Joe Walsh’s VetsAid comes to San Diego with ELO, The Flaming Lips & more

Since 2017, Joe Walsh, his family, and his friends have actively raised funds for United States veterans in the form of VetsAid — a benefit concert unlike any other. With so many veterans coming back from active duty with mental health issues, after being exposed to chemicals and materials causing cancers, Joe Walsh has taken it upon himself to use his influence for the common good.

Walsh states, “I had to do something and seeing as though rock-and-roll seems to be what I do best, it’s also the least I could do for those who have served and continue to serve our country.” After losing his own father to warfare in infancy, Walsh doesn’t take military aid lightly.

Joining him on his crusade for military betterment has been his step-son among other family members, his close friends, and — of course — his musical acquaintances.

Now in its seventh year, VetsAid hit San Diego with an all-star lineup and all sales of the night going to soldiers in need.

The Walsh family hosted a press conference ahead of the show on Sunday, November 12th, explaining the purpose of the event and, more specifically, its importance. The impact of war affects more than those who served; it affects, spouses, children, and parents. “We’ve only just begun to appreciate the long-term impacts on our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Walsh continues, acknowledging the latest generation of veterans coming to grips with health issues outside of their control. The sacrifice they make for our country doesn’t end at deployment.

To start the night off in Chula Vista, California was television’s Drew Carey — a veteran himself after serving in the Marine Corps — deejaying, of all things. It was quite a sight witnessing Drew Carey spinning a dubstep version of “I Am The Walrus” as people slowly trickled into their seats. Before the first set of the evening, the United States Marine Corps Marching Band took the stage to for a flag salutation, blending the National Anthem into a medley with “She’s a Grand Ol’ Flag” among other patriotic toppers. After a short introduction by Joe Walsh’s step-son, it was clear that this night was going to be one of legend. And, if you couldn’t make it, there was a livestream going on for the folks at hoe.

From the first band to the last, there was no lack of talent.

Arguably two of the best vocalists around, the sweet, soulful duo of Lucius lit up the night right off the bat, followed by the ever-infectious spectacle of The Flaming Lips. Giant, inflatable pink robots, rainbows, and balloon balls full of confetti… it’s hard NOT to get into a Flaming Lips show. Playing the first four songs off their Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (my favorite), audience members (read: myself) thought the band was going to keep on with the rest of the album. Instead, the band shifted gears to “She Don’t Use Jelly”, “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, and other gems throughout their impressive 40-year discography.

In between musical acts, the Walsh family honored VetsAid grant recipients, telling their story aloud for attendees.

Some stories brought tears to our eyes; some brought smiles; all brought out hope. It’s events like these that put humanity back on track with one another. Yet, the night was just getting started, welcoming The War On Drugs — a stark contrast to the explosive spectacle that is The Flaming Lips. Yet the band held their own, starting with their massive hit “Pain” off A Deeper Understanding — also my favorite. These two bands hold ‘forever albums’ in my soul… those albums you would choose to be stranded on a desert island with, to listen to for the rest of your life. That and the Beatles. Speaking of, rumors were flying around that Ringo Starr was in the building… he and Paul were both contributing benefactors of the event, after all. Said so on the screen during the set changes.

But back to The War On Drugs and their hypnotic talent…

After a masterful set was something the entire audience was waiting for — Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Electric Light Orchestra, with hits spanning the decades, has clearly not missed a beat. With laser beams and a large LED display, Lynne mesmerized the audience from the first chord strum. Of course, this all led to the finale of the night — Joe Walsh. But before the big man took the stage, a fellow San Diegan by the name of Jack Tempchin came out to sing a little ditty that he wrote oh-so-long ago when he was close friends with Glenn Frey — “Peaceful Easy Feeling”. It was hauntingly beautiful acoustic and downtempo… and now we all know the song’s backstory about beautiful San Diego women of yesteryear!

Of course, the night had to come to a close… but not before Joe Walsh got the entire stadium on their feet. Every song of his set was a hit; everything he did received a cheer. Walsh is an icon of rock-n-roll — period. And to see him still in action, still living the ‘good life’ all these years later… well, that is impressive. The difference is this concert, in this day and age away from Walsh’s glory years, is benefitting American veterans to live ‘the good life’ too. We’re saluting our military members till next year!

Photography by Kristy Rose

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