From Tampa Bay Online:
Change is good as Roth, Van Halen rock Forum crowd
We’ll forgive David Lee Roth if those kicks don’t reach quite as high as they used to, or if the jumps we remember from those 1980s music videos have since been replaced by a few funky dance moves.
At 57, the lead singer for Van Halen just looks like he’s glad to be here, and judging by the reaction, so was the packed house at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.
Make no mistake: Despite his age, which he made light of at several points during the show, Roth remains the ultimate showman. The energy was palpable between him and master guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who looked equally thrilled to be sharing the stage and gave no hint of any past disharmony as they delighted the crowd with a mix of their early classics and cuts from their new album, “A Different Kind of Truth” – the band’s first studio album with Roth since “1984.”
It’s can be no accident that the band, on its first tour since 2007-08 and following a fun-filled set by Kool and the Gang, opened their two-plus hour show with “Unchained.” The song states that “nothin’ stays the same,” and while this has been true to some extent, it’s nice to see some things barely ever change.
Like Roth’s command of the stage, including his fun interaction with the band, and those familiar moves that – while not quite as animated – still conjured memories of Van Halen’s early days. The jumps off the stage platform have been replaced with high kicks, and he doesn’t get quite as low on those splits (and holding his back, feigning pain in a little bit of comic relief, and another time offering, “I look a little rough but I’m good to go.”) But there was enough of the gyrating, crotch-grabbing, playful Roth that we could overlook the more tame stage antics. And the slim Roth can still pull off the leather pants without looking like an Elvis impersonator.
Or Eddie Van Halen’s command of the guitar, which drew the loudest reaction during a solo featuring “Eruption” in which he left the crowd in awe of how he could cajole those kinds of sounds from a common instrument while sitting on stage as if we were entertaining the neighborhood kids on his front stoop. And those old classics such as “Pretty Woman,” “You Really Got Me,” “Dance The Night Away” and “Beautiful Girls,” delivered with that playful interplay between “Diamond Dave” and Eddie that left the “older” folks in the crowd thinking they were back in high school.
Even their new songs brought a fresh reminder that this band is going back to its roots. “She’s The Woman” features the hard-driving guitar and vocals that would have fit in perfectly in the pre-Sammy Hagar (remember him?) era. Same with “Tattoo,” another showcase for Roth’s iconic vocals and Eddie’s guitar skills, and a vehicle for Roth to show some skin – even if it was just the tattoo of a gun on his right, um, posterior.
Change isn’t bad, though. While Michael Anthony is out as bassist, the new face is Eddie’s 21-year-old son, Wolfgang, who didn’t share the joyful exuberance of his older bandmates, but still represented, especially early on with his intro for “Runnin’ With The Devil.”
If change is for the better, we learned that through a poignant story that Roth shared of is love for ranching and his two herding dogs, Mikey and Benny. Sporting overalls and an acoustic guitar over his shoulder, the backdrop video of the dogs in action was the vehicle for Roth to share this passion before entering into a spirited rendition of the slow, soulful “Ice Cream Man.”
That led to an encore of “Jump” and had virtually the entire arena on its feet, dancing and singing along as the show ended with a bang – literally – with confetti falling from the rafters and Roth waving a giant checkered flag as the band triumphantly crossed the finish line.
You won, guys, and so did we.
Dave’s schtick, Eddie’s brilliance endure as Van Halen cranks it up at the Tampa Bay Times Forum
TAMPA — For great swaths of 42-year-old white dudes, there is no greater on-again bromance than that of Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth. So when VH’s lead guitarist and lead con man grinned at each other during opener Unchained at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday, 11,903 fans collectively swooned as if the rockers were cuddling on the bow of the Titanic.
Ah, dumb raucous metallic love. Ain’t it grand? If this lineup of Van Halen isn’t exactly the way the gods intended (Ed’s kid Wolfie gamely took over Michael Anthony’s bass lines and high harmonies), the quartet proved good enough, and original enough, for two hours of testosterrific pop-rock fireballs.
“How we doing so far?” Roth smirked five minutes in. The crowd roared, and lifted beers, and the mood wouldn’t change. You got what you came for: that feel-good link to a time three decades ago when your jeans fit better and concert tees had two less Xs in front of the L.
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After a 50-minute set by unlikely, but admittedly funktastic, openers Kool & the Gang (if your hips didn’t hurt after Jungle Boogie, you were doing it wrong), VH casually, if loudly, sauntered onstage, drummer Alex Van Halen starting things off behind the glowing skins like the Gordon Gekko of time-keeping.
Diamond Dave slid over dance-recital planks like a shoobie-doobie vaudeville clown. His vocals weren’t as shoddy as feared. (Nice work on I’ll Wait, DLR.) He’d exaggerate words rather than bother with high notes now and then, more carnival barker than carnal ringmaster.
But his new patter during Hot for Teacher — “I’m Mr. Roth, I’ll be your substitute teacher”; “For our Spanish-speaking students, Panama is down the hall to the left and four songs from now” — was classic Dave. And he gave an altogether earnest talk about, of all things, his farm and his dogs before Ice Cream Man. Have we ever seen the real Roth before? Very cool, very unexpected.
Throughout, the noise was satisfying, and an IMAX-ian video screen helped sell the drama. Plus the boys didn’t just come to cash a fat paycheck, although they certainly will. Runnin’ With the Devil and Everybody Wants Some!! were given thorough workouts, and the new stuff from album A Different Kind of Truth sounded robust in a live setting, especially She’s the Woman, a reworked tune from the old days. Some deeper album cuts — Hear About It Later is my fave VH tune — were dusted off, too.
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Perhaps Eddie, reportedly much healthier than in years past, is so happy now because he’s become the absolute focal point of the group. His revolutionary tapping style has made him a hero to guitar wonks the world over, but the nerds have a point: At 57, he remains rock’s ultimate virtuoso, merging blues and classical riffs and often sounding like 10 men.
I’d never complain about this job, but when you review Van Halen on deadline, it usually means you’re cranking out wordplay when Roth & Co. clear the stage and let Eddie uncork his epic end-of-night solo. But this time, I stepped away from my computer in the press box, and just gawked at the speed, the tonal elegance. Darn the consequences: When greatness erupts, you need to stop and watch.