Cameron did a rare concert review for Rolling Stone in the summer of 1973. It’s brand new to The Uncool. Enjoy!
Joe Walsh and Barnstorm
July 7th, 1973
Several hours before showtime, Joe Walsh sat in nervous anticipation on the edge of his motel room bed. “I am so excited about tonight,” he blurted. “I just want to go out there and . . . kill ’em.”
When Joe Walsh bowed out as the guitarist-vocalist and focal point of the James Gang last year, the impression given by his fellow band members was that Joe was off to Colorado to become thoroughly immersed in the “get-my-head=together-and-make-my-solo-album” syndrome.
Truth was that Walsh knew exactly where his head was, and it wasn’t with the James Gang. Tired of the trio’s shoddy compromises that he was forced to comply with. Joe left to record Barnstorm, a masterful, if fairly low-keyed solo LP. The ethereal tunes then out of his system, he promptly returned to the high-powered style that was his trademark. To celebrate the occasion, he formed his own band, also called Barnstorm, and went on to record an album of mainstream rock & roll. The LP, The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get, is Joe Walsh’s finest work to date if only for the band’s perfectly offsetting musicianship.
And this brings us to Barnstorm’s recent appearance at Winterland as show-opener for the Doobie Brothers and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Given no sound-check and all of 45 minutes to perform, the group wasted no time in overpowering what normally would have been a still-milling sold-out crowd of 5000.
Playing material mainly from the Smoker LP, the band was able to dart in several directions without straying far from the common denominator of rock & roll. Several of the tunes were laced with improvised interplay between Rock Grace’s piano and Walsh’s guitar, while Tom Stevenson’s synthesizer belched gushes of wind and drummer Joe Vitali guided the interludes to their climactic peaks. Summoning images of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the stream-of-conscious musicianship bordered at times on jazz without alienating a crowd that had come to be rocked.
Two vintage James Gang tunes, “Tend My Garden” with bassist Kenny Pacerelli on harmonies, and “The Bomber,” actually a medley of “Closet Queen” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” far surpassed their original versions and earned bales of applause from the audience. But it was the new single, “Rocky Mountain Way,” that whipped them into a frenzy.
A standing ovation brought Barnstorm back for “Funk 49.” Needless to say, Walsh’s guitar wailed and his voice soared. The set had been flawlessly paced.
Pete Townshend has said many times that Joe Walsh was his favorite contemporary guitarist. Let us just say that Townsend saved face that evening. Walsh did kill ’em.
Courtesy of Rolling Stone #141 – Cameron Crowe – August 16, 1973