There is always something comfortable about the Eagles.
The legendary rock band, after all, has been part of the American soundtrack for more than 40 years. The band’s songs are instantly recognizable to anyone, of any generation, who has ever turned on FM radio. From the folk-flavored country rock of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” to the weirdness of “Hotel California” and sing-along appeal of “Take it Easy,” the music wears well on the ears, even after four decades.
The band has its detractors, of course. Snarky hipsters who scoff at the polished commercialism and ubiquity of the Eagles’ output. The movie character Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski famously isn’t a fan. But for the thousands of faithful who packed the Spokane Arena on Friday night, the first local Eagles concert in more than a decade was exactly what they wanted: A chance to hang out with some consummate musicians and songwriters, watch them deploy their craft, and enjoy some really great tunes.
On stage, the Eagles appeared comfortable as well, all decked out in plaid or checked button-down shirts. Two years into their “History of the Eagles” Tour, the show itself is buffed to a high gloss, which isn’t a bad thing when your fans are paying as much as $180 a ticket.
For the first set, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmit were joined by founding guitarist Bernie Leadon. The first 12 songs traced the arc of the band’s career through the early country-flavored songs: “Saturday Night” and “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” to “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Witchy Woman,” and wrapping up with “One of These Nights” and “Take It to the Limit.”
Throughout, fans sat mostly glued to their seats, singing along when the moment was right, laughing at Frey’s mostly lame jokes. The tunes in this part of show were pretty slow, a fact the band acknowledged. Frey thanked the fans for their attention, announced a short break, then promised to come back and play for a really long time.
Which they did. At nearly 3 ½ hours and 27 songs, fans certainly got their money’s worth. After opening the second set with the ballads “Pretty Maids All in a Row,” sung by Walsh, and “I Can’t Tell You Why,” sung by Schmit, the band kicked the tempo up a few notches. “Heartache Tonight,” the Walsh solo numbers “In the City” and “Life’s Been Good,” “The Long Run,” the rocking James Gang cover “Funk #49” and “Life in the Fast Lane” reminded us that the Eagles are a pretty great guitar band. And they still know how to rock.
More importantly, they sounded good as singers. Schmit, whose higher vocals became an important component of the Eagles harmonies, still has the chops to hit the high notes. Walsh’s voice lends that distinctive nasal quality to the band’s sound. Henley and Frey, the two main vocalists, have a little more raggedy edge to their vocals these days. They are voices worn well, like those comfortable shirts that are a joy to slip into.
By the time the encore hit, the crowd was primed for two songs they knew had to be coming: “Hotel California” and “Take it Easy.” In both instances, the band didn’t disappoint as the Eagles brought the audience along for the ride.
It’s easy for some to sit back and take pot shots at a band that has sold millions of records, that hasn’t put out anything new in close to a decade, that seems happy to churn out the hits for devoted fans. But what’s the point? The Eagles’ music holds up as well after all this time. The live music experience is a moment, and for those willing to be in it, it’s always worthwhile. On Friday night, the Eagles showed they are happy to still be playing music, and their fans in the Inland Northwest were thrilled to be able to enjoy it.
Check out Spokesman photographer Dan Pelle's Picture Story from Friday's show here.