February 8 – New Orleans, Louisiana
From The Times-Picayune:
By Molly Reid
Friday (Feb. 8) night’s Van Halen concert at the New Orleans Arena, part of the band’s first reunion tour to include original frontman David Lee Roth, was a night of joyful noise and nostalgia accented with a few reminders — both on stage and in the audience — that it isn’t 1978 anymore.
After an opening act from Ky-Mani Marley, son of legendary reggae star Bob Marley, the fearsome foursome took the stage to a thunderous cry from fans, many of whom had paid hundreds of dollars and waited years to see the reunion of the band that formed in Pasadena, Calif., in 1972. The only new face in the original lineup of David Lee Roth on vocals, Eddie Van Halen on guitar and older brother Alex Van Halen on drums was bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s 16-year-old son.
Both the Van Halen brothers and David Lee Roth looked almost as sinewy and fit as they did back in the day, but the music’s energy was not as consistent as in their glory days. The concert was full of wide, toothy smiles and pats on the back between the frontman and lead guitarist, whose enmity became the stuff of rock lore after Roth was fired from the band in 1985.
When they played their greatest hits straight, as was the case with “Running with the Devils,” “Dance the Night Away” and “Beautiful Girls,” they were something to behold. Roth still has his wacky stage presence, and Eddie Van Halen can most certainly still shred. In those songs, the audience of mostly middle-aged men, some with their sons in tow, became its most relaxed and loose.
But a few forays into extended call-and-response improvisation between Roth and Van Halen usually ended awkwardly, bringing the energy down and prompting Roth to break into a cartoony smile and exclaim, “Are you guys still having fun out there?”
Although Roth could still jump, twirl a baton and perform the same microphone stand acrobatics that made him a rock hero, his vocals were often strained or drowned out by the guitar’s heavy distortion.
It was Eddie Van Halen who seemed most at ease and boyish as he sauntered around the stage, shirtless in camo pants, and executed his trademark wild solos with a calm glee. His 15-minute solo guitar opus was as playful and experimental as a 16-year-old messing around with his first Fender, but had the skill of an old master.
Despite, or because of, his lulls in energy and confidence, Roth brought forth an air of gratitude and humility that carried the concert through to its touching “Jump” finale, complete with confetti, high-fives between bandmates and smiles on the faces of everyone in the audience.
“I remember seeing the seeds running down Kenny’s poorly-rolled joint and glide slowly down the cover of a Pink Floyd album,” Roth reminisced in a trip down memory lane before he went into his acoustic “Ice Cream Man.”
“It was Saturday night, 1972,” he said, as the audience roared, sharing the moment with him.