The summer season is always prime time for many bands to tour. With that said, some of Rock-n-Roll’s most important contributors, Joe Walsh and Bad Company, announced their co-headlining One Hell Of A Night Tour to take place over the course of May and June. A 25-date run celebrating the extensive history of both Walsh and Bad Company, many would say the billing was a long time coming. In fact, Mr. Paul Rodgers himself said, “I had always hoped that we would do something together and so here we are 30 years later finally touring together. It has taken us this long so I wouldn’t miss this. Unless you want to wait 30 more years for our next tour in 2046!!! There is only one Joe Walsh, he is such a unique person and an uber talented singer, songwriter and musician.” Merely adding to the excitement of Rock-n-Roll enthusiasts, this is indeed one of the most exciting bills of the season and it showed when the tour buses rolled into the bay side Nikon Theater at Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York Tuesday June 14th.
A penultimate night of Classic Rock, the weather was just right, the water was calm, and the audience was ready to roll with Joe Walsh up first. Making his debut over fifty years ago in 1965 with his Ohio-based garage band The Measles, Walsh would go on to form The James Gang. The James Gang (with Walsh) would release three studio albums between 1969 and 1971, releasing several songs that became part of the fabric of Rock-n-Roll history. Departing from The James Gang, Walsh would release over a dozen solo albums, and also became a member of The Eagles, making his first appearance on their mega-selling 1976 album Hotel California. In the forty years since, Walsh has become a Rock icon as he continues to release new music, tour, and partake in charitable causes. No stranger to Long Island, Walsh would soon see how much the area loves him.
Opening the set was The James Gang classic “Walk Away.” Normally a fast-paced rocker, they slowed it down for a groovy take on the tune. Following with “Mother Says” from Walsh’s solo debut, 1972’s Barnstorm, a stop-start riff matched the start-stop vocals, making for an intricate number, highlighted by an extended, piano-heavy break in the middle. Next up was the Proto-Metal dirge “The Bomber: Closet Queen/Bolero/Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” which opened with crunching riff and an avalanche of cymbal crashes. Complemented by a wild array of guitar solos meandered in and out of the nearly ten minute track, Walsh showed that in addition to penning killer riffs, he can solo as well as anyone. Dedicating the next track to the recently deceased Glenn Frey, Walsh delivered a delicate version of The Eagles’ “Take It to the Limit,” and making it an even more bold moment, the sold out crowd helped bellow out the chorus.
Moving right along, another classic Walsh solo track, “Turn to Stone,” allowed him to stretch out on guitar. Thick riffs throughout, coupled with manic lyrics and frenetic solos, made for a wild ride. Going into “In the City,” the song that closed out the 1979 classic film The Warriors, in typical Walsh fashion, he introduced the song by saying he attended PS 189 for middle school, and it was, “The best 7 years of my life.” Inviting some laughter, the screen behind the stage played clips from The Warriors along with random clips of folks moving throughout New York City.
Capitalizing on the energy flowing in the air, Walsh would then offer well-known The James Gang song “Funk 49.” Perhaps the wildest track of the night, the riff erupted from the stage, leading the crowd to break out into a dance party. Suddenly, right before the guitar solo, the music broke down into a five minute Electronica/Disco/Dance frenzy as the band and the background singers all took turns coming to the front of the stage to cut a rug. After the funk-fest, the song came back around to its original form and Walsh delivered a blistering solo before closing it out.
Keeping the mood light and relaxed, Walsh’s most known song, “Life’s Been Good,” allowed him to have some fun with the crowd again as he introduced it by saying, “I hate this fucking song, I’m so sick of playing it… Hope you like it.” Having everyone laughing, the famous, twangy riff kicked off the track and the crowd drowned out Walsh from beginning to end, singing the witty sarcastic lyrics about the life of an irreverent, cocky Rock star. Then, seeming to be too soon, the Walsh-penned Eagles smash “Life in the Fast Lane” closed the set. A perfect Pop-Rock number with edge, Walsh tore through it with reckless abandon to the crowd’s delight.
After a brief exit, Walsh returned for a one song encore of the Blues-soaked piece called “Rocky Mountain Way.” A classic Blues riff led the charge as Walsh darted in and out over the melody with Blues-based solos, one after the other. It was the perfect ending to Walsh’s set as he took a style of music and melded it with his own unique sound, creating a distinct blend. This ability is what has kept Walsh relevant for over fifty years, and will for many more.
