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Pop Music Review : Guitarist Joe Walsh Is Still Rocking Hard

September 25, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

Forget Spuds McKenzie. Guitar hero Joe Walsh is the original party animal, at least as far as today's '70s-rooted hard-rockers are concerned. And if the Universal Amphitheatre was less than full for his show Wednesday, the beer lines were still heartily manned by the faithful who turned out to hear raucous hits from James Gang, Eagles and solo days.

As David Letterman might put it, "Let's face it, the guy is a goofball." Walsh is still quite a character in a largely character-less genre, and his sense of humor and intelligence are sorely needed.

At the Universal show, as on recent albums like "Got Any Gum?" (a title unfortunately indicative of the content level therein), the humor was more on display than the intelligence. Occasionally, he trotted out a mock-meaningful number like "The Confessor," but the evening's most spirited jamming was reserved for amusing trifles like "Life's Been Good" and "All Night Long," and the slurred political patter was less than cogent (give him a Lear jet and he'll take care of the terrorists, he tells us, in-between repeated queries of his trademark "How ya doin'?").

His fuzzbuster guitar solos were never less than dead-on, though, especially his inimitable slide work, and he heads a power trio (augmented frequently a keyboard player) as effectively now as when leading the James Gang.

Variety of emotion seems to be of minor importance to him now, though; he seems to think, rightly or wrongly, that the kids are more interested in seeing him knock his amplifiers over at set's end (and imagining him trash his hotel room later) than some of the delicacies he constructed more frequently in earlier days. He would seem to be holding himself back from serious work, but then, you don't see Spuds taking on any dramatic roles these days, either.

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