Eagles: After the Thrill is Gone
Scanning the headlines at YahooNews, I came across a rather harsh review of a recent Eagles concert in San Jose by the Mercury News‘ Jim Harrington. He begins with an interesting factoid:
The Eagles — whose leader, Don Henley, once famously proclaimed would get back together “when hell freezes over” — are still riding the reunion trail they embarked on back in 1994. At this point, the second incarnation of the band has been around longer than the first, which lasted from 1971 to 1980.
I watched the “Hell Freezes Over” reunion concert more than a dozen times back in the days when people watched television by flipping through the channels until they found something interesting. But I was only vaguely aware that the band his remained together afterward.
At any rate, Harrington says, “Enough is enough.”
The spark was missing, particularly during a half-dozen of the band’s best-known hits, and the result was a mediocre performance that didn’t do justice to the Eagles’ legacy.
Some of that, of course, has to do with age. The Eagles’ youngest member, Glenn Frey, will turn 62 in November. Yet there’s no call to poke fun at their ages, especially since Frey has already beaten us to the punch (line). “Check your tickets,” the Detroit native joked with the crowd. “This is the Eagles Assisted Living Tour.” This is a band, however, that should be applauded for its willingness to take risks, one of the few things that separates the Eagles from other classic rock acts.
Financially speaking, the group certainly didn’t need to put out an album of new material, given that its 29-times-platinum “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” ties with Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” as the best-selling album in U.S. history.Still, the Eagles took a chance and recorded their first full-length studio album in 28 years, 2007’s “Long Road Out of Eden.” The gamble paid off handsomely, as the album hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and sold millions of copies across the globe. That’s quite the accomplishment — most new studio offerings from the Eagles’ peer group, which includes Paul McCartney, Elton John and other multi-platinum classic rockers, are largely ignored by fans and don’t sniff the upper reaches of the charts.
But, alas, the band is competing with their young selves and the new tracks aren’t as compelling as the classics from three decades back. And, lo and behold, the geriatrics don’t sing as well as they once did.
None of the offerings, however, matched what you’ll find on the original records, mostly due to subpar lead vocals from all four band members.
The second set was much easier on the ears, but that had more to do with an adjusted sound system than anything actually happening onstage. Joe Walsh, who seemed to be on a coffee break for much of the first set, finally showed up in the nightcap and played some real lead guitar. He also was given plenty of turns on the microphone, but his voice — never his strong point — has deteriorated to the point where even such former gems as “Walk Away” and “Life’s Been Good” felt like wasted efforts.
The strongest moments of the night all came from Henley, which wasn’t a surprise. The Eagles could lose any of the other three members and probably still fill arenas and amphitheaters. Without Henley, however, they’d be playing county fairs.
For the most part, though, people don’t go to concerts for the music. I’ve been to quite a few and can’t recall one where the performance matched that of the studio recordings. Even if the artist could pull it off, the acoustics of the room and the clatter of the audience takes away from the sound. A concert is an experience.
That’s doubly true, I’d think, for a nostalgia act like the Eagles. Everyone there knows the hits by heart. And nobody wants to hear the new stuff, anyway. They’re there to see the old boys before it’s too late.