From Seattle PI:
“Dance the Night Away” could have been the theme song for Van Halen’s raucous reunion show Monday night at KeyArena.
Even the rare power ballad in a mostly pedal-to-the-metal rock concert kept fans on their feet and swaying to the music. The 25-song set hit most of the high points from the band’s heyday, before original singer David Lee Roth left in a huff in 1985.
The announcement earlier this year that the flamboyant, mercurial Roth would reunite with brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen was greeted with tremendous excitement among longtime fans, but tempered by skepticism about the trio’s ability to keep the peace.
So far, so good.
In fact, the Seattle show was a knockout — from the opening song, “You Really Got Me,” to the evening’s high-spirited closer, “Jump.”
Despite his strutting and preening, Roth has smoothed the edges of his over-the-top personality. Dressed in a succession of embroidered, brightly colored jackets with matching top hats, Diamond Dave kept the electricity flowing throughout the two-hour set. He clearly was enjoying his return to arenas after a bumpy post-Van Halen career that reached its lowest point when he quit the music business entirely to become a New York City paramedic, an honorable job that he took seriously.
Now, with his long, blond mane reduced to a short, gentleman’s haircut, Roth is back in at the front of the reenergized band. .
Eddie Van Halen, one of rock’s most admired guitarists, and brother Alex, on drums, were in buoyant moods. Having Eddie’s teenage son, Wolfgang, on bass made it a true family affair. Eddie occasionally faced off with his son, bringing cheers from concertgoers. A work in progress, Wolfie played admirably.
Alex and Eddie (who was shirtless) treated fans to lengthy solos. Eddie’s was extraordinary for its clarity, focus and energy.
Before the show, an inflatable blimp, decorated with the Van Halen logo, hovered over fans on the main floor. (Opening act was Ky-Mani Marley, one of Bob Marley‘s talented sons, and his band.)
Roth, the first on stage, waved a giant red flag like a matador. Behind him was an enormous video screen that provided an almost cinematic backdrop, offering amazing close-ups of Eddie’s guitar playing and Alex’s powerful, grimacing drum solo.
The stage included a curved ramp that wrapped around Alex’s drum set, as well as a catwalk that encircled a VIP pit.
Lighting was extraordinary, with dozens of spots illuminating band members, as well as lasers that appeared to drill holes in the ceiling. Above the stage, eight columns of LED lights changed colors like bulbs on a Christmas tree. To the side of the stage was a pair of two lighted shoji screens.
Early favorites included “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” “Beautiful Girls” and “Everybody Wants Some,” in which Roth and Eddie tried to out-do each other imitating the sounds of a motorcycle.
“Dance the Night Away” prompted an audience singalong. “Romeo Delight” included a snippet of The Who‘s “Magic Bus” (“You get something for free tonight,” Roth quipped). His best moment was a sentimental version of “Ice Cream Man” that included a story about growing up in the suburbs (“where they tear down the trees and name streets after them”) and using his friend’s ice cream truck to chill beer at parties.
With the tour now extended into 2008, the reinvigorated Van Halen stands a good chance of becoming a long-term enterprise.
From Seattle Weekly:
David Lee Roth has a fantastic tailor. And I’m pretty sure those amps went to 11.
The initial thing that grabbed me was the gold, embroidered suit coat he was wearing when he strutted onto KeyArena’s stage during “You Really Got Me,” the Kinks cover that Van Halenhave owned since the band’s inception in 1978. Roth was dressed in a tastefully embellished and precisely tucked jacket that exuded all the factors that made him one of the most flamboyant, ballsy, and wildly charismatic frontmen in rock ‘n’ roll history.
There’s no way in hell to retroactively capture what made VH a monster metal act back in the day, and really, there’s no dignified reason to try. What Diamond Dave conveyed onstage at KeyArena for two hours on Monday night was simply a joyous and affectionate nod to their debauched, decadent, and gold-record-strewn past.
I spent the hours prior to the show at Bandits, a Wild West–themed bar on Denny Way, at the suggestion of Ben London, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Recording Academy. Despite that exhaustive title, London is a succinct and practical fellow. He sent out an e-mail to me, Tractor booking agent/Presidents of the United States of America guitarist Andrew McKeag, Long Winters leader John Roderick, and Sonic Boom co-owner Nabil Ayers that read, “We can’t possibly go see Van Halen on Monday without having a little pre-party. Since we are all too wise (old) to drink a stolen bottle of Jack in the parking lot, I suggest we meet at Bandits.”
