Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne, February 2015
The only tickets I’d managed for the Melbourne leg of The Eagles’ History of the Eagles tour were in the nosebleed seats. The four years added to my age since I’d attended their last concert demanded increased effort to climb to row PP, the highest row in the arena. At that dizzying height, the omniscient view over the stadium made me feel powerful, even though the after-effects of the short heatwave in the couple of days before still lingered, stifling my lungs.
Two huge screens flanked either side of the stage like outstretched arms welcoming the crowd that marched ant-like through the aisles and rows. Intermittent announcements reminded us that photography and filming was prohibited. Aside from the vigour with which The Eagles pursue copyright breaches, Don Henley had said in pre-tour interviews, “We want people to be in the moment with us”. Like Henley, I’m from a generation that prefers to catalogue important memories in our hearts and minds, not on our devices.
Accompanied by my two musician sons and their partners, we bristled with anticipation. We’d ‘done’ Eagles’ concerts twice before, when the boys were younger and less jaded by the vagaries of the music industry. Their father, my ex, also a musician, had a long catalogue of Eagles’ songs in his repertoire. It was often-visited and shared territory for both boys and me.
When the lights dimmed, the audience raised a collective voice of welcome, but the event started quietly with only Glenn Frey and Don Henley sharing the stage. The screens exposed their faces in fine detail, confirming how much they had aged. Somehow, I had expected to see the familiar faces of early albums. Now, I looked on faces etched with lines that had stories to tell. It was confronting. The Eagles’ music had always situated me somewhere between my late teens and early thirties. Suddenly, I realised that just how far I had come from those years.
As I mused on this, more of the band gathered on stage, the band’s back catalogue unfolding, each familiar song increasing the crowd’s appreciation. Every lyric escaped my lips, evoking memories of where I had been when I’d first heard each song, and the significant life events I associated with it.
Tears gathered and I forced them back, something I had never had to do at past concerts. I wondered if it was simply nostalgia enfolding me. Yet, I remained unsettled. I snuck a sideways glance at my sons, hoping they hadn’t noticed their emotional mother. Luckily, they remained oblivious to me, their chiselled profiles lit by the light coming from the stage where they focussed their rapt attention. As I kept my gaze on them, they shared a comment and laughed, two brothers having fun. It struck me that they weren’t ‘boys’ any more—they were men.
In the years that had passed since The Eagles first encouraged me to take it easy, time had swept me along life’s path. Over that period, I had loved and lost several times, my sons had been born and had grown, one surviving a gruelling two-year battle with childhood cancer. I’d lost my mother to a long horrific illness, I’d nearly died as a result of a serious heart condition. There had been joy and sadness, wins and defeats, all of them accompanied in some way by an Eagles song that articulated my emotions, especially in times when I couldn’t.
I turned back to the music, trying to connect to the moment. Many of the song arrangements were new. The renowned harmonies were there, still peerless, but at times the top notes seemed levelled off. I guess the passage of time buffers down the sharp points on everything, not just voices, but love and loss. This concert wasn’t a walk down memory lane, it had become a trek through the past and an arrival at acceptance. When they played Take It Easy, one of the last songs of the night, the admonition to find a place to make your stand and take it easy, was still great advice, just as it had been four decades earlier.
It is likely that The Eagles might never tour here again, that I had seen them live for the last time. I had no photos on my phone, but I will always have the image of my sons laughing, the light playing across their strong features. I have the heady sense memory of row PP, the expanse of audience below, grey hair washing across an ocean of heads. I had ‘been in the moment’—many moments that night and many from the past.
With my head full of music and memories, my sons shepherded me gently through the exiting crowd, just as I had done when they had needed my protection as children. I was conscious that I felt reconciled to being part of the sea of grey hair, to the surreal rapidity of the passage of years, to the storylines gathering on my face. Along with The Eagles, I had grown older and mellowed. Time had taken the sharpness from my painful experiences and burnished my better ones to a warm glow. I’d taken a stand. I knew where I was in my life.
I was taking it easy.
© Lucia Nardo.