As the Eagles cruise off into the sunset in their Maseratis, we will always remember them as America's bestselling rock band.
On their "Long Goodbye: The Final Tour," the Eagles reminded some 14,000 people Friday night at Xcel Energy Center that their songs were the soundtrack of the 1970s for mainstream America: the chill pill of "Take It Easy," the lover's betrayal of "Tequila Sunrise," the optimistic dreams of "Take It to the Limit," the disillusioned dreams of "Hotel California," the rock star stress and excess of the playful "Life in the Fast Lane," to name a few.
But the Eagles, more so than any American band, also reminded us that this is the music business. Don't let those lovely vocal harmonies fool you (though how could you not admire the striking six-part vocals on the opening "Seven Bridges Road" on Friday?).
The Eagles fired band members, faced intramural litigation, self-imploded and surprisingly reunited despite enduring acrimony, aired their dirty laundry in a pioneering Showtime special, pioneered the $100 concert ticket in 1994 (tickets this weekend cost $144.50 to $1,750) and somehow converted a six-album, nine-year recording career into a 30-year reunion tour with one forgettable 2007 album (no songs from it were performed Friday).
But we can ignore that the Eagles asked $120 for a zip-up hoodie in St. Paul and that Don Henley, the only remaining original member, is reportedly worth $250 million because, well, we love reliving the past and reminiscing about the good ol' days before we had kids and adult responsibilities. The Eagles are as comfortable as an old flannel shirt (or that new hoodie) because they give us, as their song says, peaceful, easy feelings. And they did it again Friday, in their first of two nights in St. Paul. (Don't be surprised if the tour swings around again; it's expected to go until 2025.)
Like their 2021 St. Paul concerts featuring 1976's "Hotel California" album in its entirety, the Eagles achieved a sonic precision that can be thrilling or disappointing, depending on your point of view. Do you like your music filled with animation and personality (thank you, Joe Walsh, the grungy guitarist and fun-loving showman who joined the band in 1975) or do you like it with the pristine perfection of the recording studio (thank you, the gentlemanly Mr. Henley, who was in splendid voice at age 76, including the falsetto on "One of These Nights")?
"There are no balloons, fireworks or butt wagging," the stern but sardonic Henley said early in the evening. "Just a bunch of guys with guitars."
While Taylor Swift and the Jonas Brothers offer marathon shows in which they survey their careers album by album, the Eagles pretty much did "Their Greatest Hits 1971-75," an all-time blockbuster with more than 40 million sold, plus a handful of post-1975 triumphs and assorted, crowd-pleasing hits from the non-Eagles careers of Henley and Walsh.
The first hour of the 125-minute performance was heavy on country-ish and pop ballads (Henley dedicated "Best of My Love" to "America in all its insanity and all its glory") and medium-tempo California soft rock. Then the Eagles unleashed Walsh, 75, who doubles as their clown prince and Energizer bunny, for the spirited "In the City," a 1979 solo hit with his wiry chiming guitar.
With as many as five guitarists on some numbers, there were occasional fretboard fireworks Friday, including Walsh's rocking out on "Rocky Mountain Way" and a heavy blues-rock call-and-response exchange between him and Vince Gill on "Funk #49," the former's hit with the James Gang. Shout out to MVP guitarist Steuart Smith, who has been touring the Eagles since 2001. All night long, he supplied the right seasoning, including mysterious musings on "Hotel California" and sunny pointillism on "The Boys of Summer," the Henley hit that was the lone 1980s tune heard.
Country star Gill, 66, gifted on guitar and vocals, and Deacon Frey, 30, both of whom signed on in 2017, did commendable work filling the void left by Deacon's father, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, who died in 2016. A drummer and two keyboardists completed the band.
The Eagles made a convenient but imprudent business decision to bring the Doobie Brothers as a replacement for the previously advertised opening act Steely Dan, whose lead singer Donald Fagen was hospitalized last month, as Henley explained during the Eagles set.
Nothing against the Doobies, but this was their fourth appearance in the area (if you count Waite Park and Red Wing) in 26 months. Co-founder Tom Johnston, a singer/guitarist, is sitting out now because of back surgery, which meant a leaner sound, and co-founder Patrick Simmons, who has a thinner voice, taking on "China Grove" and other Johnston tunes. At least Michael McDonald's smoky soulful pipes were in good form on the piano-propelled "What a Fool Believes" and the syncopated "Takin' It to the Streets."
In the end, with these two revamped Rock & Roll Hall of Fame bands that dominated the 1970s, it was one of those nights, a reaffirming concert that left you with warm memories like spotting a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac.