They came for the Eagles.
And they were not disappointed.
“We used to have festivals like this in the sixties…
Now we are sixty!”
Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers
They opened. To a half-full stadium. No one can get anywhere on time in Los Angeles, and they don’t seem to believe anything will start on time, they think the whole world is waiting for them or…
They just don’t care.
Now the Doobies’ heyday was in the mid-seventies. They dominated not only the airwaves, but the TV shows, they seemed to be on “In Concert” every Friday night. Then they segued into a different band, just as successful, with Michael McDonald up front, but now it’s the original act on the road, seamless, playing the hits and the album tracks and if you’re a fan, and I am, it was great to hear “Spirit” and “Clear As The Driven Snow”…
The people were there to listen to the music.
That’s the funny thing about a show like this, everybody knows every word. Everybody’s paying attention. It’s a celebration of what once was, of survival. Most people were in the demo, baby boomers, Gen-X’ers, they’d lived through it, they looked a little worse for wear, but their enjoyment of the proceedings was equivalent to what it was back in ’75, you see music is in their DNA. Their parents had the big bands, Sinatra, but they didn’t assemble in stadiums to see them forty years hence.
But that’s the power of rock and roll.
And rock and roll…
We were all infected. Call it the Beatles, say it was the British Invasion. But you’re watching the Doobies and you can see all the practice, all the failed bands before they broke through. You paid your dues, fame was not instant, and if you made it and lasted you could tour forever.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Billy Payne was tickling the ivories for the band. Did I ever tell you I saw Little Feat at the Troubadour? After “Dixie Chicken”?
And the highlight of Steely Dan was Larry Carlton, subbing for an ill Walter Becker. He had the score on a stand, he was reading his part, except for “Kid Charlemagne,” upon which he appeared on the original. And it was a marvel. Does anybody have this skill anymore? And despite everybody playing a Gibson, everybody playing the guitar, Larry sounded only like himself. For all the guitar gods, he was on another level. The Steely Dan band is something you never get anymore, twelve people on stage, a full horn section, three backup singers, it’s about the sound more than the cash. Well, I think they like the cash, but they wouldn’t want to put on any less of a show. This is what they do. And it’s great to hear Donald sing the lines about SoCal, but the highlight for me, other than the aforementioned Mr. Carlton, was the rendition of “Dirty Work.” Fagen gave props to David Palmer, who sang it on record, but the three backup singers traded lines and as the warm wind wafted over us on a Saturday night in SoCal one asked if there was anywhere you’d rather be. This same show is gonna play in two weeks in New York. But it could rain. It won’t be the same. Everybody will be self-satisfied, that’s the essence of an east coaster, whereas those in L.A…
Want to take it easy.
Now what kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where Glenn Frey dies and the Eagles are BETTER?
I know that sounds impossible, but it’s true.
Who do we credit?
Of course tons of rehearsal, the show was perfection, Henley would expect nothing less, but the secret sauce was…
Vince Gill. The man who replaced Craig Fuller in Pure Prairie League. The golfer with the great rep who’s seen as such a nice guy that one would figure he couldn’t fit in with the bad boys of Southern California.
But he did!
Picture this. On one end you’ve got Timothy B., on bass. And then Gill. And then Henley, strumming his guitar. And then Deacon Frey. And then Joe Walsh and Steuart Smith. That’s right, SIX AXES! The most I’ve ever seen in rock or country. Hell, Keith Urban has a front line of four, but SIX!
And when the band took the stage there was a roar. The stadium was full, the assembled multitude was levitating, as Deacon Frey sang…
Well, I’m runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load
And we were all jetted back to 1972, when we were thin and had hair, when our lives were in front of us as opposed to behind.
And the hi-def screen is showing images and the production is so exquisite that you can only say one thing.
THE EAGLES ARE BACK! They’ve reclaimed their perch at the top of America’s rock and roll hierarchy.
You may not agree. But what other band performs and each and every audience member knows all the words by heart? No one went to the bathroom, people were not distracted by their phones, they were listening to their lives.
It was definitely one of those nights.
You see it’s about songs. And the Eagles, or just “Eagles,” as Henley would prefer it, wanted to reach a pinnacle others did not. There are no clunkers, every song’s a gem, and it’s played better than acts half their age and…
Yes, you know the material. Timothy B. does “I Can’t Tell You Why” and Joe Walsh does “Life’s Been Good,” and of course, “Rocky Mountain Way,” and the horns were great accents in “Funk #49.” And the great surprise, with so many on stage, strings too, was “The Last Resort” and then…
They reworked “Witchy Woman,” and unlike Dylan, the song was still recognizable and fresh and just as good.
Vince sang Randy’s “Take It To The Limit.” Glenn’s “Lyin’ Eyes.” And Henley, the sole surviving member of the original group, was even humble, deferring to Glenn in the sky, and the audience perched in the rafters.
And, of course, Bob Seger came out and sang “Heartache Tonight,” like he was gonna have a heart attack, like the PA had gone out and he had to reach every last customer with his lungs.
And to hear “Hotel California” in Southern California? My life flashed in front of my eyes. Dropping the needle on that for the very first time, before it was on the radio, on the day it was released and…
The closer was “Desperado.”
We are desperados no longer. The book has been written. We’re living in the afterword. We’re not gonna start a tech company and make billions and we don’t really want to. We’re all about lifestyle. Good wine, good food and good travel. Along with grandkids, if you’ve got ’em.
But when our heroes strap on their guitars and the sound pours out of the speakers we’re twenty one once again. We still believe in not only the music, but ourselves. We think there’s a whole road in front of us and we’re not stopping for supplies until we reach Winslow, Arizona.
It was that kind of night. We found out in the long run that we and the music still matter.
It was a concert not a festival. We didn’t mill around and converse, show off our duds, no we sat (and stood!) in rapt attention as the soundtrack of our lives was played on stage.
I’m still tingling.