the Eagles

The lad and I went to see the Eagles recently. Been trying to figure out what I found mildly disquieting about the show. Partly it was that it wasn't drastically different from the last time I saw them a number of years ago. And it seems odd that a relatively minor piece of the band, former James Gang frontman Joe Walsh, is the most compelling character in the live presentation. He's the only one who shows any real life and seems to revel in playing live, and as a result the audience is primed for the moments when he steps out, even though his songs come across as relative novelties compared to most of the Eagles catalogue. The Eagles catalogue is almost exclusively mid-tempo and fairly melancholy, so there's no way to create a really dynamic set list. It can be a beautiful night of music, but it won't necessarily be exciting. Walsh's job is to bring some humour, showmanship and a slightly faster tempo to the proceedings.
They came out with a 10 piece band and the musicianship is impeccable. What I've enjoyed in both shows I've seen is how they highlight the great arrangements of the original recordings by the Eagles. The guitar lines and guitar solos in particular are really fantastic. It's easy to kind of overlook those parts on record because the songwriting and vocals are so great, but hearing the guitar work live is a treat.
I thought that this time out Henley and Frey were really struggling when singing the lead vocals. No surprise I guess, since they're closing in on 70, but it really seemed to take a huge effort. I might feel differently if they looked like they were having the times of their lives, but that wasn't the case. Unlike, say, Paul McCartney, who seems to really get a kick out of still being able to get out and rock even though he's an older guy - and even if he can't quite reach every note the way he could in his youth - I don't get the same sense of joy from the Eagles frontmen. While they're clearly trying to cement the band's legacy - the whole "History of the Eagles" storyline - it's kind of hard to see why they're out there. Mind you, an Eagles show is as much about aging boomers reliving their glory days as it is about the quality of the live performance. It's actually a bit unnerving when it feels as if the audience is cheering for something they remember about their youth when they recognize the start of a song, as opposed to actually cheering for the band to do a great live version of the song.
Henley's high, reedy lead vocals have such a distinctive and compelling character that it hurts to hear his voice break. His falsetto was intact as far as I could tell, although it's possible it was being propped up by some of the other singers or a bit of technical support. I've seen the band once before and went to several Henley solo shows when his solo career was in its prime, and it really feels now as if he's got to fight for every high note. Again, that'd be ok if there was some humour and joy in it for him, but he looks more like a working stiff putting in a few hours of his shift than an aging rocker revelling in still being able to put it out there.
So it was an all pro show, and a reminder of how great the songs and arrangements are. But I don't think the Eagles songs or the original recordings need a last push by their creators to go down in the annals of popular songwriting history.