Eager to see Jimmy Buffett and the Eagles, baby boomers – decked out in leis, khaki shorts and floral-print shirts – schemed to cut each other in hour-long lines outside Coors Field on Thursday, June 28.
A few supersized parrotheads – Buffett acolytes – nudged through the crowd, barreling over easy-going types, collateral damage in the war to be next through the gates. Bulldozers and bulled-overs alike sported aw-shucks, just-a-little-tipsy, ain’t-life-swell grins as they plodded forward in the snails-pace stampede.
Fans exiting the metal detectors soon realized their balding son of a son of a sailor and his Coral Reefers were already playing. With looks that brought to the surface the anxiety and rage buried beneath all that beach attire — Hold me up one second longer, and I’m gonna blow; I paid for my ticket, by God, and you owe me a trip to "Margaritaville" — parrotheads rushed the ushers with questions.
But Buffett’s music helps assuage the rage, right? It’s all about calming down, enjoying the good things in life and wearing a cheeseburger-in-paradise-with-a-parrot-on-top hat, no?
Caught in the throng of disgruntled parrotheads, I missed some of Buffett and the Coral Reefers’ set, too. Perhaps Buffett had crafted a perfect performance, a musical ritual that took the crowd from uptight and despondent to cheery and beery, from high-plains desert to surf. Who knows? Well, probably the smart parrotheads who anticipated the hour-long line, those early birds who got the worm.
Whatever the arc of his performance, Buffett's land sharks had taken the bait and were singing along and dancing to every corny move: “Fins to the left; fins to the right."
Unfortunately, the singer's performance was less captivating than the drunk, horseshoe-mustachioed man in front of me sharing his joint with his fellow concert-goers and singing along with abandon, all while struggling to keep his pants up, stand on his own two legs and close-talk to women in the surrounding seats who looked like they were about to stab him in the face.
The man’s antics only became more captivating when two grumpy security guards came up to tell him to leave – and he refused, trying to buddy up with them by rubbing their love handles. The woman he was with, who looked tired and bemused, eventually stepped between him and the guards, and they walked away. He stayed for a minute; then she dragged him out.
Around that time, Buffett ended his set with Bob Marley’s “One Love,” that most radical reggae hit about universal love, a song white people break out in times of strife, a song that’s perfectly appropriate for a revolutionary singer to croon and that rings hollow from Buffett’s mic. Nice sentiment, wrong singer. The Coral Reefers jammed, Buffett and company left the stage, and a few of the parrotheads filed out.
Soon, the Eagles came on, promising a two-hour set of music. Why? “Because we can do it,” said Joe Walsh, the seventy-year-old singer with long blond hair.
Even if you’ve never listened to an Eagles album, you’ve likely heard every song the group played that night and know them note for note. They’re a lot like air: You can’t help but breathe them in, and that’s probably a good thing.
Unlike Buffett, the members of the Eagles refused to lean on a nostalgia shtick, even as they played bygone numbers. There isn't a nip of irony in their performance. They aren’t fronting like they’re still youth. And they’re not promising anybody an ocean-cruise experience. They do what they do, and do it well.
Walsh has aged into a charming eccentric who seems older than he is, just as likely to be living naked in a cave in the forest heckling squirrels as he is dropping jaws with his guitar riffs and hilarious antics: “If there are any millennials out here, and this is the first time you’ve heard us: Boo,” he drawled.
Bassist Timothy B. Schmit, who joined the act in the late ’70s, has the air of a sexy yoga instructor, singing in his soulful falsetto, lulling the audience with sweet songs, punctuating lyrics with his earnest eyebrows.
Filling in for the late Glenn Frey: Son Deacon Frey, who wore a Denver Broncos shirt and waxed about how much he loved the area, and Glenn’s old friend, legendary country singer Vince Gill. Both held it down and honored Glenn’s memory with humility and gratitude.
Don Henley was present, if not more subdued than his bandmates these days, playing the role of the elder statesman. He had the moral authority to christen the act’s current iteration — to permit Gill and Deacon Frey to join in and honor Glenn’s contributions to popular music.
Sure, the Eagles sang some laid-back songs – “Peaceful Easy Feeling;” “Take It Easy” and so forth. But they do so with a substance Buffett lacks. Instead of fatuous daydreaming about vacation — Buffett’s Applebee’s style —happiness, the Eagles offer up joy.
In tight harmony, the bandmates opened with “Seven Bridges Road (Home Free),” not leaning on flashy production design or nostalgic kitsch but raw musical talent to energize the crowd.
While there were a handful of trippy video effects and clever visual montages that have become standard concert fare, there was nothing campy about this configuration of the Eagles — other than Walsh’s leather pants. Most of the instruments played were as worn as the bandmates, but the songs sounded fresh and the voices timeless. From “Hotel California” to “Desperado,” hits never stopped pouring from the band, each as iconic as the last, holding up over the years and sung with well-earned dignity.
Toward the end of the night, Walsh persuaded the crowd to make a series of noises – a warm up, he called it. One was to say "bologna" in a guttural voice. The crowd did. Several times. He pledged that if we say bologna, “I guarantee on your way home, you’re gonna say to yourself, ‘I made a huge difference today.’”
Of course, we didn’t. But fans — from those who first saw them in the ’70s to youth dancing to their grandparents’ music — had a good time, a peaceful, easy feeling, and that's something we're all becoming nostalgic for these days.
Correction: This story originally stated Joe Walsh was a founding member of the Eagles. He was not.
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