You’ll notice the title of this post is EAGLES in concert, not THE Eagles in Concert. According to Steve Martin, Glen Frey made it very clear that the name of the band was supposed to be Eagles, and that no one member was an Eagle. That kind of bothered me, as it meant that pretty much everyone in the world was saying it wrong. After the first two songs of the concert, Glen Frey himself made the mistake when he introduced the band. “We are the Eagles,” he said, “the Ancient Ones, the band that wouldn’t die.”
I figure if Glen gets it wrong, the rest of us are off the hook.
The concert was held at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, about five minutes away from where I live. It was the last concert on the Eagles’ American tour, and it started about an hour later than the ticket said it would. I don’t understand that. It’s the case with every concert. What would be so awful about starting on time?
To make matters worse, our seats were positioned strangely so that we were right in the middle of an aisle, so people schlepping beer and crap would essentially have to climb over us to get to their seats. We went to Security and complained, and they let us sit in a special, spacious area reserved for the physically impaired. We were told that if anyone with a disability needed the seats, we’d have to relinquish them. Nobody did. I guess handicapped folks don’t like the Eagles – or can afford better seats than what we had.
This is what the concert looked like from our vantage point.
That’s my thumb, and those tiny dots on the stage are the Eagles. So you can see them about as well as I could. They had video screens on either side of the stage, but they were kind of tiny. They also had a large, strange video bubble behind them, which was used as a sort of enhanced light show. During “I Can’t Tell You Why,” they replaced the Seventies-ish tye-dyed colors with a straight video feed of Timothy B. Schmidt singing lead on that one – the only song Schmidt sang lead on the whole night. It made me wish they’d done that on the rest of the numbers, too. It also made me wish that Schmidt could have had the good sense to get a damn haircut, hippie.
I’ve always been a fairly substantial Eagles fan – see my album review of their latest here – and they came out on tour back in ’94, right after Mrs. Cornell and I tied the knot. We tried to get tickets then, and they were far out of our price range, which, admittedly, was not very large. It has expanded in the intervening decade and a half, but not enough to afford better seats than the ones you see here. Still, it was kind of nice to be able to see them at all before they die.
So, enough background. How was the show?
Overall, nifty. The sound was as sharp as the studio stuff, especially the harmonies. The only exception was Glen Frey, who sang with uncertain warbling pitch every once in awhile and who had an expression on his face while he sang that made him look like he was taking a dump.
Want more? I can give it to you blow by blow. I kept track of the set list on my iPhone, because, yes, I’m that big a geek.
They opened with the strongest track off their latest album – “How Long?” Drummer Don Henley was out front for this one, along with Glen Frey, Joe Walsh, and Schmidt, the four Eagles who essentially make up the band now. (Although they farmed out a lot of heavy lifting on lead guitar to a guy I had never seen or heard of until they introduced him later. His name was Stewart Smith, and he even played one of the parts on the double guitar solo on “Hotel California.” But since he didn’t play with the band back in the 20th Century, he’s not a real Eagle.)
The number was strong, and the song was great, but the audience reaction was muted, as most of them were hoping for a song they knew. I knew it, though, and liked it. They then followed that with “Too Busy Being Fabulous,” a lesser song off of Long Road Out of Eden. It was then that I got a little nervous that that they were going to be a little too Eden heavy on their song selections, but nobody wants to hear a classic band’s new stuff. Thankfully, they played nothing else from the new album, which was fine with me – and everyone else.
Song number three was what Glen Frey called “the Credit Card song,” i.e. “Take It to the Limit,” which was originally recorded with Danny Miesener on lead vocal. Miesener was booted out of the band several decades ago, so no one mentioned his name when Frey decided to sing lead. Reportedly, Miesener has asked if he could come onstage for a few gigs and sing that one song, but Frey and Henley are pretty dictatorial about how they run the band.
The next song began with an odd, haunting trumpet solo, which made for a unique intro to “Hotel California,” which was sung by Don Henley sitting behind the drums. It’s a remarkable thing to watch Henley sing and drum at the same time, and Henley knows it. He’s said that he doesn’t understand why people are so fascinated by the sight of a singing drummer, and I can’t explain it myself, but it really is something to see. He stayed behind the drums for most of the rest of the night, coming out only for the final encore, “Desperado.” Henley was dressed pretty frumpily, though – an unbuttoned, untucked striped Oxford shirt over a white T. Business casual he was not.
