Concert Review: Eagles, w/ Keith Urban and Dixie Chicks, Soldier Field, 6/19

When you’ve been waiting for around twenty years to see a concert, there’s essentially no hope of being truly objective when talking about the show.  But that’s just the way things are.  I was never exactly a normal kid, and that includes my music sensibilities, given that I grew up with a steady listening stream of awesome music (hi, mom and dad).  When other kids were left at home alone, they’d, I don’t know, throw parties and spend hours on the phone or something.  I fired up the record player and listened to the Highwaymen or Elton John.  I knew the words to Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done” before I had any idea what they actually meant.  Sometimes, I would bring Eagles cassettes with me to school and ask the bus driver to play them, because I got sick of everyone else bringing Metallica.  So no, I’m not exaggerating when I say that making it to this show has been a very, very long time coming.

Eagles

By all my normal standards — does the band mesh well with the audience? do they feel free to experiment with their songs? can I see anything? — my review should be a list of things that didn’t work for me.  I was far away from the stage and I had a gigantic pole partially blocking my view of the screens.  For the most part, the songs were note-perfect copies of the recorded versions.  And the four (remaining) Eagles barely seemed to mesh well with each other, let alone build a cohesive rapport with the audience.   But for some reason, none of that is getting me down.  Remember, twenty years in the making?  Yeah.

 The Eagles did exactly what I expected them to do: take a tour through all of their greatest hits and some of their solo work.  Joe Walsh was as goofy as always, a stark counterpoint to the pretty stoic way the rest of the guys were.  Glenn Frey served as “master of ceremonies”, making a few efforts to address the crowd.  But no one was at the show to hear witty banter and stories and see a show full of new material.  They were there to hear the music.  And that’s what the band excelled at, with the help of several other backing musicians and a stellar horn section.  The huge crowd sang along with every word, and even picked up some of those falsetto harmonies (although it doesn’t seem like Don Henley’s lost his ability to hit any of those notes).  The setlist stuck with the old, well-loved classics, only touching on 2007’s Long Road Out of Eden once, with “How Long”.   “Hotel California” provided one of the few surprises of the evening, both in its placement so early in the set, and in its extended intro by solo trumpet.  I enjoyed this little tweak (although the instrumental solo is something they’ve been doing in one form or another for a long time now) just because it adds a little more anticipation.  Their songs are so familiar and well-loved that they can be identified by just the first few chords, “Hotel California” in particular.  Nothing wrong with building a little bit of anticipation, right?

The only low point for me came during the performance of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry”.  The screen behind the band, which generally alternated between showing various imagery, video clips, and the live feed of the show, aired an accompanying video montage of news footage (much of which was taken from Fox News) photos, magazine headlines, etc.  While the images appropriately backed up the song’s message, I spent more time wondering what the barrage of images said about the band’s politics than I did actually listening to the song.  It was actually a little weird and uncomfortable, and I was glad when the montage came to a close, instead using mock magazine covers featuring the band.

The other two acts on the triple bill were enjoyable, as well.  The Dixie Chicks showed that even though they haven’t performed together or released new material in years, that they’ve still got it.  While lead singer Natalie Maines seemed a bit awkward at times when addressing the audience, their performance was just as smooth and full of attitude as it was when I saw them ten years ago at Lilith Fair. 

But the real surprise was Keith Urban, who pretty much stole the show.  He was enthusiastic, charming, and put on a strong performance that was more like a rock show than anything approaching what you would think of as stereotypical country.  At one point, he put on a Blackhawks jersey (Patrick Kane, for the curious) for a song, and then later led the crowd in a sing-along to wish his wife (Nicole Kidman) a happy birthday.  Urban even made his way  through the crowd to perform, surrounded by people, on a platform set up off to the side in the middle of the stadium.  (I spent the whole time wondering whose idea it was to set up a random table on the field level.  And then Keith Urban was there!  And then I was like, “oh!”)  If you were looking for surprises at the show, look no further than Urban’s performance.

Keith Urban

Eagles Setlist
Seven Bridges Road
How Long
Take it to the Limit
Hotel California
Peaceful Easy Feeling
I Can’t Tell You Why
Witchy Woman
Lying Eyes
One of these Nights
Walk Away
Boys of Summer
In the City
The Long Run
Life’s Been Good
Dirty Laundry
Funk #49
Heartache Tonight
Life in the Fast Lane
Encore
Take it Easy
Rocky Mountain Way
Desperado

Keith Urban: Official Website | MySpace | Store
Dixie Chicks: Official Website | MySpace | Store
Eagles: Official Website | MySpace | Store