A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was a young musician who happened to be enrolled in the marine biology program at the University of South Carolina. That college campus was my ticket to seeing the best musicians and bands of our time, up close and personal (how close depended upon one’s willingness to camp out at the box office overnight for first crack at good seats).
Concert ticket prices back then (circa 1980) generally ranged between $12-15. It wasn’t a bad price to pay to see one’s favorite musical acts do their stuff, and I somehow managed to see a lot of great shows. There were, however, a few I regretfully missed.
The Eagles had just released the follow-up to their masterpiece, Hotel California. Called The Long Run, it came out to mixed reviews. Those didn’t matter much, because the radio got a hold of the title track as well as Timothy B. Schmidt’s great ballad, “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and besides, they were still the freakin’ Eagles.
I was excited to hear the announcement that those very same Eagles scheduled a date at Carolina Coliseum as part of The Long Run tour. The excitement turned into disappointment when I heard that tickets would cost a minimum of $30. I didn’t pay anywhere near $30 to see Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Elton John, the Doobie Brothers, or anyone else in that 1978-1982 timeframe. $30 was a lot of money for a concert in those days. I said to myself, “Those prices are a little stiff… I’ll catch them on their next tour.”
As we all know (now), internal strife and acrimony led to the breakup of the Eagles following The Long Run tour. Glenn was fed up with Henley. Henley couldn’t stand Joe. Joe liked Glenn but was ambivalent about everybody else. Nobody liked Felder. And poor Timothy B. Schmidt—he quits Poco to join the Eagles for one album and tour, and they implode. (A side note: I actually saw Schmidt a couple of times performing as the bassist in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. He sang “I Can’t Tell You Why,” and that’s the closest I thought I’d ever get to seeing the Eagles.) Things had gotten so bad between them, Don Henley said they would only reunite “when Hell freezes over.” I’d never see the Eagles.
Hell froze over in 1994. Since then, apart from the acrimonious split with Don Felder, the Eagles have been playing to sold out venues around the world. If that weren’t enough, in late 2007 the Eagles actually released a double CD of new material, The Long Road Out Of Eden. Eight songs from that album were featured performances as part of the Eagles concert I finally got to see this past Monday night.
Needless to say, they were nothing short of phenomenal. So many classic American songs came out of this group in a career that started during the Nixon administration. In addition to the eight new songs, many Eagles classics were mixed in with some of Don Henley’s and Joe Walsh’s solo material. Their four- and five-part harmonies were perfect beyond perfection. Nobody missed or flubbed a note. When Glenn Frey’s guitar amp died, he simply said, “When you’re having equipment trouble, it’s a good time to introduce the band.”
It was a three-hour long concert, and they still left you wanting more. There were many hits left untouched, many memories that will have to wait for another spin of the old record or CD. Yet to see these guys, with so much history between them (and so much of ours linked with their music) so alive and vital and at the top of their game, gives us all hope that perhaps our best days aren’t behind us after all.
Even if the tickets cost a hell of a lot more than $30.