Next up was the one and only Bad Company. Inked in 1974 to Led Zeppelin’s fledgling Swan Song record label, Bad Company was a supergroup featuring members of Mott The Hoople (Mick Ralphs), King Crimson (Boz Burrell), and Free (Simon Kirke and Paul Rodgers). Now celebrating over forty years of Rock-n-Roll, Ralphs (guitar), Kirke (drums), and Rodgers (vocals) keep the band’s legacy strong along with Howard Leese (guitar) and Todd Ronning (bass). While the band has not released a studio record since 1996’s Stories Told & Untold, they have released live material, remastered albums, and unreleased goodies from their vault in recent years. Consistently touring through the new millennium featuring a sound dabbling in Rock, Pop, and a touch of the Blues, Bad Company, like the grizzled veterans they are, were ready to deliver the goods on this hot June night.
Kicking off their set with “Live for the Music,” the introduction let the crowd know exactly what the band is all about. A rousing anthem, it kept the momentum of the night moving right along as Classic Rock staple “Feel Like Makin’ Love” was next. With gentle acoustic strumming moving the verses along, a punchy riff on electric guitar laid the ground work for the Pop, sugary chorus. The track embodied ’70s AOR radio, and the crowd went absolutely crazy, screaming along with the chorus. Then came the laid back groove for “Burnin’ Sky,” which had everyone swaying along to the slinky, Jazz-inflected sounds as the band showed its versatility.
Pumping out razor sharp Rock tunes, originally recorded by Ralphs’ Mott The Hoople, “Ready for Love” allowed Bad Company to take a little bit of a break. A prototype for the ubiquitous power ballads of the ’80s, the heartfelt, mellow groove was a perfect follow-up to “Burnin’ Sky” as the band cruised along with expert mid-tempo Rock-n-Roll. This proved to be a perfect segue for acoustic based “Seagull,” which kept the night floating along with intricate strumming and a Pop-perfect melody coupled with a classic tale of lost love, rife with clever metaphors. Despite the melancholy subject matter, the music resonated in an uplifting manner as the band sounded extremely tight with The Black Crowes’ Rich Robinson filling in for Ralph on guitar.
The hard-driving number “Run With the Pack” brought back the concise, crisp Rock-n-Roll with an undeniable sing-along chorus that brought the crowd right back on their feet following the mellow three song stretch. Thereafter, “Movin’ On” kept the show chugging along as Bad Company now had an all-out dance party on their hands. Paying homage to their roots, Bad Company continued to dazzle by playing an absolutely perfect version of the T-Bone Walker classic “Call it Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad.” Rodgers’ scratchy, soulful delivery was top notch as Robinson showed he was also a student of the Blues; a straight-A student. In a deft manner, the band managed to combine roughhouse, dirty Blues with delicate playing throughout.
Equally as popular on Rock radio was “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” and also from the same album, 1975’s Shooting Star, the title track would be the last cut before the set closer. A sordid tale of the rise and fall of a Rock star, much like “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” the verses were ferried along with intricate acoustic guitars, while the chorus was backed with soaring electric guitar work. The tale of Johnny the Rock star takes the protagonist on a harrowing journey of fame, fortune, and eventually, death. This led to set closer “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” which was a plodding number with a thick riff, sprinkled with some groovy funk sounds.
Triumphantly exiting the stage, the crowd screamed for more, and after a brief respite, Bad Company returned for two more songs. First up was “Bad Company,” the title track from the band’s debut album, 1974’s Bad Company. A sinister piano riff led the way as brooding lyrics told of a band of outlaws, made for a menacing number drenched in dread. Rodgers spanned his entire vocal range as he went back and forth and to all points in between, ranging between an almost monotone delivery to sky-high, blistering wailing. Concluding with “Can’t Get Enough,” also from the band’s debut, it showcased the band’s knack for crafting flawless Rock-n-Roll. A perfect ’70s Rock riff laid the foundation for a classic tale of love, passion, and sex. As Bad Company embodies ’70s Rock-n-Roll, there is no better track in their catalog that represents what made them a stalwart of that scene.
Billed as One Hell of a Night, Joe Walsh and Bad Company go well beyond living up to the tour’s name. The double billing of Joe Walsh and Bad Company made for a night drenched with classic Rock radio staples and so much more. Those who want to relive those hot summer nights with the Classic Rock blaring, delivered by musicians who, after fifty years on the road, are still at the top of their game, do not miss out on this once in a lifetime experience.Photo credit: Mark Schoen Photography