Review: Don Felder at Bergen PAC

Review: Don Felder at Bergen PAC

Don Felder

Bergen PAC – Englewood, NJ – August 5, 2023

Review & Photos – Rebecca Wolf

There are bands and artists that define 1970s classic rock….the building blocks of a musical era. While the past half-century has seen considerable changes in musical styles and sounds, iconic classic rock is never outdated and it continues to draw in fans from younger generations. One of those legendary bands is the Eagles. Eagles began as a country rock band, before evolving into a more rock and roll sound with the help of master guitar player Don Felder. With Felder’s phenomenal skills on slide guitar, the band continued to crank out hits until their first break up in 1980. Reuniting in 1994, Felder remained with the Eagles until parting ways in 2001. Felder’s integral role as lead guitarist during the band’s rock and roll heyday cannot be debated. And, what cannot be diminished is Felder’s songwriting credit, as well as the iconic 2 minute and 12 second electric guitar solo, often noted as the best guitar solo of all time, during “Hotel the California,” considered to be the band’s best-known recording.

While more than 20 years have passed since Felder’s tenure with the Eagles, he has remained dedicated to performing and writing music, touring solo and with multiple classic rock artists, and releasing Road to Forever in 2012 and American Rock ’n’ Roll in 2019. Fans continue to flock to see hear Felder perform a night of Eagles favorites and watch this guitar wizard. Felder is currently on a solo tour and on August 5th he arrived at Bergen Performing Arts Center to an enthusiastic crowd.

The  performance opened with the spirited, energetic “Already Gone,” that immediately engaged the crowd and had audience members singing along. Segueing into the the chart topping, soulful “One of These Nights,” Brett Simons on bass, David Myhre on guitar, and Ty Bailie on keyboard, backed Felder’s voice with beautiful harmonies. “How many of you like the blues?” Felder queried the crowd, receiving rapturous applause. “Well, I’m going to play some blues.  It’s a song by Stevie Rae Vaughn.” Playing Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy” Felder showcased the aching vocals and wailing guitar notes of a great blues number.

Between songs Felder communicated with the adoring crowd, sharing tidbits about each upcoming number.  “How many people went to Woodstock?” Felder questioned the audience. A few lucky audience members raised their hands and applauded. “Well I was there and it was a great three days. I saw Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, many others. I wrote this next song about all of these great artists.” “American Rock ’n’ Roll,” pays homage to these rockers and it was amazing to hear Felder’s still dynamic songwriting skills. “If any of you guys out there have an original copy of Hotel California in your garage or attic (cheers and hoots from the crowd ensued) get it and look on the B side. In the space between the label and the music it’s written “V.O.L. Is Five-Piece Live.” I stands for “Victim of Love.” It was one of the times all five of us were in the studio. Here it is.” Loud whistles pierced the audience as the band began to play yet another fan favorite.

While we are all used to hearing Eagles songs predominantly sung by Glenn Frey or Don Henley, and no one can replace their incredible vocals, Felder did a great job singing. Throughout the evening his voice sounded strong and smooth, whether performing the quieter more delicate numbers, like “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Tequila Sunrise” or the louder more charged songs, like “Those Shoes” and “Heartache Tonight.” “We are going to do a song for you now that we don’t usually do,” Felder shared.  In light of the recent passing of one of my former band mates we’re going to do it. This is a salute…dedicated to Randy Meisner.” Simons took lead on “Take It To the Limit” and showcased incredibly passionate vocals, while Felder and Myhre sang beautiful harmonies, and audience members whistled, hooted and sang along. At the end of this breathtaking performance Simons was given a much deserved standing ovation. 

Exceptional vocals were also highlighted when all band members sang in five-part harmony for the heartfelt, Southern-flavored “Seven Bridges.” “I was born and raised in the Deep South,” shared Felder.  It was a house with a tin roof, built by my two grandfathers.  But, I have the fondest memories. This song reminds me of home.” Dedicating a song to all the women in the audience who never had a song dedicated to them Felder sang “Witchy Woman,” hitting impressive high notes.  Additional songs in the set included “Take It Easy” and “Heartache,” which had the fans clapping and singing along. 

We’e Going to have a party here so clap your hands and sing along,” Felder encourage the eager crowed, who did’t need much to convince them to clap and sing along to “Life In the Fast Lane.” Felder’s girlfriend arrived onstage to participate during the song, playing the tambourine and sharing the mic with Felder to sing the refrain “Life in the fast lane” with him.  

The evening ended with the iconic “Hotel California” performed by the incredible songwriter and performer of that legendary guitar masterpiece. It’s been over 46 years since the release of both the album Hotel California and the single, and 45 years since “Hotel California” won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Regardless of the time that’s passed there are songs and artists that stand the test of time…..that define classic rock. Eagles and their music fits that bill.  With the Eagles or on his own, Don Felder is inextricably tied to Eagles’ music and will forever be part of the band’s legacy. And, Felder’s master guitar skills will continue to be revered. As I left Bergen PAC that evening I heard a gentleman speaking to his wife, almost in awe, “You know, we just heard the greatest guitar solo of all time!” How lucky we all were that evening, after four decades, to still get such a privilege

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