White men – even the older ones – can “Jump.”
And make guitars wail. And high-kick. And twirl microphone stands. And swagger. And hit the high notes (many if maybe not all). And carry off the bare-chest-and-skin-tight pants look. And get over themselves.
So Van Halen showed a crowd of 9,368 at North Little Rock’s Alltel Arena Wednesday night.
Calling the current band “three-quarters original” and “one-quarter inevitable” the original singer David Lee Roth joined founders and brothers Eddie Van Halen (guitar) and Alex Van Halen (drums) as well as the band’s newest member Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie’s 16-year-old son who replaced original bassist Michael Anthony).
If any lingering tension exists between veteran members, they hid it well – sharing personal space and slapping hands – for the fun of fans who have been pleading for a reunion since Roth quit in 1985.
Chumminess was on display from the opening number, with Eddie and Roth pausing during a charged “You Really Got Me” for a heartily cheered embrace. Roth then turned to acknowledge Wolfgang – born years after all the songs he’d be shyly and skillfully performing were written – saying, “I told you about Arkansas.”
The band spent the two-hour concert not only playing some two dozen classics – from “Beautiful Girls” and “Dance the Night Away,” to “Panama” and “Jump” – but playing like it was more than two decades ago, as if all the hating and Sammy Hagar years (and Gary Cherone years and …) never happened.
Possessing a stage presence as sassy as his sparkling torso-baring jackets, flamboyant frontman Roth assuredly strutted and shout-sang. Beaming perpetually, Eddie sometimes spun and sprung as his fingers, which were granted frequent close-ups on the big screen behind the stage, worked their wizardry. With the showmanship in secure hands, Alex and Wolfgang Van Halen stayed focused on their instruments.