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Concert Reviews:
James Gang Rides Again At DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Joe Walsh had no illusions about the James Gang being a current concern when the group took the stage Tuesday night at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

"We're the James Gang, from last century," the guitarist said by way of introduction -- to a crowd of about 5,000 that looked like it mostly came from the same place. Walsh advised younger fans to "just pretend we're really cool friends of your family."

Cool is a good word to describe the experience of the first tour in 35 years by the James Gang's most famous lineup, the one that produced hits such as "Walk Away" and "Funk #49" -- and also takes credit for being the first "real" rock band to play Pine Knob's inaugural season. The trio's long absence has made it one of America's great lost rock 'n' roll bands, but on Tuesday -- the fourth show of the tour -- Walsh, drummer Jimmy Fox and bassist Dale Peters revisited their collective output (three studio albums and a live set) and proved there was more than just the couple of enduring hits to define their legacy.

The 14-song, 80-minute show was solid if a bit underwhelming -- particularly for those who expected more extensive jamming from the trio, which was abetted by a keyboardist and three backup singers. The James Gang did take things out a bit on songs such as "Stop," Albert King's "You're Gonna Need Me," "Take a Look Around" and "The Bomber," but never to the epic improvisational heights emblazoned in its reputation.

That hardly spoiled the evening, however. Though he was the most dimly lit of the musicians on stage, the ebullient Walsh not surprisingly dominated the night with his solos, weaving a bit of Ravel's "Bolero" into "The Bomber," teasing into "Funk #49" with the opening lick of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and finding plenty of room to maneuver in the group's treatment of the Yardbirds' "Lost Woman."

There were subtleties amidst the James Gang's firepower, too, including Walsh's aching solo on "Take a Look Around," the chicken-scratch rhythm of the trippy instrumental "Asheton Park," the piano-guitar interplay on "Tend My Garden" and a pair of acoustic moments -- Walsh solo on "Garden State" and the trio, with Fox on bass, on "Ashes, the Rain and I."

Having traversed the James Gang repertoire in the main show, the group stepped outside for tight performances of Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way," complete with the crowd-pleasing Talk Box solo, and Don Nix's blues-rock landmark "Goin' Down." It was a welcome comeback, and one that left room for even more exciting paths if Walsh, Fox and Peters choose to stick with it.



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