And so we did, along with a gleeful crew of veteran musicians that included producer/former Fastback Kurt Bloch, former Pavement guitarist/Preston School of Industry frontman Scott Kannberg, and the notably younger Lonely H vocalist Mark Fredson. The conversation covered much nostalgic ground, including McKeag’s whiskey-fortified Lynyrd Skynyrd experience,Bloch’s attendance at multiple VH shows, and our collective memories of standing in line to buy tickets for the Scorpions.
This retrospective preamble was ideal for what greeted us when we entered the arena (even though we had to face the unpleasant reality that beer drinking was forbidden during the show). From the grinding euphoria of “Atomic Punk” to ideal lyrical references in “Hot for Teacher” (“I heard you missed us, we’re baaaaack!”), everyone was on their feet. Wearing a Van Halen logo shirt and stretching to replicate Michael Anthony’s signature backing vocals, replacement bassistWolfgang Van Halen (son of VH guitarist Eddie) was as awkward as could be expected from an adolescent thrust into the classic-rock spotlight. He was also obviously thrilled to be sharing the stage with his family, and the heartwarming factor in that could not be denied. David Lee Roth was the only one making costume changes—Eddie and Alex made due with their trademark white cargo pants and headband, respectively—and he was also busy as the obviously galvanizing force behind all the smiles in the crowd. Without DLR, it’s safe to say 99 percent of the ticket holders wouldn’t have been there.
He was also responsible for the show’s most touching and nearly artful moment. Prior to “Ice Cream Man,” he shared a vivid yarn about hanging with a buddy who owned an ice-cream truck and lived above his parents’ garage in a stoner haven outfitted with black walls, black light, a dartboard, and a velvet Jimi Hendrix poster. Describing the pinpricks of light that formed when their darts perpetually missed the mark, he said they felt like they were flying “in the Starship Enterprise” and confessed that the girl he would spend the next three years with made her impression on him in that room by mocking his masculinity. It was sweeter than it sounds.
For his part, Eddie Van Halen more than held his own (unlike his brother, drummer Alex, who suffered from some bizarre and distracting tempo fluctuations). Though he’s guilty of setting a tedious precedent for noodlers nationwide, his showboating solo reminded everyone why that self-taught guitarist should be viewed as a national treasure. Say what you will about his limp keyboard lines on “Jump,” but the guy created a guitar sound that no one else has even come close to replicating.
By the time the confetti cannons showered the crowd and Dave strutted around the stage perimeter like the ageless gigolo he is, the verdict was in: Van Halen never were talking about love, but their passionate delivery remains worthy of ours.
With 22 years since I last had an unsuccessful opportunity to see the original Van Halen, a lot has changed, but certainly not my love that classic Van Halen sound. So when tickets went on sale in the summer, I did it old school. I went to a ticket seller 2 and ½ hours before tickets went on sale. Since I live about 3 hours from Seattle and that fact that the concert was in December, is probably the reason that I was the only person in line at this location. I had stopped at another location before this one, and was given a ticket to hold my 4th place in line. I could come back 15 minutes before they went on sale and get my spot back. Well, for the Mighty Van Halen, 4th place in line was not good enough. So off I went to another location. There, I was first in a line of 1. This was perfect. 180 minutes later I had 2 tickets for Row 24 center stage floor seats. I can almost hear “Look at all the People Here TONIGHT!” ringing in my ears.
After waiting a few months…a few long months, the show date has arrived. And of course a snowstorm has hit the mountain pass between Seattle and me. So in my quest to make sure I get to the show, I take the long way around to Seattle, through Portland, Oregon. After 6 ½ hours of driving in the torrential rain, I arrived in Seattle the night before the show.
On Monday, I met my friends in front of Key Arena and we headed in. We immediately stood in line with the throngs of Van Halenites in line at the merch booth. With a small spattering of t-shirts and some expensive other merch, I decided on a nice retro logo shirt. (Side note: if you are buying a shirt at the show, make sure you go a little larger than normal. They are thin shirts that will shrink like you won’t believe.)
With concert time coming on soon, we got to our seats, hopeful that the opening band would be decent. With Ky-Mani Marley (son of Bob) selected as the opening band by a certain Mr. Roth, I knew it would be different. And after a 30 minute set of pretty good reggae from Mr. Marley, (including 2 of his dad’s songs), the crowd cheered him and his band as they thanked Van Halenand left the stage.
Only 30 minutes pass when the lights go down and the boys hit the stage to the opening crunch of“You Really Got Me”. Dave and Eddie bounded onto the stage like they have been doing this forever. The energy from the stage was electric. The band was in fine form. Dave and Ed are both in tremendous shape and Alex continues to pound the skins with gusto. You could almost feel the crown dissect Wolfgang’s presence on stage. Well, the kid plays well, and is a pretty good backup singer. I don’t know if he could fill the energy and stage persona of the missing Michael Anthony, but an admirable job was put forth. Keep up the good work kid.
