Concert Review

Eagles of Death Metal Surprisingly Excellent at Martini Ranch

The last time Eagles of Death Metal were in town, their show was nearly unberable. Opening for The Hives at the Marquee, the band made their (now latest, then soon-to-be released) record Heart On sound so boring I almost gave up on them. "By the end, it was like watching some dude in a trucker hat and 'More Cowbell' T-shirt put the moves on your little sister," I wrote at the time.

But, when Heart On finally came in the mail, it was -- surprisingly -- excellent. So, tonight I decided to give the Eagles another chance on stage, braving the rain to see their sold-out show at Martini Ranch in Scottsdale. It wasn't disappointing. The Palm Springs-based band killed, sending an oldish crowd (it looked to me like a lot of career bartenders, cooks, and servers enjoying their Monday off in Old Town) into a frenzy and sounding tight through an hour-plus set. No one was more surprised than me.

The thing is, this isn't just my perception. The Eagles have a history of alienating live audiences. They were booed so badly opening for Guns N' Roses that Axl threw them off the tour on the spot, famously dubbing them "Pigeons of Shit Metal." In fact, throughout tonight's show singer Jesse "Electric Boots" Hughes kept referencing a disastrous night in Vegas the day before. I haven't been able to track down a review of that show, but I'm guessing the band's bad times in Vegas weren't limited to the slots. Tonight -- and on many nights I've read about -- they were stellar. So what gives?

Taking the stage to Kool and the Gang's "Ladies Night," the band looked exactly like they did back in September -- I think the guitarist and bassist were wearing the same outfits. Opening with one of their biggest hits, "I Only Want You" also didn't inspire much confidence, but by the title track from Heart On, it was obvious they brought their A-game, Hughes and mohawked guitarist Dave Catching trading solos while bassist Brian "Big Hands" O'Connor and Joey Castillo kept things moving at a breakneck pace. EoDM took a nice long break between almost every song (along with the 45-minute break between bands, this was the most annoying part of the night), but it'd be hard to argue they didn't deserve it. Their latest single "Wanna Be in L.A." sounded great and by the pre-encore closer, "Anything 'Cept the Truth," which features the band's best-ever riff, I was fully back in their corner. After the break, Hughes' solo cover of "Brown Sugar," and his guitar duel with Catching on "Speaking in Tongues" had me eying the T-shirts on the merch table.

Hughes was what the guy I'd expected him to be onstage -- flirting, preening, and prancing -- but his focus seemed to be on playing, and it made all the difference. He also didn't utter the phrase "mustache ride" at any point -- always a nice touch.

"When was the last time we came through, with The Hives?" Hughes asked at one point. "That was a good night for rock 'n' roll, but this feels like a better night for rock 'n' roll."

I didn't agree, but I understood his perspective.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Eagles of Death Metal at Martini Ranch

Better Than: Not better than the Hives, but certainly in that league. The Hives/EoDM show was #7 on our countdown of last year's best concerts. If EoDm had played this show then it would have likely been top 3.

Personal Bias: I hate admitting I was wrong, but I was wrong: Eagles of Death Metal do not suck live. At least not every show.

Random Detail: Have you ever noticed the intro to "Wanna Be in L.A." is the same little musical snippet played as The Dude arrives at Jackie Treehorn's party in The Big Lebowski?

Further Listening: "Anything 'Cept the Truth."

By The Way: My buddy Noah, who's always been an EoDM loyalist, is the one who convinced me to go out to this show. Thanks, buddy. Meanwhile, all my criticism of the last EoDM show convinced my friend Alex not to waste her time. Whoops, sorry.