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Review: VETSAID at Nationwide Arena

Review: VETSAID at Nationwide Arena

Walsh shows a new side in veterans benefit

When the Eagles appeared in Columbus for the "The History of the Eagles" tour, the members of the band appeared in nearly identical black suits. One of the first questions readers always ask is: "Joe Walsh has a suit?"

The confusion is understandable. Walsh has had a reputation of being the American Keith Moon, a rarely constrained force of nature that lives "in hotels, tear out the walls/I have accountants pay for it all."

That was then. This is now. In 2022, the veteran rocker has turned into a respectable philanthropist who organized the fifth annual VetsAid concert Nov. 13 at Nationwide Arena. Ohio rockers the Breeders (an alternative rock act from Dayton), the Black Keys (a rock duo from Akron), Nine Inch Nails (an industrial rock band from Cleveland), and Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl (Warren) joined Walsh and the recently reformed James Gang (also from Cleveland) for a marathon concert.

"When I found myself in a position where I could give something back to our veterans, who have given so much and asked for so little, I knew I had to do something," said Walsh, whose father Lt. Robert Newton Fidler was killed in a plane crash in Okinawa, Japan. "Seeing as rock and roll is something that I do best, I figured this was something I could do to serve the vets of this country.

"The two things that have saved my life over and over have been the friends I've made and the music we made together. Our hope is that these musical festivals can share that community, fellowship, and joy with a different city each year and raise money for the local veterans."

The concert marked the first time Walsh has chosen Columbus as the location for the show. Being in the heart of Ohio meant a lot to Walsh, who grew up in Columbus.

Appropriately enough, members of the Ohio State marching band opened the concert with the state anthem, "Hang On, Sloopy" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" before giving the stage to the Breeders.

According to Christian Walsh, each band got a full set instead of a partial playlist. The Breeders ground their way through a 14-song, feedback-impaired set. They closed their set with "Cannonball" and a cover of the Pixies' "Gigantic." Midway through "Gigantic," Grohl popped in for a guitar.

This became a returning theme throughout the show. Grohl joined the James Gang on drums for Funk #49, and then joined Walsh and Roy Orbison's grandson (and Walsh's godchild) Roy Orbison III for the final set. One half-expected Grohl to join the Black Keys on clarinet and/or play kazoo during the Nine Inch Nails set.

The James Gang of Walsh, drummer Jim Fox, and guitarist Dale Peters then followed with a wide ranging 9-song set. The trio started with covers of Howard Tate's "Stop" and Albert King's "You're Gonna Need Me" and then hitting such touchstones as "Tend My Garden" and "Walk Away" and then closing of course with "Funk 49" with Grohl joining Fox on drums. The former Nirvana drummer was perfectly synchronized with Fox, matching stroke for stroke, beat for beat on the classic.

The Black Keys, which consists of drummer Patrick Carney and guitarist Dan Auerbach, had the unenviable task of following the James Gang. However, the duo more than held their own with an audience that for the most part was unfamiliar with their music. Carney and Auerbach blazed through a 10-song set including "Little Black Submarines," "Lonely Boy," and "Your Touch."

The audience was pumped and primed for Nine Inch Nails. The band started with a swine flu set of "March of the Pigs" followed "Piggy."

In the middle of his set, NIN front man Trent Reznor said it took him all of 45 seconds to decide to join the concert.

"When Joe's people called and said, 'Joe wants to you to join ...' I said 'I'm in' (before they could complete the sentence)," Reznor said. "Joe Walsh was one of the first concerts I saw."

NIN closed with a haunting version of "Hurt," which seemed to match the message of the sense of loss many veterans feel when trying to return to normalcy.

Upon returning to the stage for the closing portion of the show, Walsh said, "Wow! That was my first Nine Inch Nails concert. It remained me of a Northridge earthquake."

Walsh unleashed a few songs that charted on the seismograph himself with a rocking four-song set of "In the City," "Turn to Stone," "Life's Been Good," and "Rocky Mountain Way."

During his brief return to Columbus, Walsh did everything but dot the I in the Script Ohio. He held an autograph signing at Used Kids Record Store, had a street named after him, and visited the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. The highlight for him, however, was visiting with an old friend Terry Hatzo.

Walsh and his wife Marjorie said there was something special about coming back to Ohio for the James Gang and the rest of the bands on the slate.

"What a blessing this has been for me and my family to pull this off in a city that nurtured my young mind, introduced me to rock and roll and provided some stability to our family in that little house on Summit Street," Walsh said.

"I want to share something Dave Grohl just said to me, 'I want to thank you for bringing me home,'" Marjorie Walsh added. "Dave went to see his family home today and Joe is seeing his tomorrow. All of the guys have said that to me: 'Thanks for bringing me home.'"

In 1980, Walsh began a tongue-in-cheek campaign for the Presidency, lampooning the political process. However, considering all he has done for veterans and how he has matured as an artist, he might not make a bad candidate. After all, we could do far worse.

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