April 18th, 2008
By Jason Kellner
Reno got rocked like it was 1984 Thursday night at the Reno Events Center,
when Van Halen plowed its way through nothing but hits (and a lot of deep
album cuts) from the David Lee Roth-era of the band.
Fresh out of a stint under a doctor's care (again) for Eddie Van Halen
following the cancellation of several shows in March, the band stopped
here as a warm up for the resumption of its tour Saturday in Las Vegas.
For the most part, the band sounded and looked pretty good.
They're well-preserved, with Eddie and David both looking rather ripped
for men in their 50s. In fact, 16-year-old Wolfgang Van Halen, subbing on
bass for Michael Anthony, was the heaviest guy on stage. But who better to
replace Anthony than another Van Halen? The young dude is a fine bass
player, great backing vocalist, and he even helped dad Eddie work his wah-
Playing from the same set list that's been used since the reunion began
last year, the band opened with the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" while Roth
strutted down a ramp to the stage in some leather outfit possibly borrowed
from Siegfried and Roy. They rambled through favorites like "Runnin' With
the Devil," "Beautiful Girls" and (possibly one too many) lesser-known
songs like "Little Guitars" and "Romeo Delight," all atop a fairly simple
stage with a drive-in size movie screen and modest lighting.
Despite past animosity between David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen and a
couple false starts in the reunion department in the past 10 years, there
was no bad blood to be seen on stage. Eddie and Dave both wore genuine
grins, with Dave's huge, clown-like permagrin looking a bit creepy at
"Better late than never, huh?" Roth asked the near-capacity crowd, before
jumping back into 1978's "I'm the One."
"We're a new band with the same s---ty attitude," he added, letting
everyone know that it was the original, sex-crazed party band that was on
stage that night. The last time Van Halen was in Reno, it was 1992 during
the Sammy Hagar era, but not a note from the Hagar days was heard.
The band was in top musical form, with Eddie ever the astonishing
guitarist and brother Alex pummeling away on his massive drum set (why do
those showy drummers always have a gong that's never played, anyway?).
Even Roth didn't hold back, save for a few of the banshee screams that
went missing. The band played every song in its original key, evidence
that Roth can still hit the highest highs, or at least back off subtly
when he can't.
But when the keyboards were called to duty on "I'll Wait," and later for
the encore of "Jump," it was like the band was ashamed of the sound so
heavily used in 1984. The keyboard sounds were heard, but nobody was
playing them -- at least no visible person.
But the crowd stayed on its feet the whole time, a sure sign that this
band can still whip an aging fan base into a frenzy. Nearly two hours, a
drum solo and guitar solo later, the band didn't seem to let up. They
closed with "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and "Jump" amid a confetti storm, a
giant inflatable microphone and not exactly a whole lot of jumping. Roth
pulled out only a few helicopter kicks during the show, but not the high-
flying scissor kicks he once did.
I'd say the band pulled it off, but I left feeling just slightly
underwhelmed, particularly with ticket prices maxing out at $150. It's a
good thing they're getting this reunion out of the way now, because 10
years from now, it would look pretty silly.
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