The Eagles @ Madison Square Garden

The Eagles (Glyn Emmerson)NEW YORK, NY–It was hard to hold back the tears of laughter looking at the Eagles onstage at the Garden. Gone was that stony- eyed stare to hippie nirvana of the Hotel California inner album cover. In its place was a group that looked more like a corporate wedding band in skinny ties and black suits.

The Eagles took on their catalogue of Americana and punched thru it with the stiff but celebratory, steel-eyed precision of a well-oiled machine for a blow out three hour performance that cemented their place in musical history as a bridge from the ‘60s to the now.

Hot off their first new one since 1979 that created quite a stir when it was initially offered for sale only at Wal-Mart , the band triumphantly took on cynics and critics alike for a tour de force performance and yet another reunion tour.

Their sweet Byrds/Poco/CSN harmonies and countrified picking morphed into the guitar rock of Hotel California and back thru the vice of twisted ‘80s mechnica from Don Henley’s solo days that twisted the bands soft edges into the steel-eyed realties of Reagan’s America. Joe Walsh added some well needed comic relief as well as some demented psychedelic thunder to the band’s output, playing some songs from his solo career as well as his former band James Gang.

Their set was a well mapped out one of peaks and valleys as the band showcased its latest Long Road Out Of Eden through its older repertoire. Frey’s country rock, Henley’s contemplative adult rock, bassist Schmit’s sensitive ballads and Walsh’s ballsey rockers all combined for a glorious roller coaster ride. The bare-bones stage set up and the addition of nine musicians, including horns, kept things clean and concise, playing the band’s songs verbatim to the recorded versions.

Opening with four songs off Eden they eventually got down to business with an incredible “Hotel California” that had Walsh and auxiliary guitarist Steuart Smith duplicating Don Felder’s leads. Everything climaxed into an incredible build up of contorted leads that sliced, diced then jangled into the songs coda. Schmit played a note perfect “I Can’t Tell You Why” from the band’s weakest record, The Long Run, that Henley countered with the jungle beats of “Witchy Woman.”

Frey’s overplayed “Lyin’ Eyes” gave way to the industrial clatter of Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” from his second solo album. The edgy and syncopated ‘80s beats eventually fused into a showdown of reverberating guitars as a grainy black and white video played onto summers past.

Walsh’s “In The City” jump started the grand finale saving the night from just another mellow one. He continued on the James Gang’s “Walk Away,” “Funky #49” and “Life Been Good” later on in the eve where he unleashed the helmet cam, taking video of the crowd with the house lights on joining in on the choruses. They all combined for a raucous send off as the guitarist from Michigan’s sonic wails, twisted humor and crunchy guitars resuscitated the crowd from soft rock slumber.

“Life In The Fast Lane” ended the regular set with a bang. They returned for Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way,” then Henley’s “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” and the ‘70s soft rock staple “Take It Easy.” Henley ended it all front stage and center with the blue-eyed soul of “Desperado” that went down like the tearful goodbye to a dear friend and a night of great music.

Photo Credit: Glyn Emmerson