The Eagles: Crash landing
by Seth Rogovoy

(ALBANY, N.Y., July 25, 2003) – In 1979 the Eagles released “The Long Run,” the follow-up album to their huge smash hit, “Hotel California,” which came out in late 1976. In the intervening years, punk-rock reared its angry self, in part directing its wrath at bands like the Eagles for being hedonistic, bloated and self-indulgent. The title track of “The Long Run” was seen by many to be the Eagles’ response to these charges, taunting the punks for their own self-destructive habits and promising that in the long run, the Eagles would be the ones who would go the distance.

In 2003, the Clash, the Ramones and the Sex Pistols are bands for the history books only, while the Eagles continue to break box office records while copies of their greatest hits album – the best-selling record of all time – continue to fly off the shelves. The Eagles, it seems, have had the last laugh.

Judging from the band’s show at the Pepsi Arena on Thursday night, however, the joke’s on us. While the group, which includes longtime members Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, unquestionably supplied the frisson of nostalgia that concertgoers came to experience, it did nothing to earn any bona fides as a viable performing outfit in the way that other classic-rock acts, from Elton John to Paul McCartney to Bruce Springsteen, prove themselves to be night after night.

If anything, the poorly-paced concert left a listener wondering if the Eagles ever were a good concert band. Besides the fact that his voice is just a hollow shell of its former self, singer Glenn Frey seemed lost on stage, with all the presence and rapport of a cut-rate lounge singer. It didn’t help that he emphasized the bitter, misogynistic streak that infuses so many of the group’s songs with catty remarks about ex- and current wives (he said his wife’s attitude about credit cards is encapsulated in the song “Take it to the Limit”).

There were a few redeeming moments in the three-hour show. “The Long Run,” which kicked off the concert, was rendered as a pretty funky r&b number with help from a four-man horn section, and bassist Schmit sang a poignant, soulful version of “I Can’t Tell You Why.”

The saving grace of the night was guitarist-singer Joe Walsh, but his bag of tricks was mostly borrowed from his work outside of the Eagles. “Walk Away” and “Funk 49,” from his early stint with the James Gang, were hard-rocking highlights of the show, and his ironic look at rock ‘n’ roll celebrity, “Life Is Good,” a solo hit, finally kicked the show into high gear in the final quarter.

But typically, the Eagles followed Walsh’s good-natured, self-deprecating number with “Dirty Laundry,” Henley’s insufferable bit of self-justification. Although Henley sang well, hitting some Smokey Robinson-like falsetto notes on “One of These Nights,” the similarity in tone of the group’s five-part vocals – all tenors -- made them sound at best like a country-rock version of the Bee Gees, and at worst like the Chipmunks.

[This review originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on July 26, 2003. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2003. All rights reserved.]

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