"Because we can."
That seems to be the Eagles' motto these days.
"We're going to play 2½ hours' worth of music for you," leader Don Henley said Saturday night at Target Field. "Because we can."
They charged as much as $495 a ticket, because they can.
They used five electric guitarists on some selections, because they can.
They brought Jimmy Buffett — whose sunny worldview is the opposite of the Eagles' often jaded vision — as an opening act, because they can. (He used to open for them in the late '70s.)
They've gone on tour for 52 concerts a little more than two years after co-leader Glenn Frey died. Because they can.
And the Eagles gave arguably their best performance in the Twin Cities. Because they did.
Without Frey's typical sardonic and flip comments and with Henley's cynicism limited to his "because we can" pronouncement, the usually businesslike Eagles seemed warmer, almost full of heart, for a change. That was especially true when Henley acknowledged Frey and how the Eagles are celebrating his contributions and legacy.
That the Eagles are even continuing without Frey is surprising to many, but it's because they can.
They have smartly enlisted Frey's 25-year-old son, Deacon, and country veteran Vince Gill, 61, a longtime Eagles aficionado, to sing the numbers that Frey sang.
Looking like he stepped off the cover of the Eagles' second album from 1973, shaggy-haired, bearded Deacon, wearing a Twins jersey, sounded uncannily like an unpolished version of his dad on "Take It Easy," the night's second song. And, with his high voice, Gill was a suitable surrogate on "Take It to the Limit" and other tunes.
Plus, Gill played some serious guitar in a band starring world-class guitarists Joe Walsh and longtime sideman Steuart Smith (who replaced the fired Don Felder, for those keeping track of the history of the Eagles, who ruled from 1971 to 1980, then reunited in '94).
The new guy in town, er, the band, was also given a chance to remind the 42,185 people at Target Field that he's had a fruitful solo career. Gill's "Don't Let Our Love Start Slippin' Away" was both a vocal and guitar treat.
Surprisingly, Henley did not offer anything from his quite successful solo career. On previous Eagles tours, there was invariably a slot for his solo stuff. But, even in a ballpark, he eschewed "Boys of Summer," his baseball anthem.
Henley, 70, split his time between drums and guitar. He was in good voice at first but, all alone on vocals at the end of the evening, he sounded strained, especially on "Hotel California" and "Desperado."
While Henley was totally a team player, Walsh, a band member since 1975, got to showcase a few solo songs. And, frankly, they were much needed, especially in a stadium, to change the dynamic and tempos of the Eagles' generally low-energy repertoire.
Not only did he pump up the volume and force with "Walk Away," "Funk #49," "Life's Been Good" and "Rocky Mountain Way," but Walsh, 70, added lots of personality, animation and muscular guitar adventures. Not to mention a horn section joined him to jazz things up.
A string section appeared on a couple of tunes, but it was mostly nine musicians carrying what is now version 3.0 of the Eagles. By the by, their vocal harmonies — rendered by eight singers — sounded as grand as ever.
So no complaints if Henley and band played nine minutes short of their promised time. Because they did.
Buffett sets the table
In his 83 minutes onstage, Buffett seemed a bit rushed. His patter was so rapid-fire that he introduced his band leader Mike Utley as his "long-lost friend" and then corrected himself to "longtime." At least Buffett introduced all his players while Henley failed to acknowledge most of the Eagles' sidemen by name.
Like the Grateful Dead, Buffett, 71, is about selling a vibe as much as the music. His large band, featuring both steel drummer and pedal steel guitarist, is well schooled but not particularly tight. That would be against his casual style.
With his painfully plain voice, Buffett seldom seemed invested in his vocals, except on slower, more reflective pieces like "A Pirate Looks at 40" and "Come Monday." He even dusted off a rarity, the jaunty "Gypsies in the Palace" from 1985, which he said he co-wrote with his friend and neighbor Glenn Frey.
Regardless of what you think of Buffett's voice, cheesy songs and pandering with all kinds of local shout-outs (including to Helen Hiatt, his wardrobe mangler who had a more challenging assignment with Prince), his party spirit can't be denied.
He got his Parrothead fans in their Hawaiian shirts, leis and parrot headgear dancing and singing along to "Margaritaville" and "Cheeseburger in Paradise" like they had no care in the world.
Because he doesn't.