The opening to Eagles’ “Take It Easy” is surely one of the most familiar and bracing openings in ’70s rock.
The crackling G chord on Bernie Leadon’s 1954 Telecaster — assertive but not aggressive — the move to the Am7/G and to the D7sus, supported by Glenn Frey’s mellow acoustic strumming.
Opening their self-titled debut album, as well as the best selling album of all time “Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975),” it’s the aural equivalent of an engine revving to life before one of the great road trip songs of all time kicks into gear.
At Madison Square Garden last week, after the prelude of “Seven Bridges Road,” those chords signaled the beginning of another road trip of sorts: Eagles’ The Long Goodbye concert tour.
It’s now been around twenty years since many Eagles fans, this writer included, caught the group’s Farewell 1 tour. But, this time, there’s every reason to believe this long goodbye will be the last for the soft-voiced, guitar-toting troubadour-philosophers of the California desert.
A lot has changed in two decades. The band’s co-founder and beating heart Glenn Frey passed away in 2016; bassist and vocalist Randy Meisner passed away in July this year, not long after the tour announcement.
Some things never change, however, like the appeal of five or six voices singing as one.
Individually, the voices are remarkable: Deacon Frey, son of Glenn, is back singing his father’s songs in a voice that sounds new and familiar at once; Don Henley’s dry, husky tones still reach the dizzy heights of “One of These Nights”; Vince Gill’s smooth timbre is perfectly suited to narrative-driven songs about misadventures of the heart (“New Kid in Town” and “Lyin’ Eyes”).
But it’s the combination of all those voices, in impeccable and immaculate harmony, that we’re all here for. It’s a blend that can stun and startle — witness the appropriately occult allure of “Witchy Woman” — but it’s when it’s set to “soothe” that the effect is most transcendent, on such soul-caressing tracks as “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Take It To The Limit,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Best of My Love.”
The stage picture alone is weirdly comforting. These are songs that naturally result in a handsome and captivating stillness — a lineup of five or six guys earnestly strumming their guitars, placed equidistantly apart, leaning into their individual mics.
One of the most awe-inducing aspects of catching Eagles in concert is that the audience sings along — each audience member instinctively choosing their part in a thousands-strong chorus, singing such affirming lyrics as “Come on baby / Don’t say maybe.” There’s a unique humanistic power to that which you don’t necessarily associate with an epic arena rock show.
What you do expect from an epic arena rock show is rock gods viciously attacking their guitars as if demonically possessed. With numbers like “Witchy Woman,” “One of These Nights” and (obviously) “Hotel California,” Eagles more than deliver on that front, too.
The instrumental pyrotechnics of “Hotel California” — along with its woozy, nightmare vision of decadence and excess — are as darkly dazzling as ever. But what this writer will recall most will be deeply consoling voices, visions of the American landscape viewed from the driver’s seat, and warm, peaceful, easy feelings.