Reunited Eagles could use bailout
By Mark Guarino
With corporate governance creating financial markets to crumble and pension plans and home mortgages on the brink of near ruin, perhaps it’s a sign of economic recovery that the board of directors at Lehman Brothers gathered together to sing Eagles songs at the United Center Wednesday.
No, wait, upon closer inspection, those were actual members of the Eagles standing onstage singing actual Eagles songs at an Eagles concert. Dressed in ill-fitting black suits, crisp white shirts and matching black ties, the Eagles performed nearly three hours of familiar hits, and some new songs, with the joie de vivre of a quarterly shareholders teleconference.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The first of two nearly sold-out nights continued this second life of the famed California country rock band, which quit in 1980 but since embarked on periodic reunion tours that have meticulously assigned every note, tone and verbal quip with strict governance. As each return has illustrated, the Eagles are committed to consistency.
For long-time fans, enthralled by music engineered as if by robotic gears, this became a golden opportunity. The Eagles, accompanied by five sidemen plus four horn players, presented their songbook as the institution is has become. “Hotel California,” the highlight of the first half, was greeted because it was familiar; the band’s performance did not wrestle from it anything new.
Yet there is a factor that makes this latest regrouping a lot more special than previous tours: a new album, “Long Road Out of Eden” (ERC II). This meant the Eagles had new songs to play, which they did at the start of the night’s two divided sets. These were built with the same architecture of past Eagles songs — multiple harmonies, mid-tempo choruses, bittersweet worldviews — but they lacked melodic integrity. Don Henley, one of rock’s greatest lyricists, traded caustic for catatonic on acoustic dross like “Waiting in the Weeds.”
For a band so famously governed at the top — Henley and Glenn Frey — the show might have fared better if it was the domain of guitarist Joe Walsh and lead guitarist Steuart Smith, who replaces original member Don Felder, fired in 2001. On fare like “In the City” and “Guilty of the Crime,” a new song, the guitarists unhinged the band from its tight screws. Slight but thrilling, these moments helped shake up a tour Frey earlier said could be subtitled “assisted living.”