The Eagles, Earl's Court, London

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The Independent Culture

Though much of their Seventies output commented on the failed idealism of the Sixties, The Eagles have always loved money as much as peace, love and understanding. When Rolling Stone asked if he had coined the phrase "life in the fast lane", the band's drummer/vocalist Don Henley answered, "Yeah, I wish I had a nickel for every time somebody's used that."

"We do!" quipped his band-mate Glen Frey with some understatement. The truth is that, with a colossal 27 million units shifted, The Eagles' Greatest Hits is the biggest selling album ever in the US.

Sunday's gig was the second of four at Earl's Court, and another good earner. Tickets were £45, and many of the mostly fortysomething audience were shelling out £30 for a Hotel California litho print, or £8 for a programme. Amazing how a sense of occasion can inure us to a mass fleecing.

When the band took the stage, though, all was forgiven. They began with an a capella piece showcasing some of the purest harmonies country rock has to offer, then segued to gently-strummed, West Coast standards such as "Peaceful Easy Feelings" and "New Kid In Town". "Don and I wrote this song with JD Souther," smiled Glen Frey, introducing the latter. "He just sits by the pool in California and watches a fat royalty cheque come in every few months. He's a happy man."

Henley, one of that élite group of singing drummers, downed sticks and came up front to deliver his 1985 solo hit, "The Boys of Summer". Unlike his earlier rendition of "Wasted Time", say, it moved way beyond Baywatch-and-Bryan- Adams-slush courtesy of its killer chorus and wistful, yearning lyric: "I can tell you my love for you will still be strong/ After the boys of summer have gone".

Next, it was guitarist Joe Walsh's turn in the spotlight. And though he looks like rock's answer to WC Fields, it's clear that The Eagles would be much blander without his self-effacing humour and sparky solos. It's noticeable, too, that while Frey and Henley both have superb, trained-sounding voices, it's Walsh who still sings like a free spirit. His Seventies solo hit "Life's Been Good To Me So Far" was one of the evening's highlights, and the audience responded accordingly.

Inevitably, the home straight included "Life in the Fast Lane" and "Hotel California", the latter benefiting from a Mexican-sounding trumpet intro. The final encore, though, was "Desperado", a classic country rock ballad written before the cocaine and tighter jeans era. "Contrary to what some of the posters around town say," said Henley in closing, "we're not quite done yet." Good news, that. Especially for The Eagles' accountant.

The Eagles play Earl's Court, London (0870 903 9033) tonight, and Manchester Evening News Arena (0161-950 5000) 18 & 19 June. Further British dates in July

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