When you have so many hits that your first greatest hits album is among the top three selling albums of all time, there simply isn’t a lot of room for deep cuts in the live show. The Eagles list of must play songs to keep the fans happy is enough to fill up a full day at a festival.
So when it was announced the seminal band would be playing the album Hotel California start to finish it meant a rare opportunity to delve into songs like the album’s epic closer, the brilliant and haunting seven and a half minute “The Last Resort.” Though not as well known as songs like the title track and the raucous Joe Walsh-led “Life In The Fast Lane,” “The Last Resort” is one of those songs that showcases the staggering depth and beauty of Don Henley’s songwriting (though the song is credited to Henley and Glenn Frey, Frey once called it “Henley’s opus”).
So when the band hit the Forum in Los Angeles Tuesday, October 19, for the final of their three shows at the iconic venue they reopened in January of 2014, I had to be there just to see “The Last Resort.” As I joked with one of the band’s long-time publicists, “When I would see this song again?” Her response, “Never.”
That is one of the great joys of iconic artists playing full albums start to finish. I went to more than 50 Bruce Springsteen shows without ever seeing him do “Drive All Night” live. So when he played the River album start to finish in 2016 I went to two of the three shows at L.A.’s Sports Arena. The first by myself and the second with three friends who had never seen Springsteen before, so I could fully take in “Drive All Night.”
The air of unpredictability great live artists present live is one of the biggest thrills of seeing artists like Springsteen, the Stones, Patti Smith, Prince back before he passed. There is a vibrancy in never knowing what they might pull out. But when you love that one song they never do knowing you will see it is equally exciting.
As much though as “The Last Resort” lived up to all my expectations Tuesday night, it wasn’t even the standout song for me on this night because as many hits as the Eagles have, they have just as many classic album cuts.
So yes, while “The Last Resort,” with full orchestra was beautiful sweeping, mesmerizing and epic, a full classic live, the revelation of the night was the majestic “Wasted Time.”
Also done with full orchestra, the song live was as sweeping and powerful a ballad live as you will ever see. This was Adele “Someone Like You,” Gladys Knight, “You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” and Barbara Streisand “The Way We Were” kind of beauty from a rock band.
Watching the underrated song it was also interesting to see how much the humanity and vulnerability of “Wasted Time” became a precursor to some of Henley’s most memorable solo songs, including “Heart Of The Matter” and “New York Minute,” more than a decade later.
Those were some of the standout moments for me, as someone who considers Henley one of the great American songwriters. But the thing about the Eagles, like their peers Fleetwood Mac, is with the number of different voices in the lead, is 18,000 fans can go and have fully differing experiences.
For those that wanted to party. there was “Life In The Fast Lane,” as well as Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,””Rocky Mountain Way,” “In The City,” and more. And of course, there is the more country-rock sound, now led by the tandem of country superstar Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, as it took two people to come in and keep the band going after the tragic loss of Glenn Frey in January of 2016.
Gill and Deacon Frey had plenty of moments to shine between them on Tuesday with songs such as “Take It Easy, “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It To The Limit,” and more.
An Eagles show is very much a Rashomon-like experience, where, depending on your personal preference, you can take whatever you want from the concert. For me, on this night, what I took was a feeling of sublime beauty from songs the band never does live outside of this very special experience.
But whatever you want to take away from an Eagles show, there is no doubt that again, as they have consistently over the years, one of the greatest American bands of all time leaves everyone walking out joyful, content and feeling as if they just witnessed something truly spectacular.