– Words by Taylor Slovak / Photos by Brian K. Ullrich –
Gexa Energy Pavilion / Dallas, TX (Friday, May 13th, 2016)
An orange glow from the Texas sunset fell over the stage as the crowd settled in for the kick-off of the aptly named co-headlining tour, “One Hell of a Night”. Excited concert-goers sported worn-in throwback concert tees, and for the next few hours would relish in rock n’ roll.
Thursday night marked Joe Walsh’s first show since the January 18th passing of Eagles bandmate Glenn Frey; all were anxious to see how he would fare. The Hall of Famer brought the downbeat with a hard-hitting rendition of “I Can Rock and Roll”, and swapped a new guitar for nearly every song. The band still seemed to be breaking each other in, despite this being their 2nd tour together aside from a few new members. This year, Joe upped the ante by pairing up Barnstorm’s Joe Vitale and legendary Chad Cromwell on side-by-side drums.
Also new to the stage, Clayton James joined Jimmy Wallace on keys. Walsh candidly introduced Clayton as a long time Eagles tech crew who “likes to make weird noises”. The “Analog Man” must be coming to terms with digital, as Clayton successfully served up an unexpected digital break in “Funk #49”.
The band found their groove during the Glenn Frey tribute, “Take It to the Limit”. Joe prefaced the song with an emotional acknowledgement of his very personal loss:
“I’m still not okay with Glenn. I lost my brother… I thought we’d grow old together. This is for you, Glenn.”
The band took the crowd to church with powerful Sunday-sermon-worthy backing vocals. Rick Washington’s soulful voice took center stage as images of Glenn and Joe flashed on the screen. Witnessing fans realized they were a part of something really special as they sang and grieved alongside Joe, with an exhale of sadness and celebration all at once.
The building set list spanned Joe’s solo career, his James Gang days and The Eagles. As the show played on, the “Clown Prince” loosened up, tossing in comedic banter between songs. The audience sang along to Walsh’s memoir of his own heyday, “Life’s Been Good”. Visuals of Joe’s life and music career revealed a man who has worked hard and played harder. Waddy, Larry and the crew solidly drove the set home with encores, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Rocky Mountain Way”.
Bad Company opened their set full-throttle with blues-bursting riffs and tight pockets in “Man Needs Woman”. Amped to be back on the road, Paul Rodger’s voice was as powerful as ever. The band brought everything they had, including newest member Rich Robinson (of Black Crowes fame) on guitar for his first BC tour. Long time Bad Co. guitarist Howard Leese consistently delivered impressive solos, even dropping a little “Barracuda” riff from his Heart days during “Gone, Gone, Gone”. You may have missed it if you weren’t paying attention, although the guy was hard to miss as he changed jackets to match guitars throughout the night.
Their set was full of surprises. Leese played the mandolin to great effect during the band’s debut live performance of Desolation Angels’ B-side, “Crazy Circles”. Drummer Simon Kirke joined Rodgers front and center to play an acoustic on a fully unplugged version of “Seagulls”. Though it wasn’t the most impressive performance of the drummer’s career, it definitely was fun to watch him finger through the solo, pick-less.
Fans soaked up Paul’s energy as he strutted across the stage, spinning his mic stand once again. Despite some recurring sound issues, the crowd didn’t seem to mind; they sang along throughout the set note-for-note. “Shooting Star” turned into an audience-led jam session, and they completely carried the chorus for Paul during “Can’t Get Enough”.
The final encore of the night ended with the self-titled single “Bad Company”, and “Rock Steady”. Bad Company was dialed-in, polished, powerful, and spot on. Paul Rodgers’ prime apparently never ends. The band delivered, yet again, another solid performance.
Joe Walsh may be wrestling with his own mortality, as one often does during times of loss. He may be singing a slower tempo and a tad rough around the edges, but let’s not forget- he’s Joe fucking Walsh. Having worked out the first-show kinks, Joe’s set is sure to improve as they break-in the tour. You may even see some unexpected Eagles covers pop in the set list, as he continues to play through memories of his beloved bandmate.
Thursday’s show certainly lived up to its title and proved to be one hell of a night. Both bands handed the crowd an extremely memorable experience, and proved 70’s rock is still king. This tour is not one to miss.