"Welcome to our Farewell 1 Tour - suspicious-sounding, isn't it?" So quips the Eagles' Glen Frey, acknowledging the numerical disclaimer built into his band's supposed last hurrah. They have just opened with "Take It Easy", a classic country-rock tune that underlines why the Eagles once sported T-shirts bearing the legend "song power". It is the perfect summer's day for a 55,000-strong karaoke party, and the Eagles are the perfect hosts.
Tanned and sporting a meticulous coiffure, Frey still comes on like a Californian surfer dude. The drummer and other lead vocalist, Don Henley, is more surly and portly, while the guitarist, Joe Walsh (think W C Fields in orange combat trousers), relishes the role of band joker. Together with the bassist, Timothy B Schmit, each of these men is a world-class singer in his own right. When all four harmonise on the chorus of the waltz-time ballad "Take It To The Limit", they could charm the Byrds from the trees.
The group's 1976 album, Hotel California, was a sussed critique of hedonism made by a band indulging (almost) every vice their decadent peak had to offer. Little wonder, then, that they have rarely been critics' darlings. They have been accused of avarice as well as double standards, and with tickets for tonight's show costing £75 and Frey dedicating "Lyin' Eyes" to his first wife, "plaintiff", money issues continue to resonate.
To borrow from a certain lager advertisement, however, you could argue that the Eagles are just reassuringly expensive, a class act that punters are happy to splash out upon. "One of These Nights" is wonderfully slick, Henley singing and drumming with ease and finesse. Further in, even the security guards are singing along with his anti-holiday-romance solo hit, "Boys of Summer", and Henley vacates his drum stool to strum a supportive Telecaster up front and cracks a rare smile at the applause that ensues.
Like the distance runners they are, each band member takes a turn leading the pack. Walsh's rendition of his self-parodying solo hit "Life's Been Good" is another highlight, the guitarist donning a "helmet-cam" that relays shots of ecstatic punters to video screens book-ending the stage. On "Rocky Mountain Way", meanwhile, he uses a "talk box" effects device à la Peter Frampton's Seventies hit "Show Me the Way". Truly, the Eagles are an act from another era - but what an act and what an era.
Only the two new songs, "No More Cloudy Days" and "Hole in the World" fail to seduce, the latter a 9/11-inspired gospel tune with a Eurovision-style key-change that fails to inject much interest. "Our little prayer is that when we get some new leadership in the US, it will be wiser," Henley says, before revealing that "Hole in the World" took more than a year to compose. Writing-wise, strained intra-band relations have transported the Eagles from fast lane to hard shoulder. And while one could imagine the career-reviving producer Rick Rubin "doing a Neil Diamond" on them, Henley and Frey's egos would probably never allow it.
In a live context, however, the Eagles remain superb. And what better way to conclude an arena show than with two stone-cold classics? A lone mariachi trumpet introduces "Hotel California", and then the session guitarist, Steuart Smith, picks its familiar opening chords on his double-neck. All mystical lyrics and duelling guitars, the song is a most welcome anachronism. Next, we get "Desperado", the massed voices of Twickenham joining with Henley's as he delivers the song's stinging payoff: "You better let somebody love you / Before it's too late." To my left, a fortysomething in a pink cowboy hat has a tear in her eye.
Touring to 25 June ( www.eaglesband.com)Reuse content