I’m standing at the bar of the swanky Indigo2 annexe to the O2 Arena when someone over the PA tells me to take my seat and stay there.
The Eagles, playing for them what must be the equivalent of someone’s front room – an intimate show to promote Long Road Out Of Eden, their first album of new material for 28 years – are about to come on and we are apparently not going to be allowed to leave our seats during any of the numbers they are playing, on point, no doubt, of a slow and painful death. They’re already closing the bars and the lights are going down.
Tonight’s show in the 1300 capacity high-tech venue is somewhat odd in that tickets have not been made generally available to Eagles fans, who would doubtless have paid small fortunes to see them at such close hand, the band’s more natural habitat being the stadium, arena and enormodome where in their heyday they were most at home, the biggest band of their time playing the kind of places appropriate to their popularity, the scale of which, to many of us, was simply mystifying.
There are some competition winners here, apparently, fans who got lucky, but the bulk of the crowd is made up, I’m given to understand, of specially invited media types, among whose company I suppose I must count myself, here to witness the band launching the new album with a full-blown, two hours-plus show.
It’s an elaborate conceit, I suppose, and at least guarantees them a ton of publicity and plenty of headlines to accompany the record’s release, which they would hardly seem to need when you hear the album’s is a virtually guaranteed number one in every territory known to man and a few more besides.
I suppose what I’m brooding over as I take a seat among enough fellow veterans of the UK music oppress to have an editorial meeting is the point of all this, which escapes pretty much everyone I speak to, none of them entirely sure why the band are even doing this, the new album already a guaranteed success and all that. And it’s this what you might call vagueness of purpose that does much to define the evening’s subdued and somewhat stilted mood, the curiously muted atmosphere not much helped by an audience that appears to have been largely sedated upon entry.
You got to see, say the Stones and the crowd’s on its feet in an instant. Tonight when The Eagles, mostly portly, apart from gaunt bassist Timothy B Schmit, walk out onstage they aren’t so much hysterically received as warmly welcomed, like a batsman walking to the crease in a game of cricket. There’s an astonishing level of politeness in everything that follows, including the group’s wary affability and what seems like a rather shrill camaraderie between the formerly warring veterans, and a lot of rather specious joshing.
The singing and playing, it probably goes without saying, are supernaturally impeccable, but everything seems rehearsed to within and inch of its life, the burnished gleam of everything they do eventually becoming an empty dazzle. Before long I’m sitting like most of the people around me in silent admiration for their breathtaking craft, but no love at all for what I’m listening to, which is by now basically a greatest hits set, all the old favourites wheeled out in stately procession – “Peaceful Easy feeling”, “One Of These Nights”, “Lyin’ Eyes”, “Take It Easy” and “Desperado” at the death. I have long-since started to drift off, however, and have to be reminded later that they had also played “Hotel California”, which evidently had passed me by completely.
The Eagles’ Indigo2 set list
Busy Being Fabulous
I Don’t Want To Hear It Anymore
Guilty Of The Crime
Peaceful Easy Feeling
One Of These Nights
Boys Of Summer
In The City
Life’s Been Good
Life In The Fast Lane
Rocky Mountain way
All She Wants To Do Is Dance
Take It Easy