It’s a question he’s been posing for years, in one way or another, treating excess like a frog in biology class: something to be dissected and examined in gruesome detail, its gory remnants ultimately discarded.
“What do you do when you come up empty?” Eagles singer/multi-instrumentalist Don Henley wondered in song early on during the band’s lengthy show at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday night. “Where do you go when the party ends?”
But unlike many times in the past, Henley wasn’t directing this line of inquiry at himself, but rather the high-heeled antagonist at the center of “Busy Being Fabulous,” a breezy kiss off to some self-centered, id-driven female to whom “time is just a magazine, and money’s just a thrill.”
Thematically and sonically, the tune did much to encapsulate where this band is at these days: they speak knowingly and dismissively of the faster-than-fast lifestyle that once defined them, and as their lives have slowed down — at least in terms dressing room-trashing rock star debauchery — so too have some of their songs, settling into a rootsy, contemplative swing.
Though they’re one of the biggest selling rock bands of all time, these days, The Eagles’ influence is most pronounced in country music — from Garth Brooks to Kenny Chesney to Keith Urban to Little Big Town, the band’s spit-shined Americana has had an indelible impact on Nashville, where their lush harmonies and acoustic-rock arrangements can be heard time and time again.
As such, The Eagles have come full circle on their latest release, 2007’s “Long Road Out Of Eden,” a robust, rollicking record that the band visited early and often on Saturday, and which netted them a top 30 hit on the country charts with the previously referenced “Fabulous.”
With a fiddle player in tow, the band heightened the hard-swingin’ nature of newer tunes like “How Long,” powering through them with a vigor that they seemed to relish.
“If I never see the good old days, shinin’ in the sun, I’ll be doin’ fine, and then some,” singer/guitarist Glenn Frey howled on the aforementioned tune, his voice a cannonball of pent-up emotion.
Of course, The Eagles practically have their own wing in the classic rock canon, and, over the course of two sets, they dug into a number of standards that have gobbled up hundreds of thousands of quarters in jukeboxes the world over, beginning with a trumpet-powered “Hotel California” and encompassing some of the band members’ various solo hits, among them Henley’s “Boys of Summer” and singer/guitarist Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good.”
Loose and self-aware, the band seemed fond of goofing on their ability to survive themselves.
“The Eagles: the band that time forgot,” Frey quipped at one point, labeling the group’s current series of dates the “assisted-living tour.”
Still, despite the generally good spirits and sense of invigoration inherent in the band’s latest works, there is a bittersweet wistfulness that hovers above it all.
“I don’t know when I realized the dream was over. There was no particular hour, no given day,” Henley sang on the spare, reflective “Waiting in the Weeds.”
“It didn’t go down in flame. There was no final scene, no frozen frame. I just watched it slowly fade away.”
And so if time has forgotten this band, as Frey contends, clearly they haven’t done the same.
But, for the most part, listening to the Eagles play, the past and the present seemed like one in the same on this night.
“Some dance to remember,” Henley observed earlier in the evening during “Hotel California.”
“Some dance to forget.”
And some dance in the aisles, as they did here, with no pressing need to justify it all.
Original article by reporter Jason Bracelin. e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org