Van Halen would like you to forget about what happened between 1985 and 1996.
Forget the other guys who tried to fill “Diamond Dave’s” shoes.
(It’s not that hard to do).
Reunited once again with original lead singer David Lee Roth, Van Halen performed a nearly two-hour set on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Casino. The concert was heavy on songs from the band’s first six albums with Roth, as well as a sprinkling of rockin’ numbers from the recent “A Different Kind of Truth,” their first studio album with him since 1984.
There was not an echo of the 40 or so tracks from the four albums they recorded with singer Sammy Hagar or a whisper from “Van Halen III,” which featured Gary Cherone on lead vocals.
Instead, Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang Van Halen reconnected with the best part of their past and charted a course for the future.
The foursome high kicked things off before a full house in the casino’s 10,000-seat arena with “Unchained” and “Running With the Devil” – songs that date back more than 30 years – before offering “She’s the Woman” from their recent comeback album. It was the first of four songs from “A Different Kind of Truth” performed at Mohegan Sun.
Trim, athletic and in fine voice, the 56-year-old Roth promised the Mohegan Sun crowd “the casino show,” which meant repeated references throughout the night to his losses at blackjack and the “all-you-can-eat Elvis buffet.”
When Roth was not singing his heart out or dancing across the stage, he was shamelessly mugging for the venue cameras. He remains an over-the-top showman, even though he muffed a few lyrics during the 22-song set.
Despite the history of backstage friction in the band, on-stage they were well-oiled machine. In fact, they looked downright jovial performing Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and The Kinks “You Really Got Me,” the latter featuring a soulful guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen.
The two covers were followed by a new track, “The Trouble with Never,” which proved to be the song of the night that sent folks heading out for a beer, bathroom break or souvenir T-shirt. It was pity since it is one of the better tracks on a very solid album.
The crowd was understandably more receptive to the familiar high-octane hits from the past: “Dance the Night Away,” “Hot for Teacher,” and “Beautiful Girls.”
Given their stature, the senior members each indulged themselves to some solo time in the spotlight. Drummer Alex Van Halen performed a hammering solo half-way through the night; Eddie Van Halen treated fans to eight minutes of solo virtuoso guitar playing; and Roth stepped away from his stage persona and spoke at length with deep affection about dogs and the difference between sheep and cattle herding. OK, it wasn’t always a good idea to let them indulge themselves.
The concert proved to be a successful mix old favorites (“Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” “Hear About It Later”) and new songs (“Tattoo,” “China Town.”)
The night drew to a close with roof-raising rendition of “1984’s “Panama” and “Ain’t Talking About Love” from the band’s 1978 debut album, “Van Halen.”
“You wanna encore?,” Roth called out to the throng before Van Halen tore into a no-holds-barred version of “Jump,” complete with blasts from confetti cannons and Roth waving a giant checkered flag at the close.
If the concert was a race, Van Halen was easily the winner.
— Ray Kelly, Springfield Republican