The Eagles announced that after a long run, the country-rocking band will take it easy. The band’s Long Goodbye Tour has been billed as the final tour. It launched at Madison Square Garden on September 7 and is expected to travel the world through 2025.
Perhaps the band should be renamed the singular “Eagle” since Don Henley is the sole remaining original member. The original band formed in 1971 as backing musicians for Linda Ronstadt before venturing independently and recording many of the biggest hit songs of the decade. Personnel shifted several times over the course of six best-selling albums until the band split in 1980. The Eagles rebranded in 1994, now mostly as a touring unit playing the Eagles catalog, releasing a double album of new compositions in 2007. At present, the Eagles consists of Henley on vocals, drums and guitar, longtime members Joe Walsh on vocals and guitar and Timothy B. Schmit on vocals and bass, and latter-day members Vince Gill and Deacon Frey (son of the band’s late co-founder, Glenn Frey) also on vocals and guitars.
In announcing the final tour, numerous journalists have written that the Eagles provided nearly six decades of popular songs. It would be truer to say that the band provided a string of hits across one decade, the 1970s, and that these songs have endured across six decades. Not only have many of the Eagles’ songs remained mainstays of pop, rock, country, and easy-listening musical platforms, several Caribbean artists have popularized Eagles’ songs in calypso, reggae, and soca variations.
At the tour-opening concert at Madison Square Garden, following a pleasant opening set by Steely Dan and an intermission, the Eagles’ two-hour, 23-song set began with white spotlights shining on Gill, Schmidt, Frey, Walsh, and touring guitarist Steuart Smith standing at microphones across the front of the stage. Behind them, another white spotlight shone on Henley at the drums. Singing the lesser-known “Seven Bridges Road,” the six-part harmonies were already mighty.
Photos by Everynight Charley
The set was mostly mellow for the first hour and rocked more in the second. While the program had no showy gimmicks except for the use of projections, the roulette of lead singers and lead guitarists captured the attention of the fans. Henley, still in silky smooth voice, alternated between playing drums in back and guitar up front. Frey sang some of the songs his father used to sing, including “Take It Easy.” As a relative newcomer to the band, Gill also sang songs that the Eagles recorded before he joined, including “Take It to the Limit,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” and “New Kid in Town.” Although not a full-fledged band member, Smith energized the show with the most intriguing guitar leads. In the darker areas of the stage, musical director/keyboardist Will Hollis, drummer Scott Crago, and keyboardist Michael Thompson supported the overall sound dynamics.
This performance featured tender moments. Henley honored two deceased members of the original band, Glenn Frey, who died in 2016, and Randy Meisner who died this year on July 26. Later in the program, Henley memorialized “dear friend” and occasional musical collaborator Jimmy Buffett who passed away on September 2. “Jimmy Buffett is now sailing on that cosmic ocean, having cheeseburgers with Glenn and Randy,” said Henley, referencing a Buffett song. Schmit then sang Buffett’s “Come Monday” and Walsh sang Buffett’s “Fins” while wearing a Buffet-influenced parrothead hat.
From start to finish, the modern-day Eagles relived the 1970s. The band played all the hits to perfection. Familiar hit after familiar hit, the concert was much like a live jukebox as the band cleanly recreated the songs almost note for note, polished, and exact. They seemed to only crank a jam on the songs led by Walsh (who is the resident rocker in a mostly soft rock band). The sound was crystal clear, and so the six-part harmonies were extraordinary. As the Eagles rocked the show to closure with an extended version of “Hotel California,” Madison Square Garden felt like such a lovely place.