Don Felder played the International Showroom at Westgate Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on Friday, March 3, 2023.
As a lead guitarist in The Eagles during their heyday, Don Felder was one of the finest guitarists of his era, having contributed to and co-written many of their biggest hits. Despite this, the guitarist never quite seemed to get the popularity of some of his fellow Eagles, which is truly a shame given how talented a musician he is. Seeing that he’s still active since parting ways with the act he’s most famously associated with is fantastic, and I was pleasantly surprised to see he’d be performing at Westgate, a venue with a gorgeous theater on which Elvis Presley famously performed in the latter years of his life.
I’ve loved Felder’s guitar playing for years, but prior to this evening, had never seen him perform live. This fan was curious as to what the set would consist of. Would be those Eagles hits that Felder played on and performed live in that band’s heyday, obscure solo tunes and soundtrack contributions, or instrumental guitar music? And perhaps most importantly, would the performance be good?
The 17-track set consisted almost entirely of classic Eagles hits, with just three exceptions. The exceptions to this were a surprise cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride and Joy,” the new song “American Rock N Roll” (which surprisingly may have been my favorite performance of the evening!) and Felder’s classic early 80s soundtrack contribution, “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride.)” As far as Eagles hits go, we got the expected tunes, including “Already Gone,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” and of course the title anthem to their 1976 opus, HOTEL CALIFORNIA. Another pleasant surprise was the inclusion of “Seven Bridges Road,” a song The Eagles covered on their 1980 EAGLES LIVE record, complete with all the necessary vocal harmonies. It was a solid “Greatest Hits Live” setlist of sorts, and just what I think most fans would want to hear. I personally would’ve liked to see another deep cut or two, “Visions” from the ONE OF THESE NIGHTS album comes to mind because it was the one Eagles song Felder did lead vocals on.
But how did Mr. Felder SOUND? I’m happy to say that he didn’t disappoint in this live show. I wondered if he’d have a separate vocalist or tackle vocal duties himself; the latter was the case. The Eagles were an unusual band in that nearly all of the band members over the years took on lead vocal duties at some point or another; that means a single man taking on the vocal duties of songs in which the original records have a myriad of different singers is no easy task. Let me say first and foremost that Felder’s voice will never be mistake for that of the other Eagles; I don’t mean that in a good or a bad way, just saying it. His vocals were certainly competent and suited the material well, and perhaps most importantly, his guitar work was as solid as ever. Felder also took the time to give Glenn Frey a tribute of sorts before playing one of Frey’s compositions; this was a class act especially considering their turbulent history. Themed visuals on a video screen played throughout the gig, beautifully setting the scene without ever proving too distracting.
The backing band Felder assembled for his set supported him well enough, and I appreciate the fact that he actually took a pretty long portion of his set to introduce the musicians on stage who were supporting him, even mentioning the other acts that they’d played with. Felder also did something that more artists need to do – displaying this information on a video screen! I appreciate artists introducing their backing band members, however with all the concert noise going on, doing this verbally alone doesn’t really do the job that well in most cases. More artists need to follow Felder’s example here.
The whole set was fantastic with covers of some great songs and a few slight surprises. Probably my only minor criticisms would be the lack of deep cuts and encores, despite there being plenty of songs that could’ve been utilized for these purposes. It’s also criminal to have Brian Tichy in your band and not allow him a drum solo, seeing as he may very well be the best drummer living in the world today, but again, these are minor flaws of an otherwise fantastic gig. Definitely check out Don’s gig if he comes to your city.
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