Joe Walsh, the Eddie Shack of rock ‘n’ roll, helps the Eagles soar in Vancouver



By Steve Newton

I have to admit, I was feeling a tad cynical as I took my seat for the Eagles concert on Monday (March 27). Like most everybody else who grew up loving rock music in the ’70s, I had a soft spot in my heart for the California band, but with tickets costing up to $100, I felt it was cashing in on that devotion too diligently.

For that price, the show should have included dinner and drinks, but I didn’t see any waiters. That the concert didn’t get rolling until 40 minutes after its scheduled start-time didn’t reconcile me to the group’s way of doing business. (I found out later, through promoter MCA Concerts, that the sluggish start was due to the band waiting for the mass of late concertgoers lined up outside the Coliseum to get in.)

As expected, the familiar 12-string intro to “Hotel California” was the first thing the sold-out crowd of 14,000 got to hear, a bearded Don Felder doing the honours on that much revered (and equally maligned) monument to ’70s guitar-rock. I’ve probably heard that tune as often as most people—somewhere around 167,384 times—but I still don’t mind experiencing the bluesy twists and bends of Felder and Joe Walsh’s duelling guitars. They followed that with another guitar showcase, “Victim of Love”, wherein Walsh stole the spotlight with some slippery slide work. He’d continue to slip the bottleneck on throughout the night, to fine effect.

Glenn Frey dedicated the show’s third selection, “New Kid in Town”, to “anyone who’s had a martini at Delilah’s”, referring to the popular West End eatery he frequented during a previous three-month stay here. That pretty little ditty benefited from the gorgeous backup vocals of bassist Timothy B. Schmidt, who is far and away the best singer in the band.

Schmidt’s vocal prominence became easily apparent when he took the lead on “I Can’t Tell You Why”, my personal fave Eagles ballad. It was during that tune that the exacting talents of the band’s live videographers––whose work was simultaneously broadcast on two immense screens—became most evident. After a year on the road the camera crew has gotten its job down pat, and the big-screen image is so sharp and well-edited it’s like watching an MTV special at home. Unfortunately, when the band trudged through its old hits with minimal passion, that static living-room vibe left me seriously unmoved.

The band’s emotional spark was not extinguished, though; it was just simmering in the weathered frame of Joe Walsh, whose powerful presence helped rally the band and save the show in the second half. The turning point came when Walsh tossed out some nasty blues and then segued into that chunky old James Gang hit, “Funk 49”. People stood up and danced around, the band picked up on the energy, and the event actually took on some semblance of a rock show.

Things continued in a lively vein when stodgy old Don Henley came down off his high horse to lead the band in his heaviest solo hit, “Dirty Laundry”. Frey grabbed a Les Paul and a slide of his own to riff out on “Smuggler’s Blues”, and then goofy guy Walsh—the Eddie Shack of rock ’n’ roll—wowed all with a killer version of his 1978 solo hit, “Life’s Been Good to Me”. By the time the second set closed with the snarly licks of “Life in the Fast Lane”, the Eagles had landed in good stead. But they weren’t done yet.

The band made the mistake of returning to the stage with “Get Over It”, Henley’s flaccid attempt at 12-bar boogie, but soon Walsh was in charge again, using “Amazing Grace” to wheedle his way into that rugged ’73 warhorse, “Rocky Mountain Way”. Sure, even my cat can play that straightforward tune, but it’s still cool in its glorious simplicity. Three of the Eagles’ biggest hits—“Already Gone”, “Desperado”, and “Take It Easy”—capped off the night, but it was Walsh’s power chords that were rumbling through my head on the way out the door.


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