Eagles say goodbye to Austin — and here’s why they’ve never been cooler

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“I’m sorry,” two separate friends offered when I told them where I was going on Friday night. “Why are you listening to this?” my best friend asked me when she came over as I prepared to check into Hotel California.

At some point, liking Eagles — the band whose greatest hits album in 2018 overtook Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” to become the best-selling album of all time, according to RIAA — became corny. And to that, I say: Take it easy. An arena full of diehard fans sure did Friday at Moody Center, for the first show of a two-night Austin stand on the legendary group’s The Long Goodbye tour, billed as their for-real-this-time farewell.

My first Eagles live experience was in 2010, when I saw them on a whim as they headlined that year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival. “Oh, I know all these songs by heart,” I remember thinking, even though 1970s rock is not my passion. Such is the power of cultural osmosis and Don Henley.

On their final tour, popular music icons Henley, Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit and their flock — including ringer Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, the son of late founding member Glenn Frey — again proved that there’s something special, and a little eternal, about 52 years of ubiquity.

Here’s what it was like to say a long goodbye to Eagles. The band plays their second Austin show at 7:30 p.m on Saturday at Moody Center.

Eagles flew through a history of hits.

First things first: All legacy acts should include a clip parade of their indelible moments from their past half-century of hitmaking. Heck, if it’s good enough for Bruce Springsteen and Cher, it’s good enough for the Greek chorus of California cool.

The digital scrapbook ended and the real memories began. All Eagles stood at mics lined up at the edge of the stage, cast in light that looked like someone paused a thunderstorm at just the right moment. A beautiful rendition of “Seven Bridges Road” opened the show, coursing with harmonies, bluegrassy plucking and baby boomer emotion.

As with that 2010 ACL Fest set, Friday was an almost overwhelming experience of realizing how much the band’s hits are programmed in all of our DNA. “Take It Easy” came second, with Deacon Frey taking lead on the band’s 1972 debut single, written by his dad and Jackson Browne. Frey tended to sing with his eyes closed; it felt like communion.

“He does sound just like him,” a concert-goer behind me said when Frey finished singing his dad’s lyrics.

The irrepressible, rubber-faced Walsh, on the other hand, seemed to commune with the elder gods of a far-flung dimension, so deep was he in the groove and the good times.

Every number, a singalong: “One of These Nights,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Take It to the Limit,” “Witchy Woman,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Tequila Sunrise” all came in quick succession.

Don Henley and Joe Walsh are your favorite rock & roll uncles

“Welcome to whatever this is,” Henley deadpanned in the first bit of crowd banter of the evening.The original boy of summer called Austin a good music town and recalled playing in the Texas capital since he was 18 or 19 years old.

“I’ve played every dive bar and s___ hole in this town,” he cracked.

The first thing the band did when they got off the plane this week was get a “big, bubbly plate of Tex-Mex,” he said.

To cheers, Henley promised the crowd a “two-hour vacation from all the madness out in the world.” Seemed like a lot of folks had let the sound of their own wheels drive them crazy and were ready to let loose.

The audience only got one selection from Henley’s considerable solo catalog: “The Boys of Summer,” natch. He dedicated the song to Jimmy Buffett, who died in 2023 and had his own history with Austin. “Boys of Summer” remains an undeniable, enduring standard of the modern age (I personally first vibed with The Ataris’ 2003 pop-punk cover, but that’s because I’m an insufferable millennial child). The licks would not be denied, the synths put a pair of Wayfarers on every head and golden stage lights bathed the arena.

Walsh, meanwhile, cut up and let loose. “I had some wonderful times in Austin, according to the police report,” he joked during one bit of banter.

His solo cuts got even more of a workout, including an adrenaline-surging performance of “In the City” and a crowd-winning rendition of “Life’s Been Good.” He sounded like an alley cat. It was perfect.

Glenn Frey’s presence was felt.

Glenn Frey, who died in 2016, loomed over the show. A photo of the guitarist filled the big screen after one number from Deacon Frey and garnered huge applause.

While the younger Frey served as his father’s literal legacy, Gill did his old friend proud, too. The celebrated country singer-songwriter (and Mr. Amy Grant to some of us) sang with warmth all night. A strong falsetto and tender, yearning tone on “Take It to the Limit” made me want to catch a solo Gill show sometime.

Peaceful, easy feelings took roost

As the show rounded up on 11 p.m., and as the old heads started to feel their $20 drinks, the significance of this farewell pulled at your gut. A one-two punch of “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Hotel California” was liable to send you into a fugue state. Over the course of the night, so many guitar riffs sounded like lazy Saturdays. So many bass lines sounded like a thousand limes plunking into a thousand cheap Tecates.

See, the strum of an Eagles hit is baked in the sun and baked into your brain. You’ve eaten fried shrimp by the lake to these songs. You’ve watched highway stripes tick off road trip hours like an asphalt metronome to these songs. You’ve bought pants at Dillard’s to these songs.

Just in time for the emotions to flow, the band returned for an encore that included the most potent version of “Desperado” you’ll ever hear. Eagles might be checking out, but they can never leave — not really, as long as the world knows every chorus by heart. Sounds pretty cool to me.

Eric Webb is an award-winning culture writer based in Austin. Find him at www.ericwebb.me.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Review: Eagles bring The Long Goodbye Tour to Austin's Moody Center