MANHATTAN, NY—The Les Paul Trio took on James Gang/Eagles lead guitarist Joe Walsh at The Iridium that started out ever so sweetly and turned into a raucous blowout of loud guitars and booze-soaked psychedelia as the Montclair native added his wah-wah, talk box and demented genius to the night’s festivities. The last holdout and shrine to fabled and loved guitarist, inventor and all around nice guy, Les Paul, his trio keeps the spirit of his music and his lust for life alive on Monday nights in Times Square, where guests now fill in the slot in homage to the man who left us in 2009.
Serenading the crowd at first with “Lady Is A Tramp” and then “How High The Moon,” by the time the music stands went up and Anton Fig joined in on drums, it was time for Joe. Walsh entertained the crowd with his humor that combines the stoneyed whimsy of a rock and roll survivor and some killer gonzo guitar playing, as he and Fig riffed and rolled off each other like two brothers fighting over co-songwriting credits on the next Eagles album.
“I want to reduce spending” and “If I was on the debate, I’d just stand up there and win,” Walsh mused after the band busted out a howling “Rocky Mountain Way.” On “Life Been Good,” things got funny when the synth part of the song didn’t kick in and Walsh just stood there deadpan, waiting for it to kick in. The ensuing licks, arpeggios and twangs were well worth the wait, as the band banged its way through the chorus’ grateful ending.
On “Meadows,” Joe played it solo as he let the notes slam-bang to the bar and back on a white Gretsh Falcon guitar. Walsh coached the crowd on how they could help him out on the choruses before the next one, “Life In The Fast Lane,” adding that it’s almost impossible to play and sing together. Thankfully, all those brutally handsome and terminally pretty obliged for a rousing sing-along.
Walsh told a funny story about Les Paul on stage. He went to his house once and Les asked him if he could help him glue some panels on to a wall. Les said he’d return in a while so Joe glued and unfortunately, Les never came back. Walsh then praised the genius whiz kid, shouting, “He’s the grandfather of us all!” and “I was gonna play the blues, but I’m happy now, so I’ll pretend that I’m upset.” He then laid into the Albert King classic, “Personal Manager.”
James Gang’s “Funk #49” was a chunky howler. “Turn To Stone” was a psychedelic stampede through the hazy moss of the ‘70s. The bittersweet “Pretty Maids All In A Row” from Hotel California was the closer that Walsh played on the piano, bidding goodnight to all and the spirit of Les Paul pondering the eternal, “Why do we give up our hearts to the past? And why must we grow up so fast?”