LINCOLN — The music of the Eagles holds up beautifully after 40 years. So do the voices of the singers and songwriters who made that music immortal.
True, many in Friday night's near-capacity crowd at Pinnacle Bank Arena were of a mind — and an age — to rock out to the 1970s superband. But Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Bernie Leadon, Joe Walsh and Timothy Schmit sang so strongly that no one would dare count them among the sad remnants of once-great bands that ought to hang it up rather than keep embarrassing themselves.
With their ringing harmonies and soaring falsetto solos, the five veterans proved that their voices have lost very little to past ravages of youth or the expected ravages of age. Fans could hardly ask for better from what amounted to a live soundtrack to the “History of the Eagles,” the recent documentary that spurred the band's latest — and possibly last — of several reunion tours since the mid-1990s.
They were treated to a mostly chronological tour of their greatest hits (except for a couple of songs, like “Hotel California,” that were saved for the show's end). Fittingly, the show began with Henley and Frey sitting atop their amplifiers, singing and playing their guitars — just as they used to do, Frey explained, in the San Fernando Valley in the summer of 1971.
As one number passed into another, the famous songwriting duo were joined by guitarist Bernie Leadon — a long-absent charter Eagle — and then by Walsh and finally Schmit. As the four-song opening set reached its peak, Henley moved over to a compact drum set and led the group through an intimate, bluesy “Witchy Woman” that brought the crowd to its feet a mere 25 minutes into the concert.
The band then switched to its full stadium-rock setup, with the veterans joined by guitarist Steuart Smith, percussionist Scott Crago and keyboardists Richard Davis, Will Hollis and Michael Thompson. After taking the audience through their increasingly successful early years, the group capped the first half of its concert with “Take It to the Limit,” the Top 5 hit and signature contribution from the only missing original Eagle — the one who brought a rural Nebraska flavor to the band's sound.
“This is a song Don and I wrote with — and for — our original bass player, Randy Meisner from Scottsbluff, Neb.,” said Frey, who sang Meisner's lead vocal in his place. Meisner, who left the band after the “Hotel California” album, was unable to join the tour due to health problems. “We're sending this out to him,” Frey said.
The concert's first half featured one outstanding performance after another, including a different take on “Desperado” and a straight-ahead rendition of “Lyin' Eyes.” Frey wittily recalled how he and Henley wrote their longest hit in two days because “we did everything fast in 1975.” He added: “I'm dedicating this, as I always do, to my first wife: 'Plaintiff.' ” The crowd roared.
A Walsh-led rendition of “Pretty Maids All in a Row” led off the second half, followed by the achingly poignant ballad “I Can't Tell You Why” with Schmit on the lead vocals. The Eagles could have played all night and left the audience still wanting more. That's the mark of a musical group that stands the test of time.