Each song from the band was met with thunderous applause from the crowd. Some of these songs have not been heard live for a long time. Having Mr. Roth back is the shot in the ass the band needed. Not to bash Sammy Hagar, but the past 10 years worth of Van Halen has been emotion free and energy free. Sammy may be the first to admit that, too.
As the band tore through songs from Van Halen I in what started out as almost a chronological time trip through their albums (yes I said albums dammit), each song was a welcome breath of high energy rock. By the time Dave screamed out “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”, the crowd was in the palm of his hand. Eddie wailed on some blues riffs that Dave would vocalize and they seemed to be really enjoying some of that comradery that they made famous so long ago. Dave kicked, wailed and strutted, his vocals sounding better and his smile getting bigger with each song. Eddie The band played gem after gem of long missed Van Halen. My only down time for the show was the drum solo. I guess I am just not a fan of that certain throwback. But Eddie’s guitar solo was certainly welcome. After seeing a train wreck of a solo on the last tour with Sammy, Eddie really redeemed himself. A nice long flashy and energetic version of “Eruption”and other Van Halen pyrotechnics, made this solo one the crowd favorites, though it was unusually placed towards the end of the set.
Dave gave us a cool story about from his youth (ice cream trucks used to store beer, joints passed around and the high quality of 1970’s weed) to lead off “Ice Cream Man”. Dave is no slouch on the guitar and the intro was great. Eddie’s guitar screamed as he and the band joined in. I true highlight for me. Afterwards they lead into the hits from 1984. “Panama” was great to here again, but the surprise was getting to hear “I’ll Wait”.
They closed with “Jump”. The crowd ate it up and the band took its’ bow. I hoped for one more encore, maybe “Hear about it Later” or “Top Jimmy”, but alas no additional encore. They had played a long stretch of songs, and I can only hope this band continues to tour. I will be first in line for tickets again. Lets hope I don’t have to wait another 22 years.
For those of you that are not really Van Halen fans, do those of us that are a favor and do not attend. If you didn’t like them before this, you won’t like them now. They are, aside from a small line-up change and some age, the same Van Halen we all fell in love with so long ago.
It took them a few songs to get their engines revved up, but once they got going, the newly reunited Van Halen roared like the fine rock machine they were in their heyday 30-plus years ago, Monday night at a sold-out KeyArena.
Eddie Van Halen was stunning on guitar, presenting a master class in speed, technique, variety and creativity, complete with detailed close-ups of his fingering on a huge, Cinerama-like video screen. His several long solo turns were riveting, and he brought fire and intensity to every song.
David Lee Roth has been away from the band for a quarter century but it seemed like he never left. He made you forget about Sammy Hagar (his replacement), every time he let loose his full-throated, full-on vocalizing. And he reminded the fans that he’s 10 times the showman Hagar could ever hope to be.
The power behind it all was drummer Alex Van Halen, who hasn’t lost a bit of his energy or stamina. His drum solo was one of those rare ones that was actually worth paying attention to.
And 16-year-old Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Eddie, replacing original band member Michael Anthony, held his own admirably on bass and harmony vocals, which was awe-inspiring, given that he looked like he was out past his bedtime (he still has his baby fat).
Speaking of fat, shirtless Eddie Van Halen, who turns 53 next month, and Roth, 52, both showed lots of skin, because they’re in great shape, with flat stomachs and plenty of definition. Roth can still execute those high, roundhouse kicks, but he didn’t do much jumping, even during “Jump.”
As always with Van Halen, the show was big, with mammoth lighting and sound systems, a semi-circular catwalk for Diamond Dave to strut around — and, boy, does he love to strut — and lots of stage business. Roth had a thing for top hats — red and black ones — which he twirled, juggled and even made a dirty joke with, and he tossed and spun his microphone stand like a majorette.
The band more than made up for all that time apart by playing a long set of some two dozen songs, mixing crowd favorites with less-familiar, even obscure gems, like the scat-filled “I’m the One” and the guitar-drenched “Mean Street.”
Everything started to click five songs into the set, during the bluesy “Someone Get Me A Doctor,” with Eddie Van Halen playing sweet blues licks and Roth vocally improvising. Then they tore into “Dance the Night Away,” and never let up. The explosive “Everybody Wants Some” electrified the crowd, as did “Pretty Woman,” “Unchained,” “And the Cradle Will Rock,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” The big finale of “Jump” concluded with a snowstorm of confetti.
Whether the Van Halen reunion will last is hard to tell. But for this one night, the band was together again in all its glory.