The Eagles is one of those bands that enjoys a permanent spot on everyone’s California road trip playlist. Its sun-kissed classic rock makes listeners want to drive along open roads — top down — while thinking about the love they left back in Los Angeles.
Although the band’s music sometimes traffics in the darker aspects of Los Angeles, the Eagles’ three-night engagement at the Hollywood Bowl was friendly and enjoyable.
Currently composed of Glen Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, the Eagles formed in 1971. After recording six studio albums — including Desperado and Hotel California — the band broke up un 1980. In 1994, members reunited to release Hell Freezes Over, a cheeky title for a live album featuring several unreleased studio tracks, and has been touring intermittently ever since.
The band’s long history shows as the Eagles is almost better live than recorded. The guitar solos don’t stray far from what’s been playing on the radio for decades, and the singers’ harmonies are surprisingly beautiful, more so than you might expect from a rock band. It’s those characteristic harmonies that give the Eagles — generally considered a classic rock outfit — its occasional designation as a country band.
The band’s set list was an eclectic compilation of the vast breadth of its career. College students who haven’t been alive to follow the Eagles’ entire career might expect the band to draw heavily from its famous album, Hotel California. The 1976 album has repeatedly been ranked one of the best of all time and was in large part responsible for making the Eagles the most successful rock band of the ’70s.
But the set list was considerably more comprehensive in representing the band’s impressive discography. Throughout the performance, the classic rockers touched on everything from their quintessential Eagles hits to solo works by Don Henley and Joe Walsh.
Throughout the course of the night, the audience heard the Eagles’ quieter sounds in “Take it to the Limit,” then Joe Walsh’s rock ‘n’ roll stylings in “Rocky Mountain Way” and the blaring trumpets of “Funk #49.” The crowd roared for Joe Walsh, the band member who, with his still-shaggy blond hair and too cool black outfit, best embodies the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
Because the Hollywood Bowl has a giant screen at the back of its iconic shell, each song was accompanied by a video — some of which were enhanced the performance while others just played into the background.
The black-and-white footage accompanying “Boys of Summer” and the shots of New York playing to the beat of “In the City” were truly beautiful. But other videos were odd, with one in which the band members’ heads were digitally superimposed onto fish. But it was clear that most people in attendance just wanted to listen to music and see the rock legends, with little regard for visuals.
The concert also showcased the band members’ individual work, without distinguishing its original songs from those of its members’ solo careers. The general feeling was that Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” and Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” and “Boys of Summer” were just as much a part of the Eagles repertoire as the band’s original material.
The song integration gave the message that the night was just about celebrating the music the band members had created throughout their lives.
The crowd that came out for the Eagles’ appearance was reflective of the band’s longevity in the music world. The typical fan in attendance was middle-aged, relaxed and there for the music, which was actually refreshing for a concert. Unlike the atmosphere at a performance by a contemporary band like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, there were neither outrageous fashions nor hip scenery to take in.
The crowd was definitely not uptight — it was possible to get a contact high just by breathing. At one point, one of the band members vocalized a revelation during a song break.
“I just smelled this familiar scent wafting up here, and just realized … it’s 4/20,” he said.
Though young people in the audience were hard to spot, there were some wild mommies and daddies at this concert. But, after all, the Eagles are a classic rock band — its primary fan base might not be 19 anymore, but the band’s music has lasted decades by channeling the spirit of California rock ‘n’ roll.