MusicMade possible by

A review of Don Henley written on a phone on the 049 bus from Te Atatu to Henderson

Don Henley from the Eagles played a gig at the Vector Arena in Auckland on Thursday night. Steve Braunias was there, and he reviewed it in a single paragraph tapped out on a bus trip today.

As soon as Don Henley started playing Hotel California in the encore of his show on Thursday night at the Vector Arena, everything was revealed, not just about the meaning of life, but about that other, more difficult issue, the meaning of the Eagles, the band so widely regarded as the worst band in the history of the world, worse even than Queen or the Gypsy Kings or the Feelers, hated by people who know everything about music but nothing about life, hated for their success and their artlessness, but their success and their artlessness made them great, led them to take all of American music (at the start of the show, the lights were dimmed on the stage and the PA played snatches of Hank Williams, Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, also early Beatles and Night Fever by the Bee Gees; the canon, implicitly advertising that the Eagles numbered in that pantheon) and reassemble its parts on the factory floor at Asylum Records, where they perfected their sound and their pursuit of classic California pop, their first albums full of horses in deserts but with too many names, they sounded like America lite, but they persevered, the drugs worked, Joe Walsh worked, and it all came together on Hotel California, the lyrics a meaningless riddle about the meaningless riddle that is life, and the guitar solo transcending this mortal coil, all of it a beautiful mindless pop, surf’s up on route 66, washing onto the shores of life after 40 at the Vector Arena, the song signalled by the sudden appearance of that holiest relic of 70s rock, the twin-necked guitar, which rang out the bells as Henley (quite fat, suggesting his claim to Karl Puschmann at the Herald that he worked out for 90 minutes before every show was made in jest) leaned into the mic, his chin up, reaching all the right notes and getting all the careful phrases right, driving the song like a Pontiac ’56, the car his dad drove in Texas, a big gas-guzzling monster of rock greeted with appropriate rapture by the senior citizens of Auckland, the band faithfully transcribing the record, Henley at the wheel, performing a masterpiece.

Sumptuous lighting at the Vector Arena (Photo: Madeleine Chapman)

The Spinoff’s music content is brought to you by our friends at Spark. Listen to all the music you love on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.