Eagles | 05.01 | San Jose

Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Tracy Nunnery

Eagles :: 05.01.10 :: HP Pavilion :: San Jose, CA

The Eagles :: 05.01 :: San Jose
From the shiver inducing, tight harmonies of opener "Seven Bridges Road" to the raucous finisher "Life In The Fast Lane," the Eagles proved one of the sturdiest vintage rock acts still stomping it out after just shy of 40 years. While it'd be easy for them to sleepwalk through shows and simply collect wheelbarrows of cash, the level of musicianship and showmanship of this nearly three-hour concert – not to mention their clear pleasure and affection for the tunes and one another – marks the Eagles as a rare exception in the classic rock camp, where today's performances hold up admirably when compared to yesteryear.

While decades of mega-sized concerts have made performing to massive numbers of people seem normal, the Eagles were one of the pioneers of stadium filling rock in the 1970s, epitomized by 1976's zeitgeist capturing Hotel California and its ensuing omnipresence. They'd already sold a mountain of vinyl before that but Hotel cemented them as one of the voices of the Baby Boom generation. There is a deep, powerful connection with their music for multitudes of folks, which has made them one of the most lucrative veterans out there since reforming in 1994. They handily filled HP Pavilion with close to 20,000 people twice during this two-night run, and showed no signs that this was the last time they'd be hitting the road despite Glenn Frey's crack about it being "The Assisted Living Tour" by "those darn Eagles, the band that time forgot." To the contrary, their enthusiasm for the new material off 2007's Long Road Out of Eden, their first studio full-length since 1979's The Long Run, not to mention the greater impact of these new songs live – the simmering, melancholy "Waiting In The Weeds" is primo Eagles smoldering mope and the title track is the closest they've ever come to capturing another "Hotel California" style epic – indicates that there's more life left to this band than many might suspect, especially given their golden years status - Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh are all 62-years-old and Frey is right behind them at 61.

Nostalgia is strong onstage - and in the stalls - but that should come as no surprise from guys who recorded a melancholy theme album about being Old West desperados while still young men. There's always been a strong sense of backward glancing and blue rumination to their music, and that's only intensified with age, right down the to sepia tone images of windswept rural scenes and "regular folks" lost in thought projected on the massive half-circle screen behind them. The Eagles have this shit figured out, building on their rep and guiding their audience through a ridiculously satisfying experience. "We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again" may not be Plato but it works as a philosophy for modern man, and going a bit deeper, fits in nicely with the American Romantics like Thoreau and Walt Whitman that have long fueled Henley's pen, in particular.

The Eagles :: 05.01 :: San Jose
The new songs were spaced between blocks of pleasure button hits, a nice push/pull that created a sense of seamless continuity between today and the still crazy good numbers like "One of These Nights," "Witchy Woman" and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" – music, that despite its ubiquitous nature still hits home in a big way. Despite my natural cynicism towards most arena rock acts, I was belting out the words to "Take It Easy" and "Heartache Tonight" with my running partner, awash in rock show sweetness and happy to share in this wide communal evening. The Eagles have soundtracked countless moments in countless lives, and that generated an intense feeling of connection in the Pavilion, which the band obviously vibed on and used to fuel a number of fun, rowdy jams - often fueled by guitarist Stuart Smith, who overall outshined Walsh and Frey, though neither vet were any slouch – particularly on a swell, horn-bolstered version of James Gang staple "Funk #49" and surprise standout "Dirty Laundry."

These blue jean millionaires are a living example of how the '70s California mindset can sometimes turn out, and that workingman-with-a-bankroll thing is also part of their continuing appeal. This was a lovely experience, but definitely a high end affair, the musical equivalent of a big budget Hollywood film. There are few accidents in their production but there are far worse things than being reliably excellent and wisely playing to the sensibilities of one's fans, especially when the focus remains on the music. Every one of them can still play their instruments and sing with real power, and the classy supplementary musicians smooth out any rough edges and add some nice twists to familiar fare. With nods to their solo work and a strong sense of engagement with the entire Eagles catalog, there's really nothing bad to say about this gig. Based on this night, I'd gladly see the Eagles again in a heartbeat, and with far more enthusiasm than most of their Golden State peers still humping it from stage to stage.

Eagles :: 05.01.10 :: HP Pavilion :: San Jose, CA
Set I: Seven Bridges Road, How Long, Busy Being Fabulous, I Don't Want to Hear Anymore, Guilty of the Crime, Hotel California, Peaceful Easy Feeling, I Can't Tell You Why, Witchy Woman, Lyin' Eyes, The Boys of Summer, In The City, The Long Run
Set II: No More Walks in the Wood, Waiting In the Weeds, Love Will Keep Us Alive, Take It to the Limit, Long Road Out of Eden, Walk Away, One of These Nights, Life's Been Good, Dirty Laundry, Funk #49, Heartache Tonight, Life in the Fast Lane
E: Take It Easy, Rocky Mountain Way, Desperado

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[Published on: 5/4/10]

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