[9 January 2006]
If nothing else, The Eagles at least have a sense of humor. When this group of ‘70s country-rock icons first reunited in the mid-‘90s, its tour was called Hell Freezes Over. (Upon breaking up, band members initially said they wouldn’t reform unless hell froze over). Now, with this act’s most recent tour (documented here on DVD), its latest international jaunt has been titled the Farewell 1 Tour, presumably because this won’t be the last time these Southern Californians say goodbye to the road for good.
This two-DVD set was filmed in Australia, which underlines the group’s international appeal. The music begins, appropriately enough, with “The Long Run”, because whether they like to admit it or not these guys were destined (it seems) to make music together for a good long time to come. For the most part, this package is broken down into a soft side and a loud side. Of course, The Eagles, even at their rocking-ist, which barely registers much seismic activity at all, never really get all that noisy period.
In its gentler mode, which is mainly relegated to DVD number one, The Eagles show off their distinctly country roots. There’s just no denying that a song like “Lyin’ Eyes” is simply a great country weeper. This band especially excels at sad songs, a trait that is also exemplified by “Tequila Sunrise” and “New Kid in Town”. The band steps it up a bit rhythmically during “Already Gone” and “One of These Nights”, but this speed can best be likened to the medium toe-tapping gear. You never get the impression that The Eagles suffer from coffee jitters.
The second DVD here includes the bass drum-stomping “Heartache Tonight”, as well as the SoCal dark side of “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Hotel California”, before downshifting slightly to “Take It Easy” and “Desperado”. This second DVD has 10 songs, which is half the total found on the first disc, but it also includes a bonus feature of Eagles interviews. With the way these members talk so sweetly about each other during these interviews, it’s hard to believe they ever could have broken up in the first place. But a cash cow like The Eagles’ franchise can sweeten even the bitterest pill, one supposes. Now that they’re making nice with each other, they’re also raking in big bucks.
Although these players will always be best known for the success achieved while flying in the highly successful Eagles formation, they’ve also had a number of hits as solo artists and with other groups. Don Henley stepped away from his drum kit, to make a name for himself with hits like “Sunset Grill”, “The Boys of Summer”, and “Dirty Laundry”, all of which he performs here. Joe Walsh also gets a chance to play the guitar hero during the James Gang’s hit “Funk #49”, as well as on a few other FM radio staples, such as “Life’s Been Good” and “Rocky Mountain Way”. Additionally, Walsh sings “One Day at a Time”, which chronicles his hard choice to quit drinking.
As for Eagles hits included here, this is primarily the Glenn Frey/Don Henley show—just the way it was back during the group’s heyday. Nevertheless, bassist Timothy B. Schmit gets to sing lead on the extra-soft hit “I Can’t Tell You Why”. These are mostly all big hits, even though the group’s 9/11 response song, “Hole in the World”, fits in rather nicely with the rest of the tunes.
The four original Eagles are clearly the stars of this show. Nevertheless, the group’s sidemen also add plenty of nice instrumental touches to this band’s otherwise vocally-anchored sound. Extra guitarist/vocalist Steuart Smith is the most significant addition of all. It’s surprising especially with the presence of a legitimate guitar god like Joe Walsh in its ranks just how many significant six-string solos Smith takes along the way. The group’s brass quartet (Greg Smith, Al Garth, Christian Mostert, and Bill Armstrong) also gives these songs memorable fullness. Another surprise here is just how much piano Glenn Frey plays. In fact, the keys appear to be his most comfortable instrument within this band setting.
Back in the ‘70s, the Eagles reflected the hedonism of the times, especially with the hits “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane”. These days, the band acts more as a nostalgic signpost, instead. Although it was probably never intended to be ‘comfort music’, many of these tunes nevertheless come across in an especially comforting way now. The title of one song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, sums up the overall impression that this double disc set offers and ultimately leaves with the listener. Chances are you’ll be in a peaceful state when all’s said and done.
Punk rock rebelled against acts like The Eagles back in the ‘70s, and yet their songs stand the test of time well. This was never a group that tied itself to any particular visual image, nor did it bandwagon onto a specific musical trend. Instead, these musicians hung onto the artistic value of high quality songs, which is the main reason concert audiences have allowed The Eagles to continue carrying on with this long goodbye.