From Los Angeles Times:
Instead of sweating to Van Halen, the ravers who packed Staples Center on Tuesday often looked as if they were gaping at a movie. They were; they all had to stand at seats, and the dynamic angles on the behind-stage mega-screen pumped the scene with a cinematic dimension.
They had another reason to lurk like peepers behind their cellphone cameras, though: They couldn’t quite believe they were seeing Van Halen reunited with singer-ringmaster David Lee Roth after more than two decades.
With his tile-work expanse of Smilin’ Bob teeth and his vaudevillian shtick, Roth has always been exactly the showbiz rocker Los Angeles deserves. After an early ’70s launch in Pasadena, Van Halen survived the T-shirt tribulations of late-’70s punk, the scythe of addiction and several hiatuses to continue delivering a bigness and whirling glamour that never seem to go out of style. And while ego dust-ups between Roth and guitar god Eddie Van Halen may have led to singer transplants via Sammy Hagar, Mitch Malloy and Gary Cherone, Roth’s picture is the one that has stayed in most fans’ love lockets.
So the Roth reconciliation, which has teetered on the brink for more than a decade, was huge. Adding to the intrigue, Eddie Van Halen has said he agreed to try it mainly to offer his son with actress and ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli, 16-year-old Wolfgang Van Halen, a shot at filling the shoes of original bassist Michael Anthony. A dubious way to bend the Van Halen family twig, maybe, but that’s Hollywood.
A gusher of pent-up guitar energy roared from the stage shadows, the curtain ascended, and Van Halen bombed into the first hit from the group’s 1978 debut album, a headbanging cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” to which Roth still hasn’t learned Ray Davies’ lyrics.
Both sporting trim short hair in contrast to their lank ‘dos of the ’70s, Roth (in a series of embroidered jackets and top hats) and Eddie Van Halen (in fatigue pants, shirtless) split most of the spotlight time equally, appearing to hate each other very little.
Roth snapped hepcat fingers to Eddie’s solo during the jaunty “I’m the One,” blew powerhouse harmonica on the blues-shouting “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” traversed the expanded stage arcs front and back with ceaseless muggery, flicked his hat Gene Kelly-style and mounted it on his crotch (no hands).
His best and most personal moments stretched through an extended rendition of the country-blues-flavored “Ice Cream Man,” where he picked some creditable acoustic guitar and spieled out a sunny, charming account of a youth spent smoking pot and driving his Opel around the suburbs, “where they tear out the trees and name the streets after ’em.”
Roth’s mighty lungs were in prime condition.
His attack simultaneously weighty and buoyant, Eddie had fun zinging through the songs. He skipped and twisted during the hat dance of “Senorita,” and often leaned back into his trademark kneeling position to squeal, bend and flagellate the strings. He showed his structural flair too, with an intelligently balanced improvisation on the mid-tempo rocker “I’ll Wait,” and outright blazed on the introduction to the smoking boogie of “Hot for Teacher.”
One reason to be glad it’s 2007: The camera could zoom in, blowing up Eddie’s vein-popped hands on-screen to the size of willows, allowing guitar geeks to scrutinize every hammer-on and admire each knob inflection.
Eddie and Roth, both sporting swim-team physiques, had even rehearsed some nice turns together. Especially striking was the moment when they posed as if in a whaling skiff, with Eddie the steersman and Roth the harpoonist.
A helmet-haired Wolfgang plucked capable if not commanding bass while bulked up in a black hoodie, strolling the perimeter and interacting easily with his dad, with whom he hollered out excellent backing vocals; he even got to play a nimble, well-organized solo. He’s not comfortable yet, but getting there.
Alex Van Halen is surely accustomed to the bathroom stampede that accompanies his drum spots, but the restroom rioters missed some real chest-pounding stimulation. His big rumble powered the hard-driving band train all night.
Van Halen’s is a sexy sound, rhythmically flexible enough to accommodate the reggae tinges of “Dance the Night Away,” blurry enough around the edges to avoid testosterone overload. And the half-male, half-female crowd was way into it, minding not at all that there was no new material.
The rock didn’t go over the top, though, till near the end, with the doom-soaked riff of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” When Roth lent his dramatic vibrato to the words about going to the edge and losing friends, the song took on meanings it didn’t own 30 years ago, for audience as well as band.
