"We'll play together again when hell freezes over," insisted the Eagles' Don Henley when the 70s' biggest-selling American band fell apart in 1980, amid drug abuse, recriminations and backstage punch-ups.
Hades must be getting very chilly, as this year marks their 20th since reformation. This tour is billed as The History of the Eagles: songs and stories trace their trajectory from country rockers who rehearsed in a shack next to a liquor store ("which was convenient") to the gear change when cocaine, funkier grooves and Joe Walsh's guitar enabled them to "rock a little harder".
Walsh – about whom frontman Glenn Frey quips, "He once saw the Loch Ness monster... in Cleveland" – looks in terrific shape these days, but he plays the damaged rocker with aplomb, goofing around, dropping plectrums and playing with unfeasible power. In fact, with guitarist Bernie Leadon back for the first time since pouring beer over Frey's head in 1975, the band sound better than ever. The core dynamic, as ever, is the contrast between Henley's angsty vocals and Frey's hippy yearning. Take It to the Limit, particularly, is a sublime wall of entwined guitars and harmonies.
The free-flowing humour suggests they are comfortable with each other now. Henley jokes that he can't remember recording The Long Run, while Walsh brings the house down with Life's Been Good's spoof of rock excess ("My Maserati does 185 / I lost my licence, now I don't drive").
Dedicating a song to absent original bassist Randy Meisner is a nice touch, and while, despite penning Hotel California, Don Felder remains excommunicated, the band's signature song sounds stunning. As the clock goes way past the three-hour mark and Life in the Fast Lane and Take It Easy reach aural perfection, the audience get to their feet to honour one of the great American bands.
• At Manchester Arena on 25 June (0161-950 5000) and Liverpool Arena on 26 June (0844 8000400). Details: eaglesband.com
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