GREENWICH VILLAGE, NY—Ex-Eagles guitarist Don Felder put on a blistering performance at An Evening At The Hotel California that showcased his output behind the band that he served in from 1974-2001, as well as his latest effort, Road To Forever, with a bang-up of guitar leads, riffs, crescendos and soaring harmonies. Ultimately, the night belonged to Felder and proved once and for all what his contributions to the band really were and closed the circle on a hiatus from the music biz that has been way too long.
Felder’s hard-edged tones stood in contrast to his predecessor, Bernie Leadon, back in the old days, whose bluegrass inflected twang Glenn Frey and Don Henley felt they wanted to move away from. Leadon got Felder in the band and when he jumped ship, Joe Walsh stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and together, they grand-slammed the band into superstardom with Hotel California.
He looked like a contented rock star up there with something to prove, and he did just that. His fingers were on fire for the entire 19-song set, as he squeezed notes from an array of Fender Strats, Gibson Les Pauls and a double-necked monstrosity that he opened the night with on “Hotel California.” Felder started out slowly on the 12 stringed top neck, then glided to the bottom one just in time for the song’s hardy thunder of twisted jagged leads.
Dressed in black and wearing an ear-to-ear grin all night, Felder enjoyed the spotlight and the crowd’s shout-outs to his old bandmates. He looked confident and at ease up there as he introduced most of the tunes, and handled all the vocals as well in a husky voice that played to the confessional and redemptive qualities of the new album. Bassist Shem Von Schroeck and guitarist Frank Simes did a fine job on the harmonies, complementing Felder’s takes on the Eagles’ classics and new beginnings. No ordinary Eagles tribute band here; they made the tunes their own, and the crowd ate it up.
Opening with one of the most recognizable riffs on the planet—that he wrote—on “Hotel California,” Felder and band took the crowd on a roller-coaster ride through the Eagles’ storied catalog, as he played songs he was directly involved with in writing and riffing. The rocked out blastoff “Already Gone,” one of the first tunes Felder played on an Eagles record, was next. The intro lead shred into a jangling duet as Felder and Simes’ guitars bled into an outro of edgy, country pop
On Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride And Joy,” he busted the blues. “Victim Of Love” followed. “Fall From The Grace Of Love,” off the new album, was full of catchy choruses. A sweet timely solo along with a clap jumpstarted a mini acoustic set that included “Tequila Sunrise” and ended with the gorgeous harmonies of “Seven Bridges Road.” Felder introduced it as a song the Eagles used to warm up to backstage in the old days.
“Those Shoes,” “Heavy Metal” and “Witchy Woman” played out like a jukebox from That ‘70s Show, leaving a lot of smiling faces in its wake. For the set closer, “Life In The Fast Lane,” Simes and Felder ripped and rattled through to the coda as their notes tangled, then entwined into one. “Take It Easy” was the encore that everyone joined in on, ending the night. Felder took to the crowd afterwards, posing for pictures and signing autographs, proving once and for all that you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
For an insider’s look at Felder’s Eagles years, check out Heaven And Hell. Don Felder plays the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City on Nov. 16.