Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh rocks into Napier this weekend

There won’t be any borrowed strings for legendary Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh when he hits Napier at the weekend for his fourth time at the historic Ōtātara Pā site.

“He said, I’ve brought my guitar,” said Denis O’Reilly, who encouraged the now 76-year-old to make his first soul-searching sojourn to the site breaking from a tour with Kiwi-Pacific reggae icons Herbs in 1989. “He’s definitely here to play.”

Play there he did when he returned in 2004 and 2015, and now provides Hawke’s Bay with a special treat in what will be a four-hour show on Sunday, starting at 11am and with O’Reilly expecting about 1000 people to have settled in time for a pōhiri about midday.

In New Zealand for a break between Eagles’ Long Goodbye Final Tour dates in North America in March and Manchester, England, in May, Walsh looks set to do at least three songs, joined by EIT music students in two of them harking back to his days touring with Herbs.

Other artists performing include Frankie Stevens, Brannigan Kaa, Pereri King and the Greenmeadows School Ukettes.

Less predictable is how many will take the opportunity to be with Walsh as he returns to the scene of “a moment of clarity”, where he started finding himself again and resolving his issues with drugs and alcohol, now more than 30 years behind him.

Thus, Sunday’s event is also drug and alcohol-free, in keeping with the kaupapa of the day, although, unlike most gigs in the modern commercial environment, gig-goers are being encouraged to take their own food.

Entry is free, although koha is encouraged, and fellow pilgrims are being told to park at the EIT carpark, and then walk to the site, which will have a shuttle service up the hill to the amphitheatre for those that need it, with assistance from Māori Wardens.

The “special place”, as Walsh has described Ōtātara Pā Historic Reserve in the past, encompasses one of the largest pā complexes in New Zealand, O’Reilly said.

First settled at least 500 years ago, it was once home to between 3000 and 5000 people, in a complex covering more than 40 hectares.

“Even when not hosting a genuine rock legend, Ōtātara is a very special spot – as Joe’s experience there attests,” said Waiohiki Community Trust chairman O’Reilly.

It was one of the few places in New Zealand to catch the first glimpse of sunrise in the new millennium on January 1, 2000, when many other areas on the East Coast of the North Isand had the historic moment blocked out by clouds.

Doug Laing, a senior reporter based in Napier with Hawke’s Bay Today, has 50 years’ of journalism experience in news gathering, including breaking news, sports, local events, issues, and personalities, and Joe Walsh visits in 2004 and 2015.

- NZ Herald