No surprise, the encore was Van Halen’s biggest smash, “Jump,” with its ridiculously catchy keyboard riff. (Where was that sound coming from, anyway? No visible keys onstage.) It fell apart a little, as it often does, but so what? Roth twirled his baton and waved a huge red flag; a monsoon of confetti poured down. It was over.
As the crowd filed out after the two-hour set, a guy grinned and said he wanted his money back. He obviously didn’t.
One of Bob Marley’s sons, the husky-voiced Ky-Mani Marley, opened, leading his slick, spare and heavy band through a listenable reggae set studded with the hits of his father. If you tell him he shouldn’t trade so heavily on his father’s legend, you’ll have to say the same thing to Hank Williams Jr. And Wolfie.
From Orange County Register:
Pardon a bit of nostalgia, but two dozen songs in two hours from Van Halen tends to bring out the gawking 8th grader in me. All it takes is a few seconds of Eddie Van Halen’s feverishly tapped arpeggios at the start of “Mean Street” and I’m right back at El Rancho, summer ’81, wasting afternoons away with my fellow dweebs, wearing out Columbia House cassettes of VH’s “Fair Warning” until David Lee Roth sounds as if he’s singing underwater.
Mind you, I wasn’t the only one who grew so wistful during the recently inducted Hall of Famers’ first major-scale show on home turf in 23 years Tuesday night at Staples Center, the first of five Southern California dates on this once-unimaginable reunion tour. (The band plays Sunday in San Diego, then returns in mid-December for a Staples repeat and two shows at Honda Center in Anaheim.)
At the outset, Roth, donning the first in a multicolored series of ringmaster jackets and oversized top hats, declared himself “revved-up in my get-up with no letup.” That wasn’t just boasting as usual – the barrage of blasts from the past came at a relentless pace here. Virtually every classic-rock fixture in the band’s catalog (from “Runnin’ With the Devil” to “Hot for Teacher”) was revived and smartly balanced by a brace of dusted-off gems (from “Romeo Delight” to “Little Guitars”) that surely satisfied long-suffering original-VH fans, for whom Sammy Hagar’s “Cabo Wabo”-ing presence in this swaggering sex machine of a band remains as sacrilegious now as it did in ’85.
But by the 20th tune and his fifth or sixth roundhouse kick – the dude sure can leap for 53 – Roth had calmed down enough to give his gape-mouthed carnival-barker shtick a rest and get pensive for a minute. Doodling around a blues figure in anticipation of “Ice Cream Man,” he journeyed back to a misbegotten Thursday night in ’72, back when the Van Halen brothers were forming their surnamed outfit by playing backyards in Pasadena. (“You know,” said the showman, “the suburbs – where they tear out the trees and name the streets after them.”)
Back then, Roth pointed out, “Everyone had a friend named Kenny.” Diamond Dave’s Kenny used to roll him spliffs, then brush the pot seeds off Pink Floyd LP covers. Mine camped out with me in front of Music Plus at the Orange Mall for the better part of a weekend before tickets went on sale for Van Halen’s 1984 Forum shows – the last local shows the proper lineup played before Roth’s buffoonish persona, increasingly at odds with Eddie VH’s quest for six-string and studio wizardry, took him away from a group at its commercial peak and into a solo career of steeply diminishing success.
Like so many other lifelong devotees, then, I’ve waited 23 years for this oft-rumored return to materialize. Was it worth pining for, you wonder? Mostly yes.
It helped that by some stroke of good karma I had ridiculously sick seats, so close I think Roth could tell I was taking notes, and with my boyhood crush (and Eddie’s ex) Valerie Bertinelli a head-turn away, singing along to “Panama” and radiating motherly pride over the impressive accomplishment of son Wolfgang. (All of 16, yet clearly infused with his father’s virtuosity, the younger Van Halen skillfully assisted his Uncle Alex in anchoring these heavy rockers, often with more fluid finesse than I imagine former bassist Michael Anthony can muster these days.)
Given that vantage point, it would have been difficult for this already well-reviewed hype to come up short. Not that Roth kept from undoing things. It’s funny: When Van Hagar played the Pond three years ago, Sammy was up to snuff but Eddie was haggard and huffy; now, physically robust after a stint in rehab earlier this year, the smiling boyishness having returned to his 52-year-old mug, Eddie is in superb form – but Dave is, well, if not haggard then definitely huffy.
