During the 1970s, popular music was in a transition period. In one hand the Disco craze was booming, in the other was the dawning of Punk Rock and a new brand of Rock-n-Roll as a softer Southern influenced style was born. One of the band’s perhaps most recognized for their Southern Rock radio success was the Eagles who broke out to the scene with big hits like “Take It Easy,” “Witchy Woman,” and “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” Looking to broaden their sound and amp up the heavier Rock vibes, they enlisted a talented guitarist/songwriter by the name of Don Felder in early ’74 to assist them. Felder, ingrained in Rock for years prior, soon became a regular member of the Eagles thereafter and helped launch the band to even greater heights with the edge they were seeking. In fact, the marriage between Felder and the now-Rock and Roll Hall of Famers lasted twenty-seven years, four multi-platinum selling studio albums, two multi-platinum selling live albums, and a laundry list of hit singles. One of the greatest selling bands of all-time, Felder was and still is one of the most recognized co-writing musicians to ever be part of the Eagles by fans.
Sadly, by now most know of the unfortunate separation story between Felder and the Eagles following the release of his tell-all book in 2006, Heaven and Hell: My Life in The Eagles (1974–2001). The book has since become a best seller and opened the eyes and hearts of many music lovers to the prospective Felder, garnering the guitarist a new found respect he most certainly deserves. Now well over a decade since Felder has been an Eagle, he continues to be extremely active in a solo capacity, and in 2012 released the well-received record Road to Forever. A record filled with excellent songs, it further raised eyebrows to what Felder is as songwriter. Touring around the country, Felder spent the Summer of 2014 on a killer Classic Rock bill including Styx along with Foreigner, and after another busy 2015 Felder winds down the year with select headlining gigs. A November delight, Felder picked New York as one of his destinations, and on Friday the 6th came to The Space at Westbury. Marking his first return to Long Island since he hit the stage of Jones Beach Theater in June of 2014, fans of all ages came out to catch a full, in-depth set from Felder to jump-start their weekend.
As direct support for Felder, the Long Island native Mark Newman was ready to get the music flowing. A multi-talented musician, Newman has shared stages with the likes of Sting and Elvis Costello to name a few. His dedication over the years to his craft has made him a masterful stringsman as a performer of electric/acoustic/lap steel guitar, mandolin, and dobro. Looking to keep music and culture alive on Long Island Newman has taken part in a series of local performances by the name “Music From the Hive” and “The Original Music Series.” With just himself an acoustic guitar Newman casually approach the microphone to greet the audience. Performing a mix of his original tunes, Newman projected a Blues Rock sensation across the floor as he played songs off his record Walls of Jericho. Making the most of the time he was given, Newman engaged the audience with an inviting personality in between songs and wowed them with a strong voice that brought the music to life. Be sure to check out this soulful artist as he plays in and around villages on the island in the future.
Following an intermission which listeners had a chance to dig some Eric Clapton among other selections on the shuffled playlist over the speakers, the set change was rather seamless. In a groove and excited for more music, Felder’s arrival on stage came quickly thereafter along with an all-star band of musicians that included bassist/backing vocalist Shem von Schroeck (Kenny Loggins), guitarist Greg Suran (Goo Goo Dolls), drummer Steve DiStanislao AKA Stevie D (David Gilmour), and keyboardist Timothy Drury (Eagles, Whitesnake). Igniting the crowd into loud cheers, excitement was spread throughout the room as the set commenced with 1974 hit “Already Gone.” One of the first songs Felder had ever contributed as a member of the Eagles, it was a fitting opening to the evening which moved quickly into perhaps one of the best cuts from the band, 1975’s “One of These Nights.” With Felder standing centerstage under the spotlight the guitarist showed excitement as he lit up the guitar’s fret board and sang affectionately. Moving around and swinging his guitar, Felder’s face told a story as he played each note with passion.
Taking a quick breath to address the theater, Felder introduced the next song as a favorite as he darted into Stevie Ray Vaughan’s classic “Pride and Joy.” Showing the chops of a guitarist who knows exactly how to make music notes come to life, Felder had the audience in the palm of his hand and did not let go all night long. Without the constrains of being a supporting act, Felder took full advantage of the time and gave listeners a broader performance as he went into new songs “You Don’t Have Me” and “Wash Away” with another guitar string-bending Eagles favorite “Victim of Love” in between. Soft-spoken and relaxed, but enthusiastic to be performing, Felder showed a good sense of humor as he played on words referring to his former band from time to time. Malicious by no means, the tongue-in-cheek exchange added for a laugh making the mood loose as he played on with “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Tequila Sunrise.”
Giving the audience some insight into what type of preparation a band with multiple lead singers goes through before hitting the stage each night, Felder spoke about a song which he and the Eagles uses to warm-up with. A way to see who was and who was not on key that evening, the unforgiving high notes certainly are a challenge that would make any vocalist want to cry. Needless to say that song was in fact Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road.” Not ever recorded in a studio with the Eagles, the band did in fact release in 1980 as part of Eagles Live and now Felder was ready to take it on with his talented ensemble of musicians. Pitch perfect, the mix of voices filled the air and with inflection that sent shivers down everyone’s spines. It was a perfect way to keep the tunes coming as he followed with 1979’s The Long Run song “Those Shoes.” Another one co-penned by Felder, the heavy groove complimented by the talk box effect was a wonderful surprise for fans.
Keeping the energy of the evening high, Felder went next to his 2012 song “Girls in Black” with its memorable twangy guitar and his smooth vocal performance. Taking it back to 1981, Felder went into “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride),” a song he wrote and recorded for the trippy animated Heavy Metal film. Laced with some signature guitar work from Felder, the tune rocked hard as it was easy to see this crowd was itching to get out of their seat and dance. Tapping their toes and on the edge of doing so, a few attendees started to rise as the band went into more Eagles hits “Witchy Woman” and “The Long Run.” Having his finger on the pulse of The Space all night long, it was at this time Felder invited everyone to get up, let loose, and dance their troubles away. Impeccably timed, the crowd jolted to the aisles and front of the stage when Felder broke into the party-like “Heartache Tonight” and set closer “Life in the Fast Lane.”
Remaining on their feet and begging for more music, the band quickly returned to the platform gracious for the reception and proceeded to wow with “Take It Easy.” Provoking a feel-good sensation that blanketed the floor, Felder capitalized on the build up bringing out the double-neck guitar. Aware it was a moment most had been waiting for, Felder acknowledged so and as the first note struck a roar of cheers erupted for “Hotel California.” Performing the tune with just the right atmospheric textures it demands, Felder and the band were flawless and concluded the show with everyone smiling ear to ear. Bidding the room goodnight, many fans stuck around following the show as Felder came out to sign copies of his books and take photos as fans expressed their overwhelming praise of the performance.
Felder proves there is life after being in one of the best selling bands of all-time, and that life is damn good. While his abilities as a songwriter, guitarist, singer, and performer may have been in the shadows of his former compadres in the Eagles, Felder does not hold any bitterness. Humble and forthcoming, he has been perhaps the most accessible member of the Eagles throughout the years. To see him live is not just a chance to hear a jukebox full of Eagles hits, but a chance to see a truly excellent musician rock and roll on his own terms. With that said, be prepared to be impressed and look out for Don Felder when he hits a venue near by.