Joe Walsh rocks Ribfest with humor, virtuosity
By Andrew Herrmann firstname.lastname@example.org June 30, 2012 10:06PM
Joe Walsh (center) plays with his band at Ribfest on Saturday, June 30, 2012. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
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The sober life’s been good to Joe Walsh.
The guy who called his 1973 breakout album “The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get” has reportedly been off various sauces and substances for nearly 20 years now — “I ran out of options,” he told one scribe.
Though life in the fast lane has wracked up some rough mileage on the odometer, Walsh was a lean, mean — and, evidently, clean — guitar machine on the Ribfest stage in Naperville Saturday night.
Not that the Walsh’s rip wasn’t a party. A packed house, many fans raising their glasses of beer in tribute, roared with every hit. Walsh has always had a bit of comic relief to him — his self-deprecating “howya doin?” humor has been a balance to his more serious fellow Eagles Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Walsh’s goofiness proved a good fit for the mixed age mob on a midsummer night (he apologized to the younger fans in the audience for their parents playing his records to them as children but “that probably explains why you’re the way you are.”)
Walsh is out with his first solo album in 20 years — “Analog Man.” But it was his catalogue — still sung in his trademarked sloppiness — that proved to be, no surprise, the crowd pleasers.
Walsh opened with “Welcome to the Club” and “Life of Illusion” before arriving at “Rocky Mountain Way” — a defining song for Walsh for better or worse. If he is sick of it, he didn’t let the fans know , playing it with a ferocity and ending it with a triumphant fist pump. Likewise his classic “Turn to Stone” was a heartfelt and hard-fought piece of guitar virtuosity. It was not the effort of a guy mailing it in.
Helping out Walsh were three backup singers, contributing mightily on a tribute to the late Levon Helms — the drummer for the Band who died in April — on Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.” A trio of percussionists were further evidence that Walsh was out to promise and deliver, adding new flavors to “Life in the Fast Lane” and “All Night Long.”
As a 31-year-old rock star in 1978, Walsh, in his “Life’s Been Good” defined success (albeit tongue in cheek): living in a mansion, ripping holes in hotel walls, driving his Maseratti a license-losing 185 and being chauffered around Hollywood in a limo. Today, at age 64, he redefines it in his new “Lucky That Way,” which he has said can be seen as a sequel to his biggest selling hit.
“Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still standing,” Walsh sang Saturday night. “And it feels pretty good to me.”