He’s simply not up to the task of carrying such a long haul of hits, songs that decades ago could push him to his vocal limits and which he hasn’t the stamina for now, much less the capability to conjure the outrageous screeching howls of yore. Instead, after the first half-dozen tunes, Roth – whose sense of tempo is, to put it kindly, loose – resorted to fragmentation that emphasized choruses and his patented wailing yet left key verses drastically clipped.
He rarely responded with a hearty “I want some too!” whenever Eddie and Wolfgang would holler the title of “Everybody Wants Some!!” Nor did he fill in many of the intentional gaps in “So This Is Love?” or “Unchained,” though he was never so off that any song was unrecognizable. Strangely enough, he seemed to coast through the final third of the set as if just gaining a second wind, coming across especially strong on “I’ll Wait” and “Jamie’s Cryin’.”
Granted, it didn’t hurt to have thousands of fans (including teenagers who weren’t alive the first time ’round) chanting every word of every song and covering up Roth’s fumbled phrases, anymore than it was harmful to have Eddie and Wolfie’s backing vocals sweetened by tapes, presumably of Anthony’s considerably high harmonies. (Note, too, how the barbershop-quartet bit from “I’m the One” was excised.) Call that impure if you wish, but with such a scattershot frontman, such behind-the-scenes bolstering was welcome.
Whatever persistently hammy Roth lacked, however, the rest of the band compensated for with power and precision. Where Alex was so slack as to seem bored during the 2004 reunion, here he hammered away with the fleet force of a stickman half his age, motoring the atomic punk of “I’m the One” and “Hot for Teacher” unerringly and thundering through “And the Cradle Will Rock ” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.”
Eddie’s recovery, however, is a marvel that extends well beyond his toned physique. His playing here – lightning-fast yet never mushy, still teeming with new tricks – was a stunning reminder of his largely unparalleled expertise, his stormy sonic squalls surpassed only by what few greater giants of the instrument (Hendrix, Zappa) there are. His spotlight turn, a composite of his most famous solos (from “Eruption,” “Cathedral,” “Women in Love” and more), was at times positively mesmerizing. All these years later, you still watch the guy astonished at how effortlessly such complex fretwork comes to him.
To see him doing split kicks and tearing up so many monster riffs on his custom-made striped Charvel after such a long, rocky period out of the limelight was not just nostalgic but heartening – and, I suspect, well worth the admission price to many attendees. That Van Halen served up a generous, few-frills set in which the quartet played nearly all of its 1978 debut while touching on almost all of the high points from every record that followed undoubtedly added value.
Where it all goes from here, well, that really doesn’t matter. There’s talk of a new album next year, and there’s reason to think such an endeavor wouldn’t be lame. Yet let us not forget that it was only a year ago that Eddie was calling Roth “Cubic Zirconia” and “a loose cannon.” (Hagar? “The little red worm.”) Eddie seems like a changed man, and this outing (with Bob Marley’s son Ky-Mani capably warming up with racked-up reggae) is obviously re-energizing.
But I’d almost rather it all flame out once more. Keeps things in character – and makes these shows that much more special.
I attended the show last night at the Staples Center up in Los Angeles. I went in with no expectations considering that the guys have aged, internal conflicts between band mates and the absence of Michael Anthony on bass guitar and key background vocals.
What I experienced was a high energy performance by old friends that looked like they genuinely were having a great time performing together only mere miles from where they had formed back in the mid-’70s.
To put it bluntly, Van Halen tore the roof off the Staples Center at times. The version of “Hot for Teacher” was so intense, that it could have been mistaken for a borderline punk song. Eddie Van Halen’s solo was mind blowing. David Lee Roth’s antics were controlled. He appeared to pay homage to Eddie through out the entire show.
The best part of the evening was seeing the interaction between Eddie and his son Wolfgang playing a mean bass guitar. Eddie looked so proud. And Wolf had the stature of a seasoned pro playing in front of 20,000-some odd, air guitar-playing fans.
I went in with no expectations and walked away feeling as though I just witnessed a good old fashioned rock concert circa the early ’80s.
