Eagles’ Long Goodbye Is the Best Farewell Tour You’ll See This Year: Review
It's not often you see a message on the screen before an arena rock show asking audience members to stay seated to not obstruct the view of those behind them. Then again, what else would you expect from a band whom Don Henley joked was once accused of "loitering" onstage?
Eagles did little to dispute that allegation on Saturday during their second consecutive performance at Austin's Moody Center. "There's not gonna be much talking," Henley promised. "No fireworks. No wind machines. No butt-wagging choreography. Just a bunch of guys with guitars."
He wasn't kidding about that last part. At any moment, up to six musicians — Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, Vince Gill, Deacon Frey and touring guitarist Steuart Smith — flanked the front of the stage, plucking guitars and delivering sublime vocal harmonies. What Eagles lack in stage presence, they make up for with a bottomless treasure trove of hits, some of which (like "Best of My Love" and "The Long Run") didn't even fit into their two-hour performance.
Why Eagles' Long Goodbye Tour Stands Alone Among Farewell Treks
While many legacy acts have increasingly relied on spectacle to distract from their failing vocals (or possibly outright fakery), Eagles continue to do what they've done best for more than 50 years: deliver their songs with near-flawless precision, providing "a two-hour vacation from the madness," as Henley put it. Sure, they've lowered the keys of some tunes — sometimes markedly so — but we should all be so lucky to still possess such supple timbre and steady pitch in our seventies.
The other major distinction between the Long Goodbye tour and similar ventures is Eagles' current touring lineup. Some purists may balk at the notion of an Eagles tour without late co-founder Glenn Frey, but it's difficult to imagine better replacements than Gill and Deacon Frey. The former is a fleet-fingered guitarist and brilliant vocalist, tackling the soaring high notes of "Take It to the Limit" with ease. And it's difficult to overstate the grace with which Frey has stepped into his father's shoes, emulating his voice with haunting accuracy while putting some much-needed pep in these boomers' steps. Replacing a key band member is never easy, but by delegating these roles to family and friends, Eagles continue to do justice to their catalog while honoring their legacy in a way that no anonymous hired gun could.
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But enough of that woo-woo stuff. If it's rock you want, Walsh is your man. "I had some wonderful times in Austin — according to the police report," he joked on Saturday before one of several howling electric guitar showcases. He shredded through James Gang's "Funk #49," sent talkbox shockwaves through the arena on "Rocky Mountain Way" and ripped the epochal "Hotel California" solo alongside Smith with the poise and finesse of a classical musician. For decades, Walsh was the epitome of a hard-living rock star, but he still sings capably and plays with stunning clarity.
Steely Dan Is the Perfect Opening Act
It's no small feat warming up an audience for a show of this caliber, but Eagles have picked the perfect tour mates in Steely Dan. Donald Fagen has dutifully kept the band alive since Walter Becker's death, and on Saturday he led his cohort of world-class musicians through a hit-filled power hour that dazzled on a technical level, from the drum and saxophone solos on "Aja" to the blistering dueling guitars of "Reelin' in the Years." Both of these bands have always prioritized top-notch songwriting and musicianship, and the Long Goodbye tour is a celebration of both technical excellence and generation-defining songbooks. This road trip might not have any frills, but it also has no pretense — just three hours of stone-cold classics played with peerless precision. One day this kind of tour will be a distant memory, so get it while you can.
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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso