Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fast Lane, Same Car, High Mileage, Still Runs Great

Yesterday, in the rack of shiny new DVDs at the public library, sat the two-disc Eagles Farewell I Tour set, recorded in Australia. You may have seen this concert already. Excerpts from it were broadcast on NBC and Bravo over the summer--almost continuously, it seemed, at least for a couple of weeks. I hadn't, so I grabbed it.

It's always fun to go to a concert by a band with a huge body of work and hear songs you don't expect. Example: The Mrs. and I saw Steely Dan several years ago. We expected to hear "FM" and "Deacon Blues," but were seriously surprised to hear "The Boston Rag," "Dirty Work," and "Daddy Don't Live in That New York City No More." (You've probably had similar experiences yourself.) If you went to an Eagles concert and they didn't play "Hotel California," "Life in the Fast Lane," or "Tequila Sunrise," you'd probably feel hosed. But you wouldn't necessarily expect "New Kid in Town" or "Already Gone." The Eagles can mix it up with solo tunes by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Joe Walsh--and while you might not be surprised by "The Boys of Summer" or "Life's Been Good," hearing "Sunset Grill" or an old James Gang tune like "Walk Away" would be another matter entirely. So the set list was pleasantly surprising--unlike the list on the live portion of the Hell Freezes Over album, which any Eagles fan could have predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy before the album came out.

There are a couple of new songs on the set. Walsh provides "One Day at a Time," a breezy song about regaining his sobriety that's too literal to be clever. The other new song, "No More Cloudy Days," is almost instantly forgettable. There is, however, a gorgeous version of "Hole in the World," which was first released a couple of years ago. Henley reveals that the band began writing it on the night of September 11, 2001. ("Hole in the World" was supposed to be the first song from a forthcoming studio album that never materialized. Given the weakness of the new songs on the DVD, that's probably not a bad thing.)

The DVD looks and sounds great, and the Eagles themselves look pretty good, too--a little heavier and a little less hairy, maybe, but then again, aren't we all? (Unless we're Timothy B. Schmit, who looks exactly the same as he did in the '70s.) They could bill themselves as "The Eagles featuring the Eagles," as the four official members are outnumbered by additional drummers, keyboard players, horn players, and guitarist Steuart Smith, who stands in the front line playing most of Don Felder's parts without being billed any higher than the other backing musicians.

The usual caveats about Eagles concert material still apply here: Don't expect a lot of variation from the recorded versions--they tend to play their records note for note, although Walsh cuts loose a bit on "One of These Nights," probably because he didn't play on the original, and Frey sings "Take it to the Limit," originally sung by Randy Meisner. Also, I suspect that like 1980's Eagles Live, which was extensively cleaned up in the studio after the fact, this concert has also had some post-production work done on it--in a couple of spots, a singer's lip movements don't precisely match what's supposedly coming out of his mouth. But those are minor objections, and they come with the territory of being an Eagles fan. If you're one, you'll probably enjoy the DVD.

Oh--and I don't believe for a minute they're saying "farewell" to anyone. They'll be back.


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