Live performances are a mixed bag. This is a key reason why I avoid going to concerts. I simply don’t want to come away disappointed, following a lacklustre performance. However, with an increase over the years in lip-syncing, the question regarding what constitutes a live performance yields intriguing results. However, what happens if the artist in question is such a perfectionist that they are determined to release a live recording that has its origins based in a series of live performances but thanks to excessive overdubbing can no longer really be regarded as a live performance. Well, the Eagles did just that on their first live album, released in 1980, Eagles Live.
Now, as much as I love this release, it pales in comparison to the sonic prowess of Hell Freezes Over. That said, Eagles Live is thoroughly enjoyable as it has the spit and polish that only studio overdubbing could accomplish. It is disappointing to acknowledge that this release needed significant post-recording modifications in order to bring it up to the Eagles’ demanding standards. While I lament the obvious notion that this isn’t completely a live performance, I also applaud the work done here as the Eagles were facing internal turmoil during this release, resulting in the overdubs being done in different studios, in different locations, across the United States. It’s honestly a miracle that any live album resulted and it showcases just how good the production team was in getting the sound so good with such obstacles in their way. There is little doubt that the modern era of digital recording has made these types of multi-location collaborations easier and more fluid, but Eagles Live plays so fluidly that only the most observant fans will notice the additional production elements. The rest of us will enjoy the album for what it is. A compilation of the Eagles very best songs, played live but perfected in the studio.
Hotel California (July 29, 1980, Santa Monica) is an exceptional song, but this rendition sounds concealed and while the performance is worthy of inclusion, you’d think with all the post-production aspects of this release that this would sound significantly better than it does. Regardless, if you want to hear what I believe to be the very best version of Hotel California, then you need to check out the recording on Hell Freezes Over. That said, it’s Hotel California; what’s not to like?
Heartache Tonight (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) is, as I’ve mentioned before, an exceptional song and this live rendition is no exception. I subjectively enjoy this rendition more than the studio release on The Long Run, as the treble is dialled back on this version and subsequently is less shrill than the original. A minor detail, yes, but one that is important to me and may be important to you as well.
I Can’t Tell You Why (July 28, 1980, Santa Monica) is simply glorious. I don’t know about you, but I could listen to Timothy B. Schmit on vocals all day. Yes, this rendition, as many are on this live album, is very close to the original studio release, but when music is this enjoyable, it ceases to matter as I just sit back and enjoy the experience.
The Long Run (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) isn’t one of my favourite Eagles’ songs and this live rendition doesn’t really change that opinion, although the brass instrumentation is fantastic. Overall, it isn’t fundamentally bad, it just isn’t a song that I feel I need to listen to. That said, I won’t skip it when it comes on.
New Kid In Town (October 22, 1976, The Forum) is, for me, similar to The Long Run. Although, I do have to say that I thoroughly enjoy this rendition. Again, the treble region has been rolled off and I don’t know about you, but that is appealing to me as the music just sounds right with a slightly reduced treble range.
Life’s Been Good (July 29, 1980, Santa Monica) is a killer rock and roll song from Joe Walsh’s solo catalogue, first appearing on But Seriously, Folks, that offers a flawless transition on the album. Given the egos associated with the Eagles, I find it refreshing to see that Walsh’s solo efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
Seven Bridges Road (July 28, 1980, Santa Monica) is a cover of the Steve Young classic. Young’s original is fantastic, but the intermingling vocal harmony of the Eagles takes Seven Bridges Road to another level of sonic perfection. Either way, whichever edition you listen to, you’re bound to love this song.
Wasted Time (October 22, 1976, The Forum) is one of my all-time favourite Eagles’ songs. Absolutely brilliant and a welcome addition to this live album.
Take It To The Limit (October 20, 1976, The Forum), on this live release, is stronger than the original on One Of These Nights as the mix, this time, just sounds right. Whereas, I’ve always felt the mix was a little unbalanced on the original studio release.
Doolin-Dalton (Reprise II) [October 21, 1976, The Forum] is a lovely, albeit brief, interlude.
Desperado (October 21, 1976, The Forum) is, as I’ve mentioned before, one of their greatest songs and is translated to the live performance masterfully; albeit with a little post-production. Nevertheless, it is an exceptional song and I consider this rendition to be one of the very best versions of the song I have ever heard the Eagles perform.
Saturday Night (July 28, 1980, Santa Monica) has, as I’ve mentioned before, perfect harmonics that make for a lovely song that flows perfectly from Desperado.
All Night Long (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) is another Joe Walsh solo classic. I absolutely love it!
Life In The Fast Lane (July 31, 1980, Long Beach) is fantastic. That rhythm and riff are incredible but I’m not a fan of this live interpretation as I feel the studio release, on Hotel California, is significantly stronger. In some ways, however, this live rendition may be the most live song from this album as the differences are more pronounced than that heard on other songs.
Take It Easy (July 27, 1980, Santa Monica) is always great and closing out this live album with it is perfect as it encourages me to listen to the album again and stay within the Eagle’s catalogue.
Overall, Eagles Live is an extraordinary release that while not entirely live, is a welcome addition to the Eagles’ back catalog. While one may decide not to listen to, or purchase, this album because of the overdubbing throughout, I would argue that it can still be enjoyed and quite frankly given I dislike live performances that are lacklustre, I’m glad a little spit and polish can be applied in order to improve the audio quality and performance. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than hearing a live performance sound so different to the studio release that you question if the live record was recorded by a cover band. That said, lip-syncing acts have to be abolished as it’s an insult to the concert goer who attends primarily for the atmosphere associated with a live performance and pays extensively for that privilege. By comparison, the individual who buys or listens to a live album knows instinctively that some production has gone into the final product and unless you’re into the bootleg scene, acknowledges that live is not necessarily as live as the artist, record label, and associated marketing would like us to believe.