Right off the bat, the Van Halen show was an event. The band, the crowd and the energy were at peak levels. Now the downside. The sound was terrible. The sound man should be cracked upside the head. Diamond Dave’s voice was at times unintelligible and I don’t think it was his fault. His mic just seemed a level below the instruments.
Otherwise awesome performance by the band, Eddie not only looked ripped, like he’s been working out, but he also ripped up the guitar, reinforcing his status as one of the premier guitarists in rock. Eddie’s kid, Wolfgang, played a nice bass and Alex Van Halen was rock solid behind the drums. Alex did a very entertaining five-minute drum solo that was just long enough as to not be annoying.
But the spotlight was squarely on Diamond Dave and Eddie and they looked like they were having a ball onstage. Dave was also in top physical condition doing his karate kicks and prancing all over the stage. My favorite songs were “Running With the Devil,” “Panama,” “Dance the Night Away” and of course the encore of “Jump” sent everyone home very satisfied. Great night, great band, great show!
David Lee Roth was amazing. I’ve seen him perform live many times, but have never heard him sing better. And at age 53, the roundhouse kicks (and the abs) are still there. Tuesday night he cemented his stance as the greatest frontman ever.
Eddie was back in top form, looking and playing great. He and Dave fed off each other, reminding everyone there was the real Van Halen is all about – fun, loud, non-stop rock. The two-hour show didn’t pause for an instant. And Michael Anthony’s absence was only noticed in body form: Wolfgang slayed it on bass and backing vocals.
Something I really appreciated was that Dave and Eddie didn’t make a big deal about being back together. They didn’t get up there like the Police or the Eagles and hug and get sappy and soak up applause making the audience feel lucky to be there. Van Halen just rocked.
I am a long time VH fan and have been waiting a long time for this tour. I was sitting in one of the business suites during this show and I don’t know if sitting in the suite behind the glass affected the way the sound came through. I had a hard time hearing what David Lee Roth was saying, even though I knew all the songs. I also thought that the music mix was off. I thought Eddie’s guitar should have been louder and cleaner. It was hard to make out most of the time and sounded like they had a lot of bass going through the system. I was disappointed with the sound quality of the show.
I was impressed with the performance of Wolfgang, especially the background vocals. Of course, David Lee Roth put on a great show as one of the best frontmen in music. So overall, I would have to say that I was disappointed, but I’ll have two more chances to check them out at the Honda Center in December.
As someone who has never seen Van Halen in concert before (because they stopped touring in 1984 and I was born in 1988) I didn’t know what to expect. Would David behave, would Eddie and Alex still have it, and would Wolfgang satisfy?
I am happy to say they did satisfy, all of them. I couldn’t ask for more. It’s been my dream that they would come to tour after all these years and I wasn’t going to pass it up and I’m glad I didn’t. The show was well balanced, the boys sounded the same, and it was sad when it ended. There were many Micheal Anthony loyalists, but for me Wolfgang did great. You could tell he was nervous, but after a little while he did warm up, and (with) encouragement from his dad, he was jumping around the stage.
I got to share this experience with my uncle, a Van Halen concert veteran, and he was blown away. He thought they were just as good as they were more than two decades ago. So with my T-shirt and my key chains I went home with an experience I’ll never forget. Long Live Van Halen!
Call me sentimental but to me Van Halen is not Van Halen without David Lee Roth. He’s still jumping around and doing his kicks. His voice sounded great and Eddie and Alex ? ah what can I say? Eddie is still the Guitar King, as I’m sure most would agree. Watching both the guitar and drum solos alone is well worth the money. Wolfgang is awesome! Not surprising, since it seems he’s caught on the music gene. Very talented young man indeed. Nice to see all of them last night – the music brought back great memories!
Awesome show. Diamond Dave is back and looks to be in great shape. Alex is crisp as ever on the drums. Eddie is still the king of guitar and at his age to be able to play shirtless. Wow. The man is toned and has no middle age belly or love handles. Maybe I will start smoking! He really seems to be enjoying being back on tour with Dave. More than anything you see a real proud papa. Seeing him onstage with his son Wolfgang playing bass you can see Eddies’ eyes light up and feel the love he has for his son. The songs make time stand still. They closed the show with “Jump”. Tickets were worth every cent. I can’t wait to go see them again.