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Eagles' long-awaited Melbourne return reaffirmed their status as bonafide rock legends

Soft rock pioneers solidify their legacy with a career spanning performance

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David Harris

It’s been four years since the Eagles last toured Down Under and much has happened to the soft rock pioneers since then. The tragic passing of co-founder Glenn Frey in 2016 seemingly spelt the death of the Eagles, but despite the loss of such a key figure, the band have risen like the phoenix from the ashes and are back touring the globe. The massive lineups outside of Rod Laver are evident the Eagles are still relevant and have a loyal and dedicated fanbase like no other.

With no support in tow, Eagles took the stage at the rather early timeslot of 8pm, not that this bothered the capacity crowd who broke out into rapturous applause as the band appeared. Sole remaining original member Don Henley is joined by long-time collaborators Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit and new recruits Deacon Frey (the son of Glenn), celebrated country singer Vince Gill and Steuart Smith. Standing six-a-breast at the front of the stage, they soaked in all the admiration of the crowd before launching into longtime live favourite and Steve Young cover, ‘Seven Bridges Road’.

Walsh thanked everyone for coming out and expressed his delight at being back before formally introducing Deacon Frey, who led the band in a brilliant rendition of ‘Take It Easy’, causing some audience members to stand and applaud at the songs end. Next they played a glorious trilogy of Eagles hits, with ‘One of These Nights’, 'Take It to the Limit’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ showcasing not only the band’s musicianship, but pristine harmonies and well-written hooks. The addition of a brass section during ‘Witchy Woman’ was a revelation while ‘I Can’t Tell You Why’ allowed Schmit to flex his falsetto on a Bee Gees-esque pop tune.

The death of vocalist Glenn Frey nearly derailed the Eagles, but Henley kept the band alive by recruiting Deacon and Gill, both exceptionally talented musicians, to fill the void. Deacon kept his father’s legend alive, sounding just like his dad on the harmony-heavy ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ and upbeat ‘Already Gone’, while Gill turned ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ into his own and got the opportunity to showcase one of his biggest solo hits, the country ballad ‘Don’t Let Out Love Start Slippin’ Away’. Guitarist Joe Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmit, both who joined the band in the 70s, are equally as important to the Eagles’ makeup as the new members.

 
 
 
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Walsh, an accomplished musician with some of the best facials you’ll see from a guitarist, got the chance to play some of his non-Eagles material, including the reggae-themed ‘Life’s Been Good’ and James Gang hit ‘Walk Away’. Schmit sang a couple of numbers, such as the slow jam ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’, but spent most of the night complementing Walsh’s guitar work with blistering bass lines as his long greying hair cascaded past his shoulder.

Then there’s Don Henley, the Eagles spiritual leader. Although hidden behind his drum kit for most of the night, Henley’s presence was felt throughout, be it via his accomplished drumming, subtle harmonies or when out front tearing up the stage during ‘Boys Of Summer’. He’s the glue that holds the Eagles together and still possesses a voice like no other. Credit must also go to the touring musicians accompanying the band, each of whom helped flesh out the Eagles extensive back catalogue, turning enjoyable radio tracks into stadium rockers.

A rousing version of ‘Heartache Tonight’ was followed by the electrifying ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ before the Eagles finally leave the stage, some two hours after they began. An encore was inevitable, but the Eagles took things further by coming out three separate times. The first began with a trumpet solo segueing into the opening riff of ‘Hotel California’, as a mass singalong heightened the mysticism of the famous tune. The second encore featured Walsh’s blues classic ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ and a chilling take on ‘Desperado’, before the third and final encore offered fans the heartfelt ballad ‘Best Of My Love’.

The Big Lebowski’s The Dude might not abide, but the Eagles are one of the greatest rock acts ever to do it, with tonight a legacy-defining performance nobody in attendance will soon forget. 

Highlight: ‘Hotel California’.

Lowlight: $9.90 for a beer is extortion.

Crowd favourite: ‘Life In The Fast Lane’.

By Tobias Handke