Some questions in life are impossible to fully answer. What is the meaning of life? Why do brown cows that eat green grass make white milk? But for classic rock fans, one question continues to loom ominously more and more these days as the rock gods of the '70s mosey well past retirement age:
What happens when the band you've loved for decades loses arguably its most prominent figure?
On Saturday night in a packed AT&T Stadium in Arlington, country-rock supergroup the Eagles provided its own answer to that increasingly relevant question with a harmonious, two-hour plus hit-packed show.
But here's the thing: it might've been too harmonious.
Let's backtrack a bit, first. Following the January 2016 death of band co-founder Glenn Frey, the future of the Eagles was understandably up in the air. Before the end of that same year, Dallas-resident and Frey's co-founder Don Henley spoke freely about how Frey's death likely marked the end of his band as an active unit.
Yet a few months later, the Eagles planned a series of stadium shows. So not only did the show go on for the Eagles, but it did so with country living legend Vince Gill and, fittingly, Frey's son Deacon Frey filling the sizable gap left with the elder Frey's passing.
Now that this latest lineup, including guitarist Joe Walsh and bassist Timothy B. Schmidt, has had plenty of time to gel, Saturday night's Arlington show was nothing short of pristine. The set list unfurled like a killer classic rock playlist where twangy acoustic, scorching electric and faultless harmonizing melted together in a fashion few bands in the history of American popular music can offer.
The robust, brotherly harmonies of show-opening "Seven Bridges Road" got things off to an expert start. Over the course of over two hours, only Schmidt seemed to have a slightly rough go, as he struggled to hit the highest notes of "Love Will Keep Us Alive" and "I Can't Tell You Why," while also committing the touring musician cardinal sin of thanking the wrong city. "Thank you so much, Houston," he said as he quickly corrected himself to a smattering of playful boos.
But those are minor quibbles, really. And this is where it gets tricky for anyone scratching just far enough below the warm and fuzzy, jukebox-worthy nature of the night. Gill, as skilled of a guitarist and vocalist as you can find anywhere, handled Glenn Frey's singing roles in smooth classics including "New Kid in Town" and "Tequila Sunrise." Predictably, Gill's take on the tunes was glorious.
He nailed it. But he just didn't need to be there -- not at an Eagles show.
Glenn's son, Deacon, sporting long hair and a mustache reminiscent of his father's in the mid-'70s, proved to be far more than a sentimental spot-filler. Similar to how Bruce Springsteen welcomed Jake Clemons into the E-Street Band following the death of Jake's uncle, saxophonist Clarence Clemons, having Deacon on stage was seamlessly pitch-perfect.
Taking lead-singing duties on the jaunty folk-flavored "Take it Easy," and a revved-up "Already Gone," it was more than clear he was a deserving replacement. When he was done leading the band through a gorgeous "Peaceful, Easy Feeling," a giant black and white image of his dad, warmly smiling, was projected onto the massive video screens. Goosebumps on arms and necks throughout the cavernous stadium were powerless against such a moment of familial symmetry and love.
With Deacon excelling in his role as his father's logical and emotional successor, having Gill on stage felt like over-indulgence. It doesn't matter that Gill can take an old shoebox with rubber bands and make it gently weep, or that he could sing the text on a parking ticket and likely win a Grammy. Hearing his faultless spins on these songs felt more like the world's most opulent karaoke session than it did an actual Eagles performance.
It was sort of like when NBA superstar Kevin Durant joined the record-setting Golden State Warriors a couple of seasons ago. The Warriors, with all-stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, were probably going to win another title or two without Durant, but now the annual NBA Finals have become predictably boring thanks to the matchless talent of the team's augmented roster. Sure, it's never actually a bad thing to witness a high level of excellence in any field, but in the cases of the Warriors and the Eagles, excellence and excitement aren't necessarily soul mates.
As heartening as the younger Frey's presence and performance was, Joe Walsh's court jester personality and evergreen guitar licks did all they could to steal the show. Non-Eagles Walsh cuts "Life's Been Good" and "Walk Away" were fun and fist pump-inducing. And lest we forget, the evening's opener, country mega star Chris Stapleton, blistered through a powerfully soulful set of southern-rock, proving he was far more than merely the opening act.
Whether it's Fleetwood Mac or other beloved bands that have moved on without key figures such as the Jerry Garcia-less Grateful Dead or Scott Weiland-less Stone Temple Pilots, fans of veteran bands will only see this internal dilemma increase in frequency as the years roll on. On Saturday night, the Eagles gave us a beautiful night of music for future memories, even if memories of the band's storied past got in the way a little bit.