The Pearl Theater inside the Las Vegas Palms Casino Resort was the venue for an exhilarating night of classic rock supplied by famous singer/ songwriter/guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Don Felder. The night of October 20, 2012 got off to a rousing start when Felder and his touring band began playing the immediately recognizable opening notes of the Eagles classic “Hotel California.” Playing a Gibson white double-neck guitar and opening on the 12-string upper neck, Felder was off and soaring in flight on a two hour visitation of many of his former group’s greatest hits as well as his own solo chestnuts. The solo selections incorporated some soon-to-become classic numbers from his exceptional brand-new release which is titled Road to Forever.
The first of many quick changeovers of guitars preceded “Already Gone” and “One of These Nights,” a pair of Eagle’s smashes convincingly played and sung by Felder. The lead vocals on the original hits by the Eagles were originally handled by Don Henley and Randy Meisner, respectively. It was a little out of character hearing Felder belt them out; but that became more natural as the show progressed, as his evident passion and precise guitar play easily won the crowd over.
The impressive accompanying musicians were all seasoned touring and recording veterans. Each assisted on backing vocals, giving the tunes the famous lush harmonies the Eagles always enjoyed. Keyboardist Timothy Drury, a former member of Whitesnake and tour ally of the Eagles, Don Henley, and Stevie Nicks strongly supported this tight unit without fail. Standing out on rhythm/lead/slide guitar was Greg Suran who has toured with the Goo-Goo Dolls, Liz Phair, and was in town recently with Joe Walsh. The bassist and skillful vocalist, Shem Schroeck, was in the band Ambrosia and worked as Musical Director/Conductor for Kenny Loggins. Scott Devours, a former member of Roger Daltry’s tours, powerfully rocked his small drum kit with a vigorous and sustained energy.
Felder then paid tribute to one of his favorite guitarists, Stevie Ray Vaughan, with a stirring rendition of “Pride and Joy.” He stood near the edge of the stage and peeled off blistering crystal clear runs. He remains a potent rock and roll electric guitar master who plays with an ease that belies the complexities of his chosen trade.
The first of four of his new songs played during the evening sounded like vintage Eagles and was titled “Fall From the Grace of Love.” It would be a prime candidate for heavy radio play (featuring harmony vocals from David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Steven Stills) if radio hadn’t so dramatically changed in recent years. “Victim of Love,” another Eagles masterpiece co-authored by Felder followed and showcased the rock music edge that Don Felder helped cultivate into their sound after he replaced the more country oriented Bernie Leadon in the super-group’s lineup.
The four song acoustic portion began with “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Tequila Sunrise,” two charting singles from the first two Eagles albums. A beautiful new ballad titled “Over You” had a shimmering quality. Felder reported that it was his girlfriend’s favorite song on his new release, and it was simply gorgeous. “Seven Bridges Road” demonstrated the touring group’s rich harmonies and was a crowd favorite. Felder said the song was long used before Eagles concerts to help “warm-up” their voices.
Conceivably the high point of the night came when Don Felder and Greg Suran both utilized vocoders (synthesized speech boxes) on another Eagles composition “Those Shoes,” co-written by Felder. It was reminiscent to me of the Neil Young and Nils Lofgren vocoder dueling on “Computer Age” so long ago. “Girls In Black” and “Wash Away,” two rocking high-quality songs from Road to Forever then bracketed Felder’s Billboard charting single “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)” from the movie soundtrack for Heavy Metal back in 1981. The song also has made an appearance in a South Park episode (Major Boobage), perhaps endearing it to people too young to remember it the first time around.
Felder ended the show with a group of classic Eagles songs much to the delight of the appreciative crowd. “The Long Run” begun the string, and had much of the crowd on their feet. Don prefaced “Witchy Woman,” by stating “I believe Tiger Woods knows a lot of these.” His onstage banter was brief throughout, with the longest being his introduction of his fellow musicians. Still he showed plenty of humor and stage confidence with few words, preferring to let his music and pleasing vocals do much of his talking. “Heartache Tonight” and “Life In The Fast Lane” were two prime examples of why the Eagles were/are so well-loved. Both songs illustrated the exquisite melodies and awesome dynamics that allow them to touch you immediately and then remain in your head and soul forever.
The fitting encore was “Take It Easy,” the song Felder said “started it all.” All in all, Don Felder and his band provided a wonderful evening of music with a near perfect song selection, fantastic acoustics, magnificent musicianship, and sparkling heart-felt vocals. It was truly a thrilling night that I’ll never, ever forget. My appreciation goes out to this wonderful entertainer.
Randall Parrish is a Senior Editor at Vivascene, with extensive publishing credits at various jazz and blues sites. He is also an avid guitar player whose musical knowledge of jazz, blues and roots music is widely respected. Based in Nevada, he can be reached by email here: RandallParrish@vivascene.com