CAUGHT DAVE DURING A SPLIT! I think the only one during the show.
Ice Cream Man
Well, what can I say? As a lifelong Van Halen fan, this was a show I'd been looking forward to for years. Despite them being one of my favorite bands of all time, I'd never seen them with David Lee Roth. I'd seen the Hagar version 3 times, the Cherone version, Dave solo, Sammy solo but never, never saw the original four for which there is no known remedy. Yet, I did not feel "ripped off" or cheated at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas last Sunday night. Wait a minute, I DID have to resort to Stubhub for tickets so there is a DEGREE of getting ripped off involved but how much money do you drop in Vegas without a second thought anyway, right?
1st up, not a fan of the metal detectors we had to be screened through. I'm going to see an aging rock band that doesn't have a history of projectile-happy crowds, not catching a redeye to LaGuardia. Seriously??? Regardless, one does not simply walk into a Van Halen show in 2012 expecting to see VH in all their 1984 glory. People age. The only things that last forever (Unchanged !)are the original recordings (Nothing stays the same!). If you are so obsessed with the way things were & are naturally resistant to change, don't go to the show. You probably have much deeper issues than missing Michael Anthony drink a half bottle of Jack & play a crappy solo anyway. That being said, the 2012 Van Halen 4.0 version will entertain the hell out of you.
If you are like me, over the past 35+ years, Van Halen have been so much more than a band I listened to. They were the largest portion of the soundtrack to my life thus far. They were the band that helped me develop a modicum of self-confidence during those gangly tennage years when bravado was in short supply. They were the band that I would crank at a traffic light hoping anyone who'd look over & see me crankin' 'Everybody Wants Some!' would know everything they needed to know about me. I listened to Van Halen. That's right. I had a bit of a wild streak. I knew how to cut loose, I'm a musician & I just might floor it in my pseudo-wood-veneered Oldsmobile station wagon when that light goes green. Runnin' with a 'Devil May Care' attitude. Van Halen, to me always represented the epitome of that euphoric feeling you get deep in the weekend on a Saturday night when you're blowin' off all the steam the week built up in you, you're 5 or 6 bottles deep into your twelvie & that girl you've always thought was cute is givin' you the eye. Van Halen was always that hi-octane push over the edge. Eddie & Alex always seemed to harness the raw pent-up energy in a crowd, shake it up in a bottle & let it explode all over the room.
There is no toastmaster better than David Lee Roth. It's still the same old Dave minus an octave & drum riser leaps. But he is STILL the ultimate frontman. He relies quite heavily on some old vaudeville softshoe moves on a little wood parkay floor these days but let's see you jump 12 feet off a riser, split & stick the landing......at 57. By the way, I don't think I've EVER seen a stage crew ensure the stage was as spotless as apparantly DLR needs it all over in order to facilitate his slides & softshoe. No kidding, right before showtime, 3 guys with Swiffers & spray bottles meticulously clean EVERY STEP of the stage. You still get a bit of the quarterstaff routine & he can still manage one of those roundhouse kicks that they replay in slo-mo a bit too often on the video screen - perhaps for the sheer novelty of him still being able to do it. But it's still the same energy, the same irreverent sense of humour & the same overt personality that can still drive one of the best rock bands left on the planet. Speaking of his sense of humour, there's a great (even if rehearsed) moment when Roth is giving some mock love advice to Wolfgang & says he used to screw everything with 2 arms & 2 legs. Then he pauses & says, "Well I can't discriminate, I made it with a hot amputee one time (turns to Alex). Do you remember that tour?" One thing that also can't be forgotten is Roth's propensity as a lyricist. Do yourself a favor & thumb through the lyrics Roth has scribbled on the liner notes for the new album, "A Different Kind Of Truth". There are some gems in there.
"Mistakes make people. Isn't that what people say?" - The Trouble With Never
"Work hard at this, friends - Look beyond the Kung Fu fighting - God is love - But get it in writing." - Stay Frosty
I personally am a big fan of the new album. It is Eddie's first album he's recorded totally sober. You can hear it. Sonically, he can still rip your face off & it really sounds like he's got something to prove with the way he shreds on this album. His solos are as great as ever. The album has solid songs front to back & I can honestly say I like ALL of them. Tough declaration for ANY album. He is sharp as knives for the whole show, too. From old standards like "The Full Bug" (one of my favorites) to new songs like "She's The Woman" every song is executed with assassin-like precision.
Alex is unchanged. A monster player with chops for days. A lot of Van Halen songs are a bit simplistic but then watch him shred "Hot For Teacher" & "Chinatown" & you'll be quickly reminded why he's still one of rock's best & arguably under-appreciated stickmen. His solo seems to steal some ideas from Neil Peart's solos of late (triggered brass stabs & such) but it's easily forgivable as it's industry-wide technology. Heaven forbid you seek to be entertained. He is a masterful player & remains one of my idols.
And let's talk about Wolfgang. To many Van Halen purists, the idea of a 21-year old holding down the bottom for VH is sacrilege. Let us not forget, his last name is still Van Halen. And if the Esquire interview with Ed is anything to go on, Wolf is the band's musical director: writing setlists & filling in vocally for DLR during soundchecks as Roth skips them to save his voice. He is thoroughly capable & holds down the bottom as securely as Michael Anthony ever did. If you close your eyes, you won't miss Michael Anthony because the basslines & backing vocals are there, period.
Song selection was about as fortuitous as you'd desire. I won't post the whole set list as you can find it elsewhere on the web but the old catalogue is WELL-REPRESENTED. If Van Halen has meant as much to you over the years as they've meant to me, there is something to be said for merely sharing the same room with these guys. I've met them, I've interviewed Eddie and DLR more than once but seeing them do what they do all the while realizing how unlikely the whole reunion is in the first place, it's something for which to be thankful. In-fighting rumours be damned. Those guys are enjoying themselves & you can tell from the very back row of the upper bowl. In an ever-eroding musical landscape of Katy Perrys, Kanye Wests & will.i.am.s the mighty Van Halen is alive & well & bringin' it to the streets.