concert. 

Isn’t that what makes everyone interesting? 

The Eagles, like so many rock bands of the '70s, had a well-known, drug-fueled, conflict-ridden and seemingly joyless run, interspersed with brilliantly inspired songs written by co-leaders Glenn Frey and Don Henley. The band disbanded in 1979, only to reunite in 1994, and have enjoyed the coveted “second act” that has included playing to sold-out stadiums worldwide for the past 20 years. 

With my business travel, I have had the good luck (sometimes using a little special planning) of seeing them several times during this, their probably last tour. OK, count me in at nine concerts. It is a little embarrassing to be a sixtysomething groupie. As one of my college friends said, “Girl, it is time for you to grow up!” 

Given their ages — bumping up against 70 — it seems likely that the Eagles will probably not undertake this type of tour again. The concert I wrote about from Philadelphia last July was not much different from Tuesday night’s performance, which is a good thing, but it gave me a different perspective.

What is there to get out of seeing the same concert nine times besides noticing that Henley wears the same 1960s plaid shirt every freaking performance? 

If you like the music, the pleasure seeing a band perform multiple times is not much different from seeing your favorite team or athlete perform again and again. You admire the craftsmanship, you relish seeing artists still at the top of their game and if you listen to their songs on the radio or play their CDs multiple times, why not see them in person if you have the opportunity? 

 It is a little embarrassing to be a sixtysomething groupie. As one of my college friends said, “Girl, it is time for you to grow up!”  

Diehard Eagles fans know that like with Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and U-2, you can expect to not be disappointed. The Eagles, in my experience, have never turned in a bad performance. But because this tour is at its end, there was a more obvious and palpable looseness and warmth to the concert.

The band has been criticized as being so in control and so perfect as to be workmanlike and passionless. 

Henley, one of the great pop voices of all time, can be a little grumpy, but he smiled and made jokes throughout. When introduced, he even made faces at the camera. He said with real warmth and gratitude that the Eagles would not be here without their fans. Frey’s vocals were clear and strong, his electric piano on "I Can't Tell You Why" hauntingly good, yet he looked noticeably leaner than 15 months ago and he had bandages on both wrists and his fingers. Yep, time stands still for no one.

Eagles Set List Soars

The Eagles played all of the great songs that their fans still remember, note for note and word for word, with the first half devoted to a narrative with slower tempo ballads such as “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Witchy Woman,” and ending with “Take it to the Limit” (without the high notes hit by original singer Randy Meisner).

As with earlier concerts, Frey announced an intermission so he could go to the bathroom, but added a comment, “I know you all can’t wait to check your cellphones," he cracked.

 It was an emotional concert from an unemotional band. 

The Eagles are notorious for having the ushers keep the audience in their seats with their cellphone stowed, and in an earlier review of this tour, I criticized the Eagles for being grumpy old men because they refused to allow photographs during the concerts. This started as a gentle admonition during the first concerts but by their first concert in Houston ushers patrolled the aisles, often interrupting the audience’s enjoyment by pushing their way into an aisle to enforce the no pictures policy.

But you know what? I decided to stop griping and just go with the rules and I get it. It was wonderful to take in the concert with my ears, eyes and heart, rather than with my camera. 

The second act continued down memory lane with Joe Walsh taking center stage, a seemingly unscripted and a natural ham as well as one of the most talented guitarists around, delivering rousing, foot stomping renditions of “Life’s Been Good” and an expanded version of his “In The City.” 

And an Eagles concert would not be an Eagles concert with the haunting “Hotel California” and Henley’s soulful “Desperado.” The band appeared to have a sense of the ending of a chapter as they lingered on stage, taking in the affection and appreciation. It was an emotional concert from an unemotional band.   

Even though the Eagles could do the concert in their sleep, each performance has been richer and more nuanced, with additional cameras and  new arrangements of several songs. Knowing that the audience loves the Eagles’ between songs commentary, there is more camaraderie and Bernie Leadon takes a role narrating the band’s history.

When introducing one of the final songs, “In the Long Run,” Henley remarked that in 1979, when the song came out, the Eagles' music was being over shadowed by disco. In response the audience booed. Henley laughingly said, “And what do you hear of disco today? And we are still here,” to raucous cheers. 

With Wednesday night’s San Antonio concert the band will conclude their U.S. tour. I hope the Eagles will take flight again, and based on the audience’s reaction Tuesday night, their fans do too. But if not, their soaring vocals and poignant lyrics will live in my memory if not my camera.