Here’s a concert review from Van Halen’s show last night in Dallas, Texas. From VHND reader, Billy Beavers.
Let’s start with the opening act. Kool & The Gang started off kind of slowly to a half packed American Airlines Center. The musicianship was top notch from the get-go, but the energy from the crowd wasn’t quite there for a few songs. They know how to work up a crowd, though. Half way through their 45 minute set, the place was full, the funk was flowing, and 20,000 pure-bred, registered 80’s rockers were on their feet and participating. The last four songs were “Jungle Boogie”, “Ladies Night”, “Get Down On It”, and “Celebration”, and there was not a bootie that wasn’t grooving to the funk being laid down by 12 seasoned funkateers. They were fuckin’ awesome!
Now to the headliner. After the stage setup, Alex comes out, sits behind the drums, the lights go down, he begins pounding. Eddie’s guitar begins screaming and throwing out notes at a billion beats per minute. The rest of the band come out, and you have the Holy Grail of live bands on stage before you.
Now, about the performers. Wolfgang impressed me the most. I mean Dave is Dave, Eddie is Eddie, Alex is Alex…you know what you’re going to get, and it’s going to be damn good! Wolfgang was the question mark. It took about 3 minutes to remove that question mark. During the breakdown in the first song, “Unchained”, they broke into a little jam the likes of which you won’t hear anywhere North of a live Cream album. The drums go one way, the guitar goes another, the bass goes another, all at a furious pace, and it all works. They played this out for several minutes. Let me educate those of you who aren’t rock musicians: THIS ISN’T EASY TO DO! Wolfgang earned Jack Bruce and Geddy Lee level props from me right then and there. He’s my favorite “new” bass player. Oh, and the background vocals rivaled the GREAT Michael Anthony. Top notch performance. He just needs to work on being a rock-star, and not hanging outside of the spotlight so much.
Alex is a MASTER rock musician. Visually, he is primarily a pair of sunglasses behind a massive set of skins, but from an audio standpoint, you just can’t deny his impact on the overall performance. He’s the cam-shaft in a 3000 horsepower engine. Nothing happens that he doesn’t prompt, and during all of his controlled, furious power, he manages to throw his mark in to let you know he’s not just any ordinary drummer. What can you say about this guy? He couldn’t have been more flawless. He’s Alex Van Halen.
Eddie is clean and sober for the first time in his adult life, and it showed. He’s older now and his playing is better than ever! I’m what you would call an Eddie Van Halen historian. I’ve seen every bootleg performance, have worn out multiple copies of every album, have been to every tour since 1984, and as guitar player have studied his every move across the fret board over the years. When you listen to Eddie, you expect to hear Eddie. Not Satriani, not Vai, not Hendrix, not Clapton, not whomever… you want Eddie. You can’t get that anywhere at any level of sobriety from anyone but Eddie. Nobody can play a Van Halen song better than him, and I’ve never seen him play better than tonight.
Dave. He was the Master of Ceremonies, The Tour Guide, The Ringleader, The Comedian, The Teacher…He has evolved into the greatest frontman to ever front a band – David Lee Roth. His official title is “lead singer”, but don’t let that fool you. 50 shows into the tour his voice is somewhat shot and he can’t hit some of the notes, but IT DIDN’T MATTER! He’s still the BEST! He’s there to entertain you, and thoroughly entertained you will be. Trust me on this one.
The set list was blistering for two full hours! Four songs from the new album, and a dozen and a half from the old DLR-era albums. My 16 year old daughter knew every word to every song except the new ones, because she’s had the fortunate opportunity to ride in the car with me her whole life. They went from classic to classic seamlessly and effortlessly with such a command of the furiously intense insanity that is Van Halen that only masters of the live performance such as themselves could do.
To steal a line from Midnight Phil, “Eddie is Eddie”. I would like expand on that and say Van Halen is simply Van Halen. If hearing any of their music for the first time moved you or made you feel good, and you have searched for that feeling or sound elsewhere, you know by now that there is only one place to find it. Seeing them live on this tour, I found it again, and found it BIG TIME!