The next two songs were Lite Rock staples “Peaceful, East Feeling” and “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and then they launched into “Witchy Woman,” which Frey called a product of their “Satanic country period.” Frey’s cutesy comments were starting to grate, although it was fun when he introduced the next song, “Lying Eyes,” and dedicated it to his “first wife, Plaintiff.” That was followed by Henley singing behind the drums for “One of These Nights.” Don Henley didn’t offer a single word to the crowd that wasn’t sung, whereas Frey and Joe Walsh were downright chatty. Walsh took the lead for the next number, “Seems to Me,” and began by saying something designed to get a laugh, but which no one could understand.
“Hey,” he said, “I’ve been singing the whole night with a bsnsdg in my mouth, what do you think of that?”
I don’t know what a bsnsdg is. I think he was trying to say “bug,” but he used too many syllables. It might have been “bun warmer.” The lady sitting next to us thought it was “bird poop.” As you can see, it was open to interpretation.
Walsh’s numbers were a whole lot more snarly and guitar-themed than the rest of the night’s repertoire, and he got to sing a surprising number of them, including one encore. Most of them, also surprisingly, were Walsh’s solo hits. I decided that he was kind of fun, but a little of him goes a long way. I could have used more Henley solo stuff (he got two non-Eagles songs in the playlist) or Frey solo stuff (he got none. Would it have killed them to play “The Heat Is On” instead of “Funk 49?”)
After “Seems to Me,” Henley launched into “Boys of Summer,” his best solo track by far. I was surprised and grateful to hear it. I said earlier that he didn’t come out front for any more songs, but I think I lied, and that he was out in front on this one. The weird lighting bubble behind him played black-and-white surfer images reminiscent of his ’80s music video, and I’m almost positive that he pitched the song a good two full steps lower than the original recording. It felt oddly listless, but I still dug it.
After “Boys of Summer,” Walsh took center stage again with a spirited “In The City,” with pictures of subways and NYC denizens on the bubble behind him. The video ended, however, with a Google Earth picture of the stadium we were sitting in, which zoomed out into the atmosphere to reveal the entire planet. It was the coolest special effect of the night.
Henley then sang “Long Run,” and now I realize I’ve lied twice in this review. Because he was out in front for it, and he also spoke to the audience and called this his “theme song.” But I’m pretty sure that was the only time he spoke to the crowd. Honest.
Walsh then came back AGAIN and sang “Life’s Been Good to Me,” and he had a camera strapped to the top of his head. So the audience got to see themselves on the big screen as Joe Walsh sang to them. He also changed a lyric in the song from “I have accountants pay for it all,” to, “I went to Utah and sang with a bsnsdg in my mouth.” Seriously. Nobody could figure out what it was the second time, either.
We then got the second and last Henley solo track, “Dirty Laundry,” which was made far too annoying by the visual of right-wing talk show hosts that accompanied it, punctuated by ominous pictures of Rupert Murdoch. It was obnoxious, yes, but it was the only political commentary of the evening, and given Henley’s proclivities, that showed tremendous restraint. The video also included lots of tabloidy shows and pictures, too, so it didn’t get too bad on the Fox-bashing front. Although if you’re going to complain about obnoxious political commentators and do it in a non-partisan way, shouldn’t Keith Olbermann make his way to the screen, too?
Then Joe Walsh about killed me with Funk 49, the only song on the setlist for which I didn’t know the title and had to look it up later. Just loud, snarling guitars and Walsh’s incessant whine. Please, no more.
Frey then took the lead with “Heartache Tonight,” at which point Mrs. Cornell and I tried to find better seats and snuck into a handicapped area that was closed off to the public and closer to the stage. We watched this number and part of the next, “Life in the Fast Lane,” before security found us and booted us out.
We thought about rushing the stage, but the concert was almost over, so we watched the three encore numbers from the top of an aisle, right next to one of the cameras that was tracking the band for the video screens. The three numbers were “Take It Easy,” which was fine, “Rocky Mountain Way,” which was loud, snarly, and Joe Walshically awful, and “Desperado,” which was, well, “Desperado.” Great song, well performed.
And then it was over. We saw the set list posted on the camera, so we got out of the stadium before anyone else, as they were all still screaming for one more song.
Songs I thought they would have performed but didn’t: “Tequila Sunrise” and “Already Gone.”
Songs I would have liked to have heard but knew they wouldn’t sing: “Last Resort” and “Sad Cafe.”
Songs I heard but wish I hadn’t: Anything with Joe Walsh singing lead, except “In The City,” which was quite good.
That’s all to my review. There will be no encore. Drive home safely.