Sunday, September 16, 2018

Eagles At The Forum | Lefsetz Letter

Who can go the distance
We’ll find out in the long run

Welcome to 2018, when everybody’s got an opinion and nobody’s listening. Word on the street is that this is the ersatz Eagles, but Don Henley’s got no problem with that, he acknowledges that the band has changed right after the show begins. But the songs remain. This concert is a tribute to very hard work done a long time ago that has been enshrined in the brains of fans all over the word, which is why the Eagles possess the biggest selling album of all time. You may hate ’em, but more people love ’em.
Now if you’re a fan, the opening will slay you.

There are stars
In the southern sky
Southward as you go

It’s “Seven Bridges Road” which was never a single, was only released on a live album back in 1980. But that was then and this is now. That’s the Eagles and everybody else. Like Led Zeppelin, the Eagles transcended the format. Album cuts were as big as singles. You knew them. And this unheralded song written by Steve Young is a classic.

There is moonlight
And moss in the trees
Down the Seven Bridges Road

It’s a new era, a rebirth. If Dodger Stadium was the introduction, this tour is the freight train, streamlining the sound, getting rid of the rough edges, and steaming down the track. If you can find a better rehearsed band, you’re lying. It’s so perfect, you want to pinch yourself. And sure, one can argue the roots of rock and roll are about the coarseness, but that’s never been what the Eagles have been selling. The Eagles came late, they may be considered classic rock now, but “Take It Easy” came out in ’72, long after the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. The band’s sound was a distillation of what came before, all its members had paid their dues, it was about stewing up the sounds and perfecting them, to rise above. And the Eagles did.

Sure, it was Glenn Frey’s idea. But the new band has maintained his vision. As a matter of fact, the biggest applause of the night was when his image was projected on the big screen. You see the audience knows. From back when rock ruled the planet and no one had even heard of techies. Being a rock star meant you were fabulously wealthy and hewed to the beat of your own drummer. That’s what we all aspired to. Today’s industrialists look down on musicians, back then everybody wanted to be one.

So, you’re listening to “Seven Bridges Road” stunned. The country rock sound was birthed by Gram Parsons, expanded by Crosby, Stills & Nash, but… Parsons never broke through to the mainstream and CSN could not reproduce the magic on stage. Just take a look at “Woodstock,” or listen to “4 Way Street,” you wince. But not when the Eagles took the stage, then or now. Last night at the Forum, forty three years after their first show there.

As Timothy B. Schmit said, they’re the Eagles from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is a state of mind. One of freedom, one of possibilities. East coasters pooh-pooh it, southerners say they’ve got it, as they sweat away, Texans believe they’re superior, but the hopes and dreams of our nation reside in California, and it’s the hedonistic southern part of the state where your dreams come true. You can have no CV, trading on your pluck and luck, and you can make it. It’s why both Glenn Frey and Don Henley came here to begin with.

So last night was a celebration of what was, and in the mind of Angelenos, still can be.

Deacon Frey singing about standing on a corner…you don’t age in SoCal, your features fade, but you still believe your best days are ahead of you, that that girl in the flatbed Ford will still check you out.

And Vince Gill takes it to the limit, and one can never forget that Randy Meisner was ousted from the band because he no longer could. You see family is secondary to chops in the Eagles.

And speaking of Gill, one of the surprises of the evening was his take on Tom Waits’ “Ol ’55,” a smidge better than the rendition on the third album.

And Gill got to play one of his own songs, “Don’t Let Our Love Start Slippin’ Away,” which was not quite up to the Eagles’ level, but his guitar-playing was. Last night was an axefest. With Gill, Joe Walsh and Steuart Smith demonstrating world class chops that compete with anybody. With help from Deacon and Don at times. That’s right, the act often featured SIX guitarists on the front line.

And Walsh delivered the spice as usual. But he had fire that had previously been held in check. He had the audience make fun of him in “Life’s Been Good.” And not only was there “Funk #49,” but “Walk Away” from his James Gang roots too.

But this show lived somewhere between nostalgia and the present. Sure, you’d hear “Tequila Sunrise” and think about what once was, where you were back then, but then you’d be on your feet singing along to “Heartache Tonight” and it felt like you were in the present. Where else can you go to a show where you know every word? This is a celebration, of not only the band, but the audience.

That was something I noticed, how the old songs had new meaning.

“Life In The Fast Lane”… So many have fallen off the edge. Tested the limits and got consumed by them. Mac Miller and Lil Peep have been cut down prematurely recently, but the game is to stay alive, to see how it all plays out. Die and you’re a legend, survive and you’re just a regular guy. But the trick is to live long enough to see how it all turns out, to try and capture the brass ring once again.

Unlike in past shows, Henley didn’t dominate. But one of the absolute highlights was when he performed “Boys Of Summer,” from the MTV era.

It’s that guitar lick, that synth sound swirling, and then Don steps up to the mic and sings:

Nobody on the road
Nobody on the beach
I feel it in the air
Summer’s out of reach

We have seasons in SoCal, contrary to popular opinion. And they’re changing right now. It might be bubbling under triple digits, but the beaches have cleared out, PCH is nearly empty and the angle of the sun makes everything golden, but not bright yellow. Kind of like our lives.

Maybe you started with the Beatles. Maybe it was the Eagles themselves. Maybe you didn’t come along until Martha Quinn and the rest of the VJs became household names. But you remember. How it was. Before cell phones. In the era of loneliness, of little communication. You listened to music to connect, to feel your humanity. You went to the show for a religious rite, to know you were all right. And you go a Eagles show to get back in touch with that feeling, all those thoughts, all those questions, how was it gonna all work out?

Well I’m gonna tell you how it did. You made it. The road’s been littered with disasters and death, but somehow you made it through, you’re still here. And so are the Eagles.

So you lay your money down to remind yourself. You pay some of the highest ticket prices extant. But you don’t care, you just need another hit of the magic, because you checked into the Hotel California and you can never leave.



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