Joe Walsh and a bunch of his friends offered plenty of musical service to those who have given service to the country on Sunday night (Nov. 13) in Columbus, Ohio.
Walsh’s sixth VetsAid benefit concert, held at Nationwide Arena, was a homecoming of sorts that brought an all-Ohio bill — the James Gang and Nine Inch Nails from Cleveland, Akron’s Black Keys, the Breeders from Dayton and Dave Grohl from Warren — together for a nearly six-hour show that raised money for grass-roots military veterans organizations either based in Ohio or that ear-marked the funds they received for programs in the state. It’s a cause close to Walsh’s heart; his father, a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Force, was killed in a crash while stationed on Okinawa when Walsh was just 20 months old.
“When I found myself in a position where I could in some way give back to our nation’s veterans how could I not?” Walsh — who spent some of his youth in Columbus — said during a pre-show press conference. “Seeing how rock ‘n’ roll is something I do best, it’s also the least I could do for those who served and continue to serve our country. So we started VetsAid bringing together the two things that saved my life over and over again – the friends I’ve made and the music we’ve played together.”
Walsh — who had a street named after him near the arena earlier in the week — noted that “The buzz backstage is…a fellowship of musicians. We’re gonna get to know each other and compare notes — and make a big list of people we don’t like.”
Walsh’s wife Marjorie, one of VetsAid’s co founders, choked up as she related that “Dave Grohl just said to me here, ‘Thank you for bringing me home…All the guys have said to that to me. It’s big stuff.” Grohl, in fact, visited his childhood home in Warren earlier Sunday, while Walsh was planning a visit to his on Monday. He also reveled in spending time with one of his best childhood friends, Terry Hatzo, a Vietnam veteran who came home to become a first responder.
Beyond their own highlights, the musicians provided plenty of delights for fans at the concert during their respective 45-minute sets – though planned host Drew Carey was absent due to COVID-19. The best moments of this year’s VetsAid included:
Lots Of Dave For The Dollar
Repaying Walsh and the James Gang for their participation in the two Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts in September, Grohl lived up to his “special guest” status with several appearances on stage Sunday. He closed the Breeders’ set by guesting on guitar and backing vocals for a rendition of the Pixies’ “Gigantic,” then did the same for Walsh and James Gang by playing drums on “Funk #49.” The Foo Fighters frontman also hopped on with Walsh and his solo band, playing guitar on “Life’s Been Good” and drums on “Rocky Mountain Way.”
The Greatest Band In All The Land
The lauded Ohio State Marching Band kicked things off with its anthem, the McCoys’ “Hang on Sloopy” — with a drum major in full baton-twirling motion — followed by “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The Breeders Honor Ohio
Amidst its own favorites such as “Divine Hammer,” “Do You Love Me Now?” and “Cannonball,” the
quartet offered a couple of welcome nods to its home state — covering “Shocker in Gloomtown” by fellow Daytonites Guided By Voices and, later in the set, “Drivin’ on 9,” an Ed’s Redeeming Qualities song co-written by Dom Leone of Youngstown, Ohio and covered by the Breeders on 1993’s Last Splash.
The James Gang Rides, And Reigns Supreme
The VetsAid appearance was billed as “One Last Ride” for Walsh and compatriots Jimmy Fox and Dale Peters. Walsh backed off that during a recent interview with Billboard, and on Sunday the trio — aided by a keyboardist and three backing vocalists — didn’t sound like it was anywhere near finished as it tore through covers (Howard Tate’s “Stop,” Albert King’s “You’re Gonna Need Me”), songs that have been on the bench for 15 years or longer (“Tend My Garden,” “Asshtonpark,” “Midnight Man” and “Collage”), an epic “Walk Away” and the crowd-pleasing medley of “The Bomber,” “Closet Queen,” “Bolero” and “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” – all before Grohl’s guest shot.
The Black Keys Go Back
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have enough material to fill an entire VetsAid themselves and made sure to include plenty of hits — “Fever,” “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Lonely Boy” and a beautifully rendered “Little Black Submarines” among them. But they showed some home state love as well, with Auerbach preceding “Your Touch” by remembering that “this is a song we cut back in the day in a basement down in Akron, Ohio.”
Nine Inch Nails It
Trent Reznor and company brought the biggest production of the night — including smoke, strobes and banks of light that flanked the band on stage — as it ferociously attacked the likes of “Wish,” “March of the Pigs,” “Piggy,” “The Perfect Drug,” “The Hand That Feeds” and others before finishing with an affecting rendition of “Hurt.” Reznor probably surprised some in the crowd by noting that “you don’t understand what a big deal Joe Walsh reaching out to me was,” identifying Walsh as the first concert he ever attended. Walsh had the perfect response during his set; “Well, that was the first Nine Inch Nails concert I’ve ever been to…I liked it. It kinda reminded me of being in the Northridge earthquake in California…”
That’s All, Folks…
During “Rocky Mountain Way,” Walsh was joined by other guests besides Grohl — the Breeders, who provided backing vocals, and Roy Orbison III, a six-year-old towhead who’s also Walsh’s godson and played along with him during the song’s famous talk-box and solo section, passing the music, and the mission, on to yet another generation.