dark image of members of the Eagles on stage
image: Steve Alexander/ Wikimedia Commons

Bowed out in the best way possible: a review of The Eagles live

The approach to the Leeds First Direct Arena on Tuesday 2 July was almost exactly as I had expected. I saw men and women, many of whom were in various tour t-shirts from the Eagles’ concerts from years gone. Many fans seemd to be approaching the age of the band members, who first started making music in the 70s (and are now all in their 70s).

Society and music have of course changed drastically since then. For me, the Eagles remind me of some of the simplest and happiest times of my life. As my dad’s favourite band, many long car journeys were spent listening to their Greatest Hits. They are, arguably, some of the greatest songwriters in music history. Their songs are rife with political and societal observations and criticisms. Their lyrics sparked conversation in a way that my younger self had never experienced. From first loves, divorce, mankind’s destruction of the natural world, prostitution, to humorous notes on the lifestyle of a rockstar – there is little the Eagles haven’t covered in their songs.

They are in many ways the ultimate car band, but they are of course so much more. Their last studio album, Long Road Out of Eden was released back in 2007, and remains one of my favourite albums to this day. I had managed to miss the drama of their heyday – although my favourite story of band drama remains the tale of the band’s split in 1980, along with Don Henley’s statement that they’d only play together again ‘When Hell Freezes Over.’ Which, of course, then went on to be the title of their 1994 reunion tour and live album.

Upon hearing that they were once again on tour, in spite of the sad and untimely death of one of the core members, Glenn Frey, back in 2016, my dad jumped at the opportunity to get tickets to this latest tour. I was more than delighted to accompany him. They are, I believe, a staple band of a dying breed of music. A combination of musical genius, vocal perfection, and nostalgia – the Eagles are emblematic of a genius that is sadly becoming increasingly rare.

The setlist choice at times left a lot to be desired

Arriving at the stadium there was anticipation as to whether they were going to have a support act. My dad and I had discussed who could possibly support the Eagles, but as we predicted, no one was needed. The band walked out bang on time to their stage set, which featured an impressive amount of guitars, drum kits, synthesisers, completed by a grand piano. Upon the cheers dying down, they launched into ‘Seven Bridges Road’. It was a great opener, effortlessly displaying the bands genius vocals and flawless harmonies.

Following this they introduced their additional members for this tour, alongside original members Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt. This included Deacon Frey, the son of the late Glen Frey, who would be filling his shoes in some songs throughout the evening, along with esteemed country singer Vince Gill. Joe Walsh then stated they will be playing two and half hours of music this evening – an impressive feat for any band of any age. Walsh himself looked particularly like age had caught up with him. In my opinion, always the weakest singer, he now appears to have few teeth left, his voice seeming forced more than usual.

While, with few exceptions (sorry Joe Walsh), flawlessly performed, the setlist choice at times left a lot to be desired. The Eagles are of course a band that will struggle to please everyone, with so many fantastic songs to their name. However, as well as completely rejecting the Long Road Out of Eden album, the band chose to swerve a few of their more classic hits. This is perhaps coincidently, mainly songs performed by Don Henley. This included ‘Sad Café’, ‘Doolin Dalton’, ‘Wasted Time’, ‘The Last Resort’, and ‘Get Over It’ (a song made even more poignant as the years go on).

One couldn’t help but feel perhaps the two solo songs of Joe Walsh added to the set list could have been substituted. Several incredibly long guitar solos also saw the audience waver at points. The warm atmosphere occasionally dipped into what could be described as boredom, only to resurface with the next song.

They are, I believe, a staple band of a dying breed of music

However, Henley’s given performances, albeit rarer than one would have hoped, were indeed flawless. ‘Those Shoes’, ‘Desperado’ and the incredible ‘Hotel California’ are standout performances of the evening. ‘Hotel California’ in particular, undoubtedly the band’s most famous song in spite of being over six minutes long, was outstanding. Performed in the band’s first encore (the first of a total of three encores), a trumpet solo was added to the opening of the song, before the familiar riff began, and the crowd of people-of-a-certain-age were transformed, knowing every word.

This is not to detract from the fabulous performances of Deacon Frey who took on the lead vocal role in ‘Take It Easy’, a song originally sung by his late father. A young man with huge shoes to fill, Frey shone, and I personally hope he continues to pursue music following this tour.

There has always been a smugness present with the Eagles – three encores probably speaks for itself. A speech made by Henley toward the beginning of the concert stated something similar to ‘tonight there will be no choreography, no cheap gimmicks…Just a couple of guys and guitars.’

Selling out a tour, despite having released no new music in several years, and in spite of the eye-watering price of tickets is an incredibly admirable feat. To then perform as well as they did is another feat entirely. They announced this would likely be the last time they would return to the UK, and a final performance of ‘Best of My Love’, their first ever number one. They couldn’t have bowed themselves out in a better way, with everyone on their feet.

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