MANHATTAN, NY—Joe Walsh let it rip at the Beacon Theatre for a 14-song set as he took on his legacy with an assorted array of glittery guitars and a psychedelic showdown of funky, chunky rock. The backup band, including drummer Joe Vitale from his post-James Gang band Barnstorm, played to Walsh’s thunder and stoneyed wit like storm troopers at the gates of the Henley/Frey stranglehold that they barreled through an infectious, driving slugfest of classic rock.
Combining the blues over some heavy metal thunder and a dose of the symphonic overtones that’s always been at the core of the man’s music, everything gelled into a cosmically delicious stew with the Montclair native at the helm.
On “Turn To Stone” from his 1975 album So What that was introduced on stage with a wink as “a song that was written while the band was in Colorado snowed in and making model airplanes,” Walsh played to the tune’s dynamics. Using the Beacon’s acoustics like an echo chamber, the thick raucousness of Walsh’s tone twinkled some orchestral overtones that went from a bombastic howl to a quiet ebb.
James Gang’s “The Bomber” was an epic blowout that was crunchy yet melodic. “Over And Over” from But Seriously Folks played to life on the road. On “Analog Man” from his last one, he sang on stage, “What’s wrong with vinyl, I think it sounds great, LPs, 45s, 78s but that’s just the way I am,” then let it go with another incredible lead.
Things got quiet on the Eagles’ “Pretty Maids All In A Row” that was co-written by drummer Vitale. Like a letter to an old friend, it took us back to a time when analog truly did rule, disco sucked and gatefold album cover sleeves had multiple uses. “Be good to each other and see you next time!” jumpstarted “Life’s Been Good To Me.” On it, Walsh rambled stage right then left as he offered up the song’s signature riffage.
“Rocky Mountain Way” was the first encore that had him trading guitars midsong, then mirroring the notes from the talk box on his axe. The Eagles’ “Life In The Fast Lane” was the closer that the band stampeded through as Walsh’s cascading runs up and down the fretboard broke more than a few speed limits.
Tim McGraw was a surpise opening act. Opening up with “Real Good Man,” his six-song warm-up was a teaser of his big arena show and worked well as the seven-unit band of acousified gents kept things down home and country.