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THE EAGLES: LIVE FROM MELBOURNE

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmidt
Director:  Carol Dodds
Audio:  PCM Stereo, DTS Surround 5.1
Video:  Color, 16 x 9 aspect
Studio:  WEA Corp
Features:  See Review
Length: Two discs, 190 minutes 
Release Date:  June 14, 2005

“They will never forget you ‘til somebody new comes along…”

Concert ****

The Eagles themselves once thought that they might be forgotten, but since no one has come along who does what they do as well as they can, they continue to fly high.  The new kids have grown up and left, but three generations still come to hear the Eagles. 

Linda Ronstadt once faced the perennial problem that most singers encounter:  she needed a good backup band.  Her career was starting to take off, but musicians, especially in the early 70’s, were pretty unreliable and prone to drug and alcohol problems.  She had a good guitarist friend who went looking for other musicians, especially ones who could sing.  He met a good drummer who could also sing, and said that it appeared that his band was breaking up, would he like to join Ronstadt’s band and make $200 a week, a good sum at the time.  The drummer replied that it sounded good to him.  And thus did Glenn Frey and Don Henley come together.  Unfortunately for Ronstadt, the band decided to do their own thing soon after.  Ahh, good help is so hard to find.  Henley and Frey, the only two original members still in the Eagles, went on to become THE big thing of the late 1970’s, being the most successful songwriting duo since Lennon and McCartney.

“'Relax,' said the night man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
but you can never leave!”

In the late 60’s and early 70’s the southern California sound was thriving with a laid-back combination of folksy rock and electric country which emphasized good songwriting and vocals, leaving behind most of the corny and outdated cliché’s of country music.  This made the style palatable to just about any audience and influenced a whole generation of rockers and country artists alike.  Singers who wrote their own tunes sold millions of albums and bands in this milieu were basically mini-communes of singer-songwriters.   

"And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.”

The latter part of the decade would not really belong to Disco as many VH-1 specials would tell you.  Disco thankfully was a craze which came and went, like a bus that many successful bands jumped onto and then got off at the appropriate stop before the bus crashed into a wall of polyester.  The other style, and the more influential one which sounds just as good today as then, was the California country-rock style.  And no band soared higher vocally or financially than The Eagles.  Their reunion for the Hell Freezes Over, however, might not have happened were it not for the “Common Thread” album on which country artists did their own versions of many Eagles hits.  I remember working in a record store in the more rural part of Jacksonville when I heard the album, and while it was good, everyone felt that the Eagles did rock better than rock artists and did country better than the country artists.  Their legacy was undeniable. 

“You never thought you'd be alone
this far down the line
And I know what's been on your mind
You're afraid it's all been wasted time.”

This excellent concert, as good as any I have seen on DVD or live, features many hits not heard on the outstanding Hell Freezes Over DVD.  The overall attitude is different as well: the band seems more laid back and comfortable being both a band and a collection of solo artists.  Glenn Frey in particular seems more confident, healthy, and sings with more soul than ever.   Many solo hits are featured, which as Don Henley explains keeps them from having to be an Eagle or a non-Eagle, and many of the tunes would have made great Eagles songs anyway (such as "Heart of the Matter" which was sung and played in excelsis by the whole group on the other DVD).  However, the solo tunes do pale somewhat compared with the Eagles hits, which proves that while there is tons of talent in the band, they are far greater than the sum of their parts. They are more relaxed since they don’t really have anything to prove anymore.  As much as I admire Don Felder, the incredible lead guitarist who wrote the cryptic opening chords of “Hotel California,” his departure due to money squabbles is not exactly tragic since there are plenty of guitarists out there who know every lick he played.

“You can spend all your time making money
You can spend all your love making time
If it all fell to pieces tomorrow
Would you still be mine?”

The two-disc set has thirty songs and extensive interviews on the second disc.  When shown on network TV, interview clips were shown between songs, but on the DVD release they were thankfully separated.  Would someone please tell me why most rock concert releases constantly interrupt good concert footage with interviews, even to the point of listening to a star drone on about his money problems while the songs play in the background?

“City girls just seem to find out early
How to open doors with just a smile
A rich old man
And she won't have to worry
She'll dress up all in lace and go in style.”

The new tracks are disappointing compared with the excellent "Learn to Be Still" and the shimmering "Love Will Keep Us Alive" from Hell Freezes Over DVD but they are not bad.  The post 9/11 "Hole in the World" has the usual flower child lyrics one might expect but the gorgeous harmonies just can’t be denied or duplicated.  Fortunately they do a mostly different songlist than the prior DVD, including great versions of "Peaceful Easy Feeling" and "Lyin’ Eyes" though "Best of My Love" is still omitted for some reason. 

“Well I could have been an actor, but I wound up here
I just have to look good, I don’t have to be clear.”

Track Listings: Disc 1: Long Run, New Kid in Town, Wasted Time, Peaceful Easy Feeling, I Can't Tell You Why, One of These Nights, One Day At A Time (New Track), Lyin' Eyes, Boys of Summer, In The City, Already Gone, Tequila Sunrise, Love Will Keep Us Alive, No More Cloudy Days (New Track), Hole In the World, Take It To the Limit, Disc 2: You Belong to the City, Walk Away, Sunset Grill, Life's Been Good, Dirty Laundry, Funk #49, Heartache Tonight, Life in the Fast Lane, Hotel California, Rocky Mountain Way, All She Wants To Do Is Dance, Take It Easy, Desperado

Video ****

A slightly better picture than Hell Freezes Over, and I suspect it is because technology has improved since that release.  This time the stage is much darker, but even in wide camera panning, there is no spottiness nor other visual flaws one might expect.   See, Sir Paul, this is how DVD’s are supposed to look!   A backlit shot of Henley facing the huge crowd during Wasted Time is one of the prettiest shots I have seen in a concert.

Audio ****

Interestingly, the Eagles do relatively simple songs, but the add nuances that no one else could, and they also insist on the highest technology standards.  DTS is the only 5.1 option and it is loud and proud, easy to hear everything, and the rear channels have only minimal crowd noise and plenty of keys and other less-emphasized instruments to let the vocals come shining through the front channels.  Thank you for getting it right!

Features ***

Not much here but the interviews are very insightful and pleasant.  For instance, all of them contend that the band actually sounds better now than in their 70’s heyday, and Frey points out that they listen to each other better, which is often a challenge for the best bands.  They compliment one another without sounding phony.

Summary :

The Eagles continue to soar on the cutting edge of technology and may have even improved their trademark sound.  By the way, the whole “Farewell Tour I” is just typical Eagles humor, if it was truly a farewell tour, it would not need a number, right?  They will be back.

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