Classic Rock Corner

Last Night: The Eagles At Toyota Center

The Eagles Toyota Center June 27, 2010

For the past five years Aftermath has been told that we should hate the Eagles, but not why. Like a child, we would ask, and all we would hear from the pop-culture constabulary was "because they suck." It's like standing in a line just because there is a line. So we stood in it for a while and seethed with boredom with the band like everyone else, even though we had no idea why.

We began thinking long and hard about the Eagles before heading into Sunday night's nearly three-hour Toyota Center set. We had to separate certain truths about the band from the perceptions we gathered from everyone else painting them as rock's Great Satan. It also helped that we had a member of the Eagles Appreciation Society sitting next to us in the form of Mama Rocks Off.

On the surface, yes, the Eagles are the exact opposite of everything rock and roll as we think we know it. No one in the band was ever found bleeding from the head after being thrashed within an inch of their life for sleeping with a minor, and drummer/singer Don Henley never woke up nude between David Bowie and Mick Jagger. If anything, their major crimes were touring excess and moustache abuse.

They were country-rockers, more content with getting you mellow while sauntering around in denim and cowboy boots and singing about cocaine and broken hearts. Don Henley and Glenn Frey weren't exactly the Glimmer Twins, but they knew their way around hooks and rhythm, tapping into a whole gamut of emotions for the entire span of their '70s run before the band's flameout in early 1980.

Along the way, the band picked up Joe Walsh, who still saves the band from Henley's flights of schmaltz nightly, and can tout the membership of Timothy J. Schmit, who has arguably been one of rock's most valuable bassists in rock for the past 40 years.

The Eagles' eight golden years can't be easily dismissed without at least a nod to the inherent groove in their songs. At least give them props for "Life in the Fast Lane," with an opening riff that sounds like it was smuggled into the States up someone's kiester.

What we saw Sunday was not a pompy rote set of classic-rock radio standards. Their songs still breathe - unlike, say, the output of fellow '70s-rock punching bags the Doobie Brothers or Boston, which are quickly aging into a stinky stifling hell. You can still quote lines from Eagles songs ("four that wanna own me, two that wanna stone me...") with more sleaze and ease than anything that Michael McDonald over "whoo-whooed."

From opening cut "Seven Bridges Road," the band was loose and up for most anything. We had heard stories of more staid sets in Houston the past three years, but got a relaxed, middle-aged garage vibe from. The Eagles' last few tours have featured suits and ties, but this time around they looked comfortable, even when playing newer material. Walsh led the band through "Guilty of the Crime" from 2007's Long Road Out Of Eden, a composition the Bellamy and Bacon Brothers had a go at last year.

"Hotel California" was rushed out four songs in, satisfying the band's legal obligation to do so. Due to its overexposure, it's hard for us to still see some weight in the song today, but for the people from the frontlines of the '70s it seems to be just as evocative as any protest song, a postmortem of the optimistic '60s. The title track of Eden, which came after the intermission, follows the same finger-pointing trajectory, with the same characters but higher stakes.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty