“Give this guy five minutes and he can play anything. He makes me sick!” ribbed Walsh about Jason Freeze, a member of his touring band during the mid-set band introductions during their final show of their 2015 TOOR (Yes, that’s how it’s spelled). And at 67, the legendary singer and guitarist, who is best known for his tenure in the James Gang and of course with the Eagles – needed no introduction himself during his stop in Boston. Walsh and his exceptional band, dug deep into Joe’s catalog – revisiting gems from 1970’s James Gang Rides Again and up through 2012’s Analog Man. Of course, a couple of Eagles nuggets were thrown in for good measure.
Walsh’s set lists did not vary much at all on this tour, however – the audience in Boston was thrown for a bit of a loop when Walsh walked humbly out on stage without his guitar and instead with his hands behind his back. Walsh did manage a slight grin before addressing the audience about a matter close to his heart. He spoke about the tragic and horrendous events that took place in Boston on April 15, 2013 during the Boston Marathon.
He somberly recounted reading a letter from a victim of the bombing who reached out to Joe to let him know that his music helped get her and her family through this particularly difficult time. He then asked for this particular fan, turned friend – to come out on stage and greet the already teary-eyed audience at the Orpheum. With applause, hugs, handshakes and smiles – the attendees and those on stage were united for a few minutes before the show officially got started.
Joe slung a shiny, cream-colored Stratocaster over his shoulders and with a quick change of pace – dug into “Walk Away” for a crowd that was already on their feet and most likely wiping a tear or two away. With a brilliant and ever evolving video screen illuminating the rear of the stage, Walsh and his band played all the hits one would expect a few deep cuts for the die-hards. Changing things up quickly from the solid James Gang rocker, Joe switched to an acoustic guitar for “A Life of Illusion” which wooed his fans. The ever-funny storyteller that Joe is known to be, flashed back to a day when he did a photoshoot for But Seriously, Folks… in 1978. His response to how they made it look like he was underwater? A sarcastic “Get out!” as he and the band launched into “Over and Over”.
The comical stories continued, as did the hits. Walsh’s ode, to his distaste for today’s digitally dominated world – was heard loud and clear during “Analog Man”. And without much of a work up, the audience reveled in the transcendent “In the City” which gave Joe one of his first of many opportunities to break out a monster solo. The video montage behind him added to the gravity of the song with images of the not so pretty aspects of living in the boroughs. Walsh’s outro solo was quite a spectacle to be seen and of course, heard.
For the first time, and what would be the last – the audience rested their bones in the intimate theater’s seating for the subdued Eagles track, “Pretty Maids All in a Row”. Again, the use of the mammoth video screen augmented the song with an assortment of burning candles flickering throughout the performance. The real highlight of the “Maids” was Freeze’s compelling sax solo. Walsh introduced the band, spending the majority of his focus on Freeze. Even though he was clearly in awe over his musical talents, he jokingly added that Freeze’s dad plays tuba – at Disney in their marching band. He asked, “How cool is that?” and quipped, “My dad sold insurance!”
Walsh indulged while taking time to introduce his band, adding more comical jabs. On bass, stood the stoic Larry Young, whom Walsh teased with, “You are the father!” When introducing his drummers, yes both of them – he explained he wanted one for those of you who are right-handed and one for those of you who are left-handed. Former James Gang member, Joe Vitale and Drew Hester played well together, in sync most of the time but if one watched closely – they also orchestrated their individual parts seamlessly. Guitarist Gannin Arnold added a second guitar to the ensemble that impressed but never crossed the lines of showing up the man whose name was on the marquee. A special nod was given to keyboardist and technician, Clayton James. Walsh told the audience that he was a tech on the Eagles’ tour and was offered the gig to tour with Walsh this year. James replied, “I’m a tech, not a musician.” to which garnered a retort “What’s the difference?” from Walsh. The audience ate it up. Like a stand-up comedian, Walsh’s anecdotes were always tasteful and well timed. The band was also complemented by three lovely female back-up singers, who at times – helped support spiritually moving five-part harmonies.
And then, it was time to rock again with a well-structured batch of deep cuts, “Turn to Stone”, “Bomber” medley, and “Funk #49” for which the latter drew Walsh to inform the audience, “You younger ones in the audience, your parents probably drove you nuts with this one. But, your parents also looooved it.” Well, whatever the case – everyone in the theater loved it as well. Walsh and Co. then treated the audience to another unexpected twist during “Funk”, where they broke into a disco-influenced instrumental groove while a werewolf-masked man and a monkey-masked woman paired to shoot T-shirts into the audience – cementing the party atmosphere before wrapping up the set with the fan-favorite “Life’s Been Good”.
Walsh initiated a jovial call and response routine that would be incorporated during “Life”. On top of listening to the festive hit, the audience was served up a trip down Walsh’s memory lane with a video montage of his career in pictures. Images of Walsh with the likes of Tom Petty, Jeff Lynn, Nile Rogers, Keith Moon, Steven Tyler, Springsteen, Ringo and Sir Paul swept across the video screen.
The crowd was wired and didn’t think twice about staying in their seats, even though they were given a very convincing wave good-bye from the band. After a traditional five-minute wait, the band returned to the stage. Walsh stepped up to his mic and proclaimed, “They gave me two more, okay?” before slaying his fans with a smokin’ hot rendition of “Rocky Mountain Way”. Walsh continued to impress with his fretwork on his sparkly-green axe and iconic talk box solo. Keyboardist/Technician Clayton James added 60’s Sci-Fi fills and thrills throughout. This was definitely one of the songs that his audience was waiting for. Walsh added a seemingly impromptu bluesy ending before addressing the audience one last time, pleading for them to take care of each other and follow the rules before steering his band into the Eagles classic, “Life in the Fast Lane. Seriously, what more could one want?