Eagles Take It Easy
Author: Nui Te Koha
Publication: Sunday Mail (SA)
Date: July 25, 2004
Abstract: The Eagles are interviewed in Las Vegas. They mostly talk about how they've slowed down and no longer party like they used to.
THIS is the escape plan: two encores, a quick dash to a private jet, and a one-hour flight to Los Angeles.
It is the same bow-and-run manoeuvre used by countless superstar rockers over the years, but tonight, in Las Vegas, this getaway has an unusual sense of urgency.
"I haven't slept in Las Vegas in eight years," Irving Azoff, the enigmatic manager of The Eagles, says backstage.
"I'm not about to start now."
His breezy demeanour suggests neither petulance, arrogance or rock-star perks syndrome.
This man, like the supergroup he represents, is simply at the top of his game.
And those at the top of their game get to sleep in their own beds, back in LA, two hours after taking their triumphant bows in Sin City.
Tonight, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, The Eagles rekindle their artistic magic with songs and moods that, even 30 years on, still define the times with eerie precision.
The setlist is an inspiring reminder of why The Eagles had a stranglehold on pop and rock climates, radio and Baby Boomer consciousness.
"A good piece of material, no matter when it was written, or how long ago, still has relevance in the world today," says singer-songwriter-drummer Don Henley.
"I think some of the songs speak as pointedly to current events as they did when they were written 25 or 30 years ago.
"There is still as much decadence and illusion in the world as there was when Hotel California was written, if not more so.
"There is still as much love and romance among young people as there was when Wasted Time and New Kid In Town were written.
"The themes don't change.
"The universal truths don't vary.
"Actually, I think the songs are ageing quite well."
As are The Eagles: Henley, guitarist-singer Glenn Frey, lead guitarist-singer Joe Walsh, and bassist-singer Timothy B. Schmit.
Once, their drug and alcohol intake and personality clashes were as famous as their brutally honest songwriting and instinctive vocal harmonies.
Today, The Eagles are incredibly successful, unfathomably rich family men, and their lifestyles have changed accordingly. Henley, Frey and Schmit tackled their respective addictions long ago.
Walsh has been sober for about 10 years.
"We had a reputation for playing hard," Henley says.
"But we worked just as hard as we played.
"If we had done nothing but party, like our reputation says, we wouldn't be here.
"We put in the effort - even in the fog. We managed to persevere through the swamp of drugs and alcohol, and still be productive, and creative, and come out the other side."
But Henley explains that doesn't make it right.
"That's not what we want our legacy to be," he says.
"That is not what we want to focus on."
Backstage, The Eagles' dryly named Farewell 1 tour is proudly alcohol-free. Their rider, in the context of what it used to be, is mind-bogglingly straight. All ask for hot tea, lemon and honey.
Walsh needs a blender to make vegetable juice.
Frey enjoys ham sandwiches, with potato chips on the side.
Henley has a vegetarian plate.
His strict pre-show ritual is an aerobic workout and he rides an exercise bike in his dressing room for 30 minutes.
"It gets my lungs aerated, my heart is going, the blood is racing to my brain and I feel sharp," he says.
Frey, Walsh and Schmit also do weight training exercises and stretches while they are on tour.
"That is how we contribute to the quality of the performance," says Henley, who has a dressing room next to Walsh.
"Joe does his voice exercises, diligently," Henley says.
"I can hear him through the wall, every night."
Walsh: "I drive him nuts!"
Henley: "No, I admire your perseverance. I can't do that."
"If I was still drinking, I wouldn't do any exercise," Walsh says. "But, being as I don't drink any more, I have to.
"It's like an athlete. You get in shape. I mean, look at the shape Mick Jagger is in. My God!"
Henley jokes: "And look at the shape Keith Richards is in."
From here, The Eagles are in the perfect position to assess their lot. They conquered, fought, split, got a life, then regrouped.
Live, they are in career-best form, above and beyond the then-defining Hell Freezes Over tour. They plan to record a new album next year. Azoff says those efforts have, to date, been "bogged down" by a mistaken plan to write music for radio programmers.
"The important thing for The Eagles is not to play that game," Azoff says. "We have legions and legions of fans around the world. We need to give to them."
Here in Vegas, as Tequila Sunrise starts the second half of a greatest-hits set, the 95-strong Farewell 1 production team plots its next move.
The Eagles fly tonight and the show then moves to Tucson, Casper, Billings, Reno and Fresno. But, for now, Frey is centre stage.
"We are The Eagles," Frey says. "And we are proud to be America's most dysfunctional band."
The crowd cheers wildly.
The Eagles, even after all this time, are still telling the truth.