When you attend a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s concert, you go into it undoubtedly knowing you’ll see a great show, but Joe Walsh brought a truly legendary musical experience to San Antonio’s Majestic Theater.
Playing to a full house, Walsh opened the set with his 1976 single, “Meadows,” standing alongside his nine bandmates in front of the large video screen which displayed poignant imagery accompanying each tune. The set list spanned over 40+ years of Walsh’s musical career – covering mostly his solo work but also included a few Eagles hits. The crowd demographic proved the timelessness of his work as it ranged from the generation that grew up alongside his music to later ones who still revere both his and the Eagles’ timeless hits. Walsh played up to this fact opening up to 2012’s “Analog Man” dedicating it to the millennials “who weren’t even born when most of these songs were written” but confident in the fact that their parents loved him. He often broke up the set with playful quips, almost in a sense of comedic relief, to bring the audience back down from the high brought on by his golden guitar genius.
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The band brought back the funk reminiscent of Walsh’s time in the James Gang with their cover of the Detroit Spinners’ “Rubberband Man.” Backup singer, Rickey Washington, took the lead vocals and groove as Walsh turned out the licks. He continued showcasing his signature skill with longer instrumental pieces in the next couple of songs, then moving the crowd with an emotional dedication to his late bandmate and Eagles founder, Glenn Frey. “Take it to the Limit” was slowed down a bit into a touching, choral-like harmony that the crowd joined in remembrance. Video played in the background of a man base jumping and soaring over picturesque terrain, cutting in with pictures of Frey throughout the years. The peaceful imagery brought about a cathartic goodbye to another rock & roll soul who left us. No doubt an emotional standing ovation followed.
The band continued the heavy moment going into “Turn to Stone.” This 1972 song seems to have traversed the decades with its weighty message, and each band member showcased an equally powerful solo as historical clips of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington played behind them. Walsh wove a lot of poignant messages and causes he promotes in with the imagery accompanying his music, yet broke it up with some humble interludes as well – many of them evocative of his fun-loving nature.
That side of him showed up in “Lucky That Way” as he laughed off the fact that he forgot the lyrics twice during it. There is such a personable vibe about Joe Walsh that you don’t often see with a musician of his status – he comes off as an ‘ordinary average guy’ yet possesses this super power of guitar mastery that he just unleashes without any appearance of effort.
He introduced the James Gang hit “Funk 49” with playful jibe stating had he known he would have to play this song the rest of his life, he would have written something else, but the energy of his performance and smile on his face at the end showed he truly enjoyed it and loves what he does. He held this energy through the end of the show, pumping up the crowd participation in his biggest solo hit, “Life’s Been Good,” proving even 40 years later he could hit those high notes.
He undoubtedly can still dominate the guitar – or better put, guitars, as he changed out to a new one with each song. Walsh closed out the show with his signature riff that ultimately birthed the 1976 Eagles’ hit, “Life in the Fast Lane.” It’s truly amazing to hear in person many of the classic rock melodies that he was responsible for creating. Every note played so effortlessly, flowing seamless out of his hands in the way that only a being of destiny could be capable of.
The encore capped off his night’s body of work with the crowd erupting at the first notes of “Rocky Mountain Way.” Walsh showcased his other legendary flair to rock & roll history with an exceptional jam session on the talk box.
The stage presence of Joe Walsh shows that he embraces that life has truly been good for him and a thankfulness and wisdom that only comes with age shines through in his performance. With the final strum of his guitar he struck the quintessential rock star pose, his hand rounded out into the air, came down and touched his heart twice then raised them in prayer to the sky before leaving the stage. He came, he rocked, and he did NOT disappoint.
SETLIST: 1. Meadows
2. Life of Illusion
3. Analog Man
4. Ordinary Average Guy
5. Rubberband Man
6. Mother Says
8. Take It to the Limit
9. Turn to Stone
10. Lucky That Way
11. Funk #49
12. In The City
13. Life’s Been Good
14. Life in the Fast Lane
Rocky Mountain Way