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Joe Walsh Rocks The Red Hat Amphitheater

By: Ike Riddick
Photography by Jerry Friend


As guitar techs and roadies made their final adjustments, early arriving patrons continued their quest for cold beverages and munchies before locating their perches for the evening. At 7:30 on the dot, JD & The Straight Shot gathered on the Red Hat stage and kicked off the show with "Empty" from their latest album entitled Ballyhoo! (2016). Not familiar with the band or their music, I spent the first two or three songs trying to figure out what type of music I was listening to and how the rest of the set might play out.

The band had the appearance of a bluegrass type ensemble complete with a violin, resonator guitar, an upright bass, acoustic guitar, male and female vocalists, and a snare drum. But the sound tended to lean more towards Americana or roots type music with a twist of New Orleans jazz/boogie thrown in for good measure. James "JD" Dolan, the New York City based band's ringleader and lead vocalist, is not only an accomplished musician but also the CEO of Cablevison Systems Corporation, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, and the owner of the NY Knicks basketball team. Quite the resume for sure.



Some of the highlights from JD & The Straight Shot's set included a cover of Spirit's "Nature's Way", "Perdition" from the movie Jane Got A Gun, "Better Find A Church", and "Balleyhoo". But for me, the band saved the best for last as they closed with a very cool version of Little Feat's "Let It Roll" - which included a snippet from "Wipe Out". With a touring cast of all-star musicians, JD & The Straight Shot delivered the goods while often providing the "illusion" they were the house band at a carnival freak show. But unlike the boy with the alligator tail or the mermaid lady, JD & The Straight Shot were quite authentic.

With a white Fender Stratocaster strapped across his chest, Joseph Fidler "Joe" Walsh took ownership of the Red Hat Amphitheater stage and ignited the crowd with the James Gang classic "Walk Away". Joining the James Gang in 1968, Walsh elevated the band to new heights with his edgy guitar playing, songwriting, and unique vocals as they became a rock trio to be reckoned with in the early 70s.



Taking a few minutes to interact with his legion of faithful fans gathered on 500 S. McDowell Street, the quirky Walsh proclaimed that "if I were President of the United States - this song would be the National Anthem". "Everyday People", a Sly & The Family Stone cover, followed as those in attendance became fully engaged in helping Walsh sing the lyrics which dealt with peace and equality for all races and social groups.

Joining Joe on the Walsh Toor are band members: Joe Vitale and Chad Cromwell on drums, Waddy Wachtel on guitar, Larry Young on bass, Jimmy Wallace on keyboards, DJ Clayton Janes, and singers Leslie Fuller, Lois Mahalia, Windy Wagner, and Rickey Washington. These musicians were the perfect compliment to Walsh and the chemistry on stage was undeniable as they knew the perfect spots to let the "Clown Prince of Rock" shine on his own.

Unplugging one of his Les Paul's in favor of a 12-string acoustic, Walsh dedicated the next song to his brother (not biological) and former Eagles bandmate Glenn Frey - who recently passed away. As old photos and videos of Frey played in the background, "Take It To The Limit" echoed throughout the amphitheater with certain tones of melancholy and sorrow. Walsh joined the Eagles in 1975 and made his presence felt immediately with his high energy guitar solos on the album Hotel California. He remained with the band until their breakup in 1980 and later rejoined them for their reunion in 1994. Walsh was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of the Eagles.



"Turn To Stone", re-released on his solo album So What in 1974, kicked the show into another gear as recent Presidential candidates from the GOP and Democratic parties were show on the big screen in conjunction with images of war. Satirically, Walsh indicated that he may indeed run for the office of President in 2020 due to the mess our country will be in by then and folks will have no choice but to vote for him. As you can imagine, this created a huge roar of approval from the fired up fans at the Red Hat. Keeping the momentum going, another solo offering followed with "In The City" from the movie The Warriors (1979).

With an enormous grin, Walsh then grabbed the mic and declared it was PARTY TIME and everyone should have a bitchin' time. "Funk #49" brought the house down as widespread dancing and singing engulfed the amphitheater amid black clad guys and girls on stage shooting tee shirts into the sea of Joe Walsh refugees. Admittedly, this was a first for me as various types of antics were going on during one of my favorite James Gang songs of all time. Still, it was pure unadulterated rock and roll with no prisoners being taken.

Introducing the next song as a song that started out as a love song and somehow got mutated along the way, "Life's Been Good" is perhaps one of the most recognized songs of Walsh's solo career and truly depicted his disposition as a rock and roll star back in the day. The next song needed no introduction as the unmistakable opening guitar riff gave way to "He was a hard-headed man he was brutally handsome". Yes, the Eagles "Life In The Fast Lane" closed the show and left patrons clamoring for more Joe Walsh.

Having just left the James Gang in 1972, Walsh moved to Colorado and formed a band named Barnstorm in 1973. This union gave birth to "Rocky Mountain Way", which concluded an amazing show at the Red Hat Amphitheater on a very hot and humid Tuesday evening in Raleigh.




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