Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Joe Walsh is back at the House of Blues this week, making up for some postponed September dates and happy to be back on the Vegas stage after a powerful run at the Mandalay Bay mainstay in January. But the Strip should probably get used to seeing the legendary guitarist — he hinted that the newest incarnation of the Eagles, playing without the great Glenn Frey who passed away last year, is planning a big tour that should make at least one Vegas stop. Here’s the rest of my conversation with Walsh:
You’re doing three shows this week and last time you did six. What do you like to do when you get extra time in Las Vegas? Usually if there’s a show that we haven’t seen we’ll try and go. Of course, my wife goes immediately to the mall. I have to have a night off or two because I have to rest, but I definitely want to catch a show. It’s just hard to decide which one to go to. I love Las Vegas, but I never get a chance to play a club like the House of Blues. I guess we’ve graduated to a bigger scale than that. When the Eagles come in and play, that’s on a grand scale. But [House of Blues] reminds me of the old days. I love being in a small club where everybody has a good seat and we don’t look like ants. And you can feel the audience, which makes it kind of magical and I miss that. I guess I have the best of both worlds.
You recently played your first benefit concert for VetsAid, your new charity that benefits smaller organizations across the country. You’ve been involved with this cause for years. Why was the time right to start VetsAid this year? My father died in 1949 while serving in the Army Air Corps. I was actually a Gold Star kid but in ’49 they didn’t [call it] that. I always felt kind of alone. I always wondered what he was like and what he would have thought of me. So the idea of Gold Star families really resonates with me, I’ve been there, and there are more and more of them these days … We are at war and it’s ongoing and there’s no end in sight. More and more guys are coming back from it and the transition back to civilian life is almost too big a mountain to climb. I’ve been able to meet a lot of vets at different functions and events and it just hit me that I should step it up a notch, and I have a lot of peers who feel the same way. And I’ve learned that between the coasts, there are a lot of smaller organizations that don’t have any budget, just doing the best they can, some are run by vets, and they are saving lives. What I want to do is help keep them going, and also raise public awareness about what these guys coming home are up against.
The classic Eagles album “Hotel California” is coming out as a 40th anniversary deluxe edition this month, just in time for the holidays. How has the way you think about the album changed over the years? I think when it was done, after we spent just under a year working on it, we had lost our perspective on it but knew it was pretty darn good. We had no idea it was going to affect that many people. It was unheard of. We were amazed. It really turned into a big deal. I’m so proud to have been part of creating that album because a lot of musicians never get to experience that. “Grateful” is a better word. But when we were doing the Eagles documentary, we went into the vault where we tried to keep everything and found a whole concert we recorded we didn’t even know we had. So that’s part of the big box. It’s great to watch. I can’t believe how young we are — I don’t even remember being that young. But we played our asses off. I think that’s the part of the repackaging that makes it juicy.
You also played some Eagles shows recently with Vince Gill and Deacon Frey, Glenn’s son. Are you planning more? Yes we are. You know, we had to try. We didn’t know if we could do it, so we had to try. Glenn’s son said okay and stepped up, he’s 23 and he’s great. He doesn’t know he’s great but he’s great, and that really helped us spiritually. Then we got Vince Gill and he filled in that ghost voice in the harmonies, and he’s a brilliant musician. So we rehearsed and I was really nervous about, but we played a couple shows and got great reviews and it just felt right onstage. It felt great. So we took a deep breath and recommitted and yes, next year we’re going to play between 40 and 50 shows. It sure feels good to play our music for people again, and they know the words better than we do.
Joe Walsh performs at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay at 8:30 p.m. November 16, 18 and 19. For more information, visit houseofblues.com.