MORRISTOWN, NJ—“How ya doin?” Joe Walsh mumbled from the stage as he straddled up to the mic at the MPAC Performing Arts Center and strapped on one of the many guitars he used for he night. Turning the theater into a jukebox of ‘70s riffs he played off his years as a solo artist and the James Gang into a motley mix of barroom psychedelia that was delivered up over a tasty metallic, stew of churning, burning funky jive with toppings of Hendrix, Mountain and Cream sprinkled into the mix.
Walsh’s high-pitched singing style that still rings after all these years and his band’s bombast molted into an orchestral outfit of dense rock as he blew off his alter-ego as Eagles sideman and punched through the confines of the Don Henley/Glenn Frey traveling road show. Walsh let it rip as he took on his cannon as well as a few new ones from his latest, Analog Man, at the venue’s historic and cavernous interior like a master shot putter of squelch, pitch, and dynamics.
The new ones a confessional ode to a lot of things, including Walsh’s new found sobriety and a sense of gratitude to a life of living large. He looked great up there, fit and trim as a trooper dressed in a snappy black jacket. Backed by an eight-piece unit including two drummers and three backup singers, the band filled in the blanks between Walsh’s chunky rhythmic playing and solos to the stratus. Theirs was a full bodied revue, warm and inviting that the crowd licked up with ear-to-ear grins.
Opening with “Welcome To The Flood” then “Life Of Illusion” and “Walk Away,” it became apparent that this was no Eagles redux—strictly Joe. The unmistakable opening riffs from “Rocky Mountain Way” could bring back John Denver from the dead. On it he changed guitars mid-song and countered notes on the talk box from a cherry red Les Paul. “I Shall Be Released” was dedicated to Levon Helm with the backups singing lead.
On “The Confessor,” things started slowly then built up and slowed down to an epochal ending. “Lucky That Way” from Analog Man was an acoustified thank you to all things Joe. He played a cool looking Gibson Flying V guitar on James Gang’s “The Bomber” that boomed to the gods of thunder. “Turn To Stone” from So What? started out slowly, and then exploded into a heady bounce of chunky riffs that Walsh pierced through with some stinging leads as riot footage and a disco ball reminiscent of the live album cover You Can’t Argue With A Sick Mind swirled above.
Walsh shouted out, “Let’s play the blues!” as he donned a white Fender Strat on Albert King’s “Personal Manager” and squeaked some Chicago blues out of it, then laced into “Funky #49″ that got the crowd on its feet with a nice double drum solo thrown in. “Life’s Been Good” started out slow with its signature riff, then took off, as Walsh worked both sides of the stage, preening like a spoiled brat as the party anthem to the decadent ‘70s snortled and rocked onwards. The Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane” and “All Night Long” were the set closers that left the crowd cheering for a “long neck and another good ole song.”