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Eagles proudly playing old style at United Center


Love them or hate them, the Eagles know their audience. On Friday, in the first of a two-night stand at a packed United Center, the veterans made no attempt to hide their old-school ways and outdated style.

Just days away from trial in criminal case against men accused of plagiarizing the band’s lyrics rejected by the court, a quiet vocalist Don Henley openly admitted that the Eagles were dinosaurs. He highlighted Eagles’ plain stage setting, simple production, and lack of choreography. Henley, who looks like a banker in his waistcoat and button-up shirt, described the collective as “just a bunch of guys with guitars” before agreeing that “it may be anachronistic but it works”.

The intimate moment revealed a rare, self-effacing side of the famously demure Henley. The singer-drummer-guitarist, the last founding member of the Eagles, expressed his gratitude for more than five decades of support and added some finality to the event, which is part of the band’s farewell tour. Standing ovation.

After a short emotional show, it was time to get back to work. For the Eagles, this meant delivering 120 minutes of instantly recognizable songs, one after the other, without added effects or obvious mistakes. Doing so required assigning lead vocals to songs identified with late co-founder Glenn Frey, his son Deacon, and country star Vince Gill, who joined in 2017 and treats each episode as if he’d been with the band since day one. And it required a professionalism and seriousness that was only interrupted by a few planned comic-relief spots from singer-guitarist Joe Walsh.

Is he calculating and too staid for his own good? Definitely. But the Eagles came through by working hard, nailing the blended multi-part harmonies that are vital to so many tunes, and playing with a technical acumen that made every note count. The five operated as the equivalent of a balancing device, finding any imbalance. And the Eagles orchestrated a clear, transparent sound in a venue where acoustics often come to the fore, allowing the crowd to experience it all—the width, the separation, the little details like fingers moving gently across the fretboard or hands gently cradling the shaker. annoyed.

Then there were the songs that made the Eagles seem effortless most of the time, textbook examples of country-rock craftsmanship and organic architecture. The hangover atmosphere of “Tequila Sunrise”, the dirt road escape of “Already Gone”, the crazy adventure of “Life in the Fast Lane”, the melancholy pain of “Desperado”. Featuring identifiable lyrics, easy tempos, breezy on-and-off vocal patterns, and sustained melodies, the songs didn’t leave most of the crowd off their seats, but had them mouthing the words and nodding their heads, just like music does. If the eagles come to the radio, the car.

Set aside the fact that the band’s most recent studio effort (“Long Road Out of Eden,” 2007) is the only completely original album the Eagles have released since their initial breakup in 1980. Or the fact that the newest song the collective performed on Friday was from Michael Jordan’s rookie season.

Continuing to inspire strong opinions on both sides, the Eagles acknowledge what their fans want: nostalgia and the classics. Unlike their peers of their generation, they are no longer interested in recording half-baked new material in an attempt to prove relevance. And credit the Eagles for the honesty in their branding. Their current tour, called The Long Goodbye, is scheduled to run until 2025 and appears to be designed to allow for indulgence in terms of return visits. After all, this is a band that recognizes that the music industry is, at its core, a business and people will pay for what they love.

Regardless of the flashy accolades and commercial successes featured in two of the three best-selling albums in American history, the most enduring aspect of the Eagles’ legacy is arguably merchandising. The band permanently changed the concert economy in 1994 when it became the first artist to charge $100 for tickets to its reunion tour. (By comparison, the Rolling Stones capped prices at $50. It was a different era.)

Initially ridiculed by experts who believed this amount would lead to backlash and empty seats, the strategy triumphed. Its historical impact continues to resonate. The high prices of today’s celebrity shows and the increasing importance society places on musicians and their entertainment are linked to this once controversial decision.

Don Henley (left) and Deacon Frey perform “One of These Nights” with the Eagles at the United Center in Chicago on March 8, 2024. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Joe Walsh performing "Nevermind" with the Eagles on March 8, 2024, at the United Center in Chicago.  (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
Joe Walsh performs “Take it Easy” with the Eagles at the United Center in Chicago on March 8, 2024. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Fast forward 30 years, and Henley and bassist-vocalist Timothy B. Schmit’s hair is grayer, but the songs remain largely the same. Ditto Henley’s sound exhibits smoothness, control and depth, while losing some altitude in the treble end and exhibiting a slight nasal quality. The goofy charm and plastic-faced expressions of their other longtime friend, Walsh, 76, had a similarly familiar ring. Even the four supporting backing musicians have served in their respective roles since at least 2001, contributing to the consistency and reliability that reign as trademarks of the Eagles.

The biggest surprise, other than Henley threatening to smile more than once, was when Walsh revealed that he spent some of his childhood in Evanston. You know what you’re getting with the Eagles. Although the conservative approach went against the unspoken rules of rock’n’roll and lacked vibrancy, it suited the gentle character of the music and its perfectionist-driven arrangements. To loosen things up, Walsh delivered the quirky “Life Was Good” and the box-accompanied “Rocky Mountain Way” from his solo career. As always, the buzz and whine of his high-pitched voice was far outweighed by his bluesy guitar licks.

Eagles performing "One of These Nights" March 8, 2024 at the United Center in Chicago.  (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)
The Eagles will perform “One of These Nights” at the United Center in Chicago on March 8, 2024. (John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune)

Deacon Frey filled in for his father on the windy “Take It Easy” and relaxed “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” He sang solidly, clearly and decisively, but performed better as a harmony vocalist and rhythm guitarist; these were tasks that eliminated the obvious differences in timbre between him and his father. Schmit delivered the evening’s only frayed lead vocal on the adult contemporary ballad “I Can’t Tell You Why”; the title of this song ironically served as an answer to the question of how the track entered the set with such a premium price as “The Long”. Escape,” “Victim of Love,” or “The Best of My Love.”

Indeed, if the Eagles taught a lesson to a younger generation of bands on Friday, it was about the importance of elevating songs above personal interests and skills. Admittedly, Walsh impressed with a fiery guitar solo during a long take on “In the City,” and Henley spent steady time behind the drum kit as he pushed his voice into falsetto territory. They neither drew attention to themselves nor exposed their friends.

Rather, the group’s successes were based on a collective principle that emphasized less “I” and more “we.” Like the eagles themselves, it’s an analog concept in a digital world.

United Center’s set list for March 8:

“Seven Bridges Road” (Steve Young cover)


“One of These Nights”

“Lying Eyes”

“Pull to the Limit”


“Peaceful Feeling of Ease”

“Tequila Sunrise”

“In the city”

“I Can’t Tell You Why”

“New kid in town”

“Life Was Good”

“Long gone”

“Children of Summer”

“Funk #49” (James Gang cover)

“Life in the fast lane”


“California hotel”

“Rocky Mountain Road”


“Heartache Tonight”


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