Eagles at Target Center, 9/18/13
Photo by Tony Nelson
Target Center, Minneapolis
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Unpopular opinion alert: The Eagles are goddamn good. It's like these guys emerged from the womb fully equipped to be singing six-voice harmonies and blending guitar lines around the same time they started walking. And until you see them play live for three hours, it's also easy to forget just how many great songs they wrote.
Of course, that's one of the blessings and curses of the Eagles. They have hits from now till tomorrow, but do you really want to hear them? For many, the answer is no. After all, why would you ever want to intentionally listen to the Eagles when you can walk into your nearest shopping mall and hear "Hotel California" playing softly over the PA system? But for that reason, seeing Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and the rest of the boys live can be a palette-cleansing experience for those who on one level want to act out violently when they hear another goddamn Eagles song, but on another enjoy well-crafted tunes written and performed by amazingly talented musicians.
Photos by Tony Nelson
Taking in last night's Target Center show with ears and eyes as unencumbered with the past as possible, there was only one conclusion to be reached: It was a great show. Unlike many of their contemporaries, the Eagles are still alive (literally) and can still play and play well. Furthermore, it's as if the tunes they wrote in the 1970s were written with an eye toward how they'd sound in the 2010s. Even vaguely sexual lyrics -- for example, "Everybody wants to touch somebody before the night is through" from "Heartache Tonight" -- have aged well in light of their ambiguity (and, in the case mentioned, in light of Daft Punk).
As you'd expect, last night, the Eagles rolled through their hits. With the exception of one song from 1994's "Hell Freezes Over," none of their newer material was played. Their show on this tour is tied in with Showtime's History of the Eagles documentary, and the early acoustic numbers were interspliced with documentary clips detailing how songs were written and when various members joined the band. But as the the electric instruments emerged along with the full band, the video clips became fewer and further between and the songs were left to do the talking. And that's good, because the Eagles' tunes can carry a live show all on their own.
For this tour, guitarist, founding member, Minneapolis native, and Hank-from-Breaking Bad look-alike Bernie Leadon is back with the group, which, as always, is led by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. Timothy B. Schmit contributes bass and vocals, with Joe Walsh kicking in lead guitar, vocals, and lots of personality. In fact, the second set of the show -- which proceeded roughly chronologically from the Eagles' early country-flavored stuff to the guitar-driven material of the later albums -- sort of felt like "Joe Walsh and the Eagles," as it featured the Walsh tunes "In the City," "Life's Been Good," "Funk 49," and "Rocky Mountain Way."
But the unsung hero of the show was guitarist Steuart Smith, who on this tour is taking the place of Don Felder. Smith's tasty, twangy country licks provided lots of flavor for the less Walsh-centric songs, and on "Hotel California" (among other tunes), his lead playing provided a cleaner counterpoint to Walsh's distinctive rock n' roll sound.
Frey and Henley still sound great -- Henley's vocals are especially soulful and impressive when he's not playing the drums (he hands those duties off on a handful of the more rocking tunes to one of the Eagles' many contributing musicians). In fact, if you would've closed your eyes and just listened, it'd be hard to say whether you were listening to an Eagles show from 1979 or 2013.
Photos by Tony Nelson
There were moments when the boys showed their age. For instance, the key change at the end of "Already Gone" that's familiar to all rock 'n' roll fans who like to sing in the shower was scrapped, presumably to save everyone's voices for later. And Schmit's high vocals on "I Can't Tell You Why" were a little shaky. As my dad (an aging rock n' roller in his own right) explained, "the falsetto is the first thing to go."
But in the end, a jam-packed Target Center crowd got exactly what it paid for and went home happy. The Eagles' long run shows no sign of stopping anytime soon, and that's a very good thing for music listeners who are able to keep their palettes clean and appreciate "Life in the Fast Lane" as much the 2,000th time as they did the first.
Critic's Notebook: My God, the harmonies! While each member of the band can certainly get around his respective instrument, the most impressive aspect of the Eagles' sound is how seamlessly and beautifully their voices blend together. How many rock n' roll shows have you seen with (gasp) seven-voice harmonies before? (The singing is especially impressive during the earlier country-flavored material.)
The Crowd: It's an Eagles show and ticket prices were upwards of $100 a pop, so what do you expect? In general, the Target Center was packed with people on the upper end of middle age, many of whom were collared, perfumed or cologned, and very excited to sing along with their favorite tunes (in some cases, much to the chagrin of their neighbors).
Overheard In The Crowd: "Don Henley sure is taller in person than I thought he was."
"Timothy B. Schmit looks rough and Joe Walsh looks great -- who would've thought that's how it would turn out in 1979?"
And most memorably, right after one of "Lyin' Eyes" choruses (featuring, once again, ridiculous harmonies) -- the roughly 65-year-old guy next to me tapped me on the shoulder and asked, "How good are these guys, young fella?" I couldn't do anything but nod. Love it or hate it, these guys are really good, no arguing that.
Set 1: Saturday Night
Train Leaves Here This Morning
Peaceful Easy Feeling
The Best of My Love
One of These Nights
Take It to the Limit
Pretty Maids All in a Row
I Can't Tell You Why
New Kid in Town
Love Will Keep Us Alive
In the City
Life's Been Good
The Long Run
Life in the Fast Lane
Take It Easy
Rocky Mountain Way (Walsh solo hit)/ Desperado
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