Joe Walsh, The Rock Star, owed one to Joe Walsh, The Congressman. In 2010, Rocker Walsh asked Politician Walsh to stop using a cover of his song “Walk Away” in a campaign ad. At first, the Tea Partier responded that “all you liberals out in Hollywood are using this to attack someone whose beliefs you don't understand and always disrespect (can you say Sarah Palin?). I hope the Democratic National Committee and Nancy Pelosi didn't put you up to this.”
Politician Walsh eventually stopped using the song, but the attention generated by the tiff helped him win the Republican primary, then defeat Rep. Melissa Bean by 290 votes.
So now Rocker Walsh is trying to kick his namesake out of Congress. On Sunday night, at John Barleycorn in Schaumburg, the Eagles guitarist played a one-hour benefit concert for Walsh’s opponent, Tammy Duckworth. Walsh had performed at the Naperville Ribfest the night before, which was why he could fit this show into a tour to support Analog Man, his first solo album in 20 years, and bring his entire band.
“Tammy’s really unique to me,” Walsh said before the show. “I don’t normally get involved in politics. She’s someone who really cares. “It doesn’t matter who she’s running against. I would be here. She’s a breath of fresh air.”
Duckworth stood beside Walsh, wearing a black t-shirt with the name of Walsh’s first band, The James Gang. Later, Duckworth told Your Ward Room Blogger that her favorites Eagles song is “Hotel California.” That was a good answer, because Walsh joined the band on that album.
(Bean was also there, decrying Politician Walsh's "unprofessional and uncongressional behavior" and getting Rocker Walsh to autograph her Hotel California LP.)
I won’t attempt to review the show musically, except to say that Walsh was a total pro to rip through songs he’s been grinding out for 30 years, on a night when he wasn’t getting paid: “Life of Illusion,” “Rocky Mountain Way,” “In The City,” “Walk Away,” “Life In The Fast Lane.” He also played two songs from his new album, “Analog Man” and “Lucky That Way,” as well as a cover of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released,” which he dedicated to Levon Helm, the drummer who died earlier this year.
But then there was Walsh’s most famous song. Before playing “Life’s Been Good,” he said, “If I’d have known I was going to have to play this song the rest of my life, I would have wrote somethin’ else. But it’s too late. I’m stuck with it.”
Walsh played “Life’s Been Good” with a sense of detachment, allowing the sing-along audience to provide all the energy. But maybe that’s part of the song’s decadent rock-star shtick: I can write hits so effortlessly I get bored with them.
During the encore, Friend of Ward Room and Lake Bluff resident Richard Marx came onstage to sing “Don’t Mean Nothin’,” a song to which Walsh contributed guitar.
“Joe Walsh played on my first record, and 25 years later, we’re playing it together for the first time,” Marx said.
Afterwards, Your Ward Room Blogger spotted a man wearing a “Joe Walsh For President T-Shirt.” The shirt referred to the musician, said Tom Stahnke of Streamwood. He’d gotten it along with Walsh’s new CD.
Stahnke, who won tickets to the show on Duckworth’s website, also had a copy of Guitar magazine with Walsh on the cover, and an acoustic guitar he hoped to get Walsh to autograph. So he was there for the music, not the politics.
“I have to look more into the candidates” before deciding how to vote, Stahnke said.
Stahnke’s friend, Rich Seafield of Arlington Heights, was also a Walsh fan, which made him well-disposed toward Duckworth.
“I’ve never really heard anything bad about Joe Walsh, and I like his music, and if he supports Tammy Duckworth, that means giving her a look,” Seafield said.
What about Joe Walsh the politician, I asked.
“I don’t know much about him,” Seafield said, “but I haven’t liked what I heard.”
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!