Photos by ROBERT YEAGER
Twelve years ago tonight, Van Halen launched their first tour with original singer David Lee Roth since 1984! The 2007-2008 tour was the highest grossing tour in the bands history, with arena sellouts all across the country, grossing more than $93 million.
Nearly a million fans journeyed from all over the world to witness the landmark Van Halen tour, which kicked-off September 27th, 2007 in Charlotte, NC and wrapped up June 2, 2008 in Grand Rapids, MI. Van Halen, featuring Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen and Wolfgang Van Halen delivered their bombastic live assault performances to legions of loyal fans at 75 arena concerts throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Performing live with Roth for the first time in more than 23 years, Van Halen proved its timeless catalog of hits still packs the punch it did decades earlier. Each night, the band treated the capacity audiences to a dream set list of more than two hours of VH gems plucked from their original era. Favorites including, “Jump”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, “Panama” and more, received a jolt of vivacity and spirit.
Below are several reviews of the opening night in Charlotte, NC. From all accounts, the band kicked ass.
The band poses backstage right before they took the stage in Charlotte, NC—the very first night of the tour!
The Charlotte Observer has published the first official review, along with some photos. The paper’s reviewer gave the band some high praise.
Here’s a taste of the review:
Seems like old times: Van Halen rocks arena
Any animosity wasn’t apparent on stage as Roth and Eddie Van Halen saddled up next to each other, smiling, during “Everybody Wants Some” and “Dance the Night Away.” Roth and Wolfgang Van Halen even sang “Oh Pretty Woman” side by side.
The younger Van Halen proved to be a showy player and spot-on backing vocalist, although he didn’t yet prowl the stage like a seasoned vet.
His post rehab father looked skinny, but cut, as did his brother. In fact, the original members all looked fit, though none ran around the stage like they did 25 years ago. …
What might be overlooked in favor of [Roth’s] over-the-top persona is his voice, which was in peak form Thursday. He easily met and held notes that younger singers like Jon Bon Jovi just can’t reach anymore.
According to the reviewer, the group stuck to the setlist that was leaked from the tour rehearsals.
From USA Today:
Music road trip: Van Halen shakes off the cobwebsBy Mike Snider, USA TODAYLocation: Bobcats Arena, Charlotte
Attendance: A sellout crowd of more than 18,000
The opener: Ky-Mani Marley incurred favor with the crowd by opening his half hour set with Roots, Rock, Reggae and finishing with No Woman, No Cry, two songs from his late father Bob Marley’s repertoire. However, he flashed his own charismatic side by enthralling the crowd with The March, a hip-hop/reggae hybrid song from his new album, Radio, that juxtaposed the war in Iraq with street violence.
The crowd: Straight out of 1984. Lots of baseball jerseys and classic rock band shirts (think Rolling Stones, Ratt, The Who, Rush, AC/DC, Def Leppard and Foreigner). Many in attendance were in their forties or older, but twentysomethings and teens were present, too. “We brought them because they want to see (16-year-old bassist) Wolfgang (Van Halen, the son of Eddie and ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli),” says Mandy Mashburn, 38, of York, S.C. She and husband Ric, 37, brought son, Rick, 14, and his friend Quin Magee, also 14, to the show. Both boys play guitar and heard Van Halen songs at home, but watched Wolfgang on YouTube. They already had souvenir T-shirts on.
Says neighbor Jim Gilkeson, 39, a Van Halen concert veteran who accompanied them, “I prefer (the band’s original lead singer) David (Lee Roth),” he says. Roth fronted the band, founded in L.A. by brothers Eddie and Alex, for about seven years. Later, Sammy Hagar took over as lead singer for a decade and a 2004 reunion tour. “Really in my mind, I think they’ve all realized (Roth as the lead singer) is what works.”
Stage setting: An S-shaped walkway swooped from above Alex Van Halen’s drum kit and flowed into a catwalk that allowed Roth and others to cavort through the crowd. The billboard-sized video screen often displayed an “Eddie cam” view that zoomed in on and captured guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s fretwork. Green laser lights occasionally came into play.The merch: Pretty conservative, considering the modern-day merchandising frenzy that has led to many bands offering logo-monikered baby outfits. One on-the-edge offering for the ladies: a $15 red Van Halen thong. Also: a $70 hoodie, $15 tote bags, $10 sweatbands and a selection of $35-$40 T-shirts sporting the classic VH logo.
The lowdown: For longtime Van Halen fans, question marks were answered. First to take the stage, Eddie, 52, emerged — clean-cut, bare-chested and buff — and fired off some Eruption-era riffs to a rowdy and affectionate reception from a standing crowd. Any lasting effects from his rehab stint earlier this year and past treatment for tongue cancer were not evident. Returning to the band he parted ways with 22 years ago, Roth, also 52, smiled like a Cheshire cat — and clad in skintight leather pants and sparkling embroidered tunics — and strutted like Chanticleer. His flowing locks are gone and his voice sported a slightly lower register, but Roth sounded virile and satisfied the faithful with some high-pitched screams and spinning karate kicks. On drums, Alex, 54, continued to stoke the band’s fire and Wolfgang wooed the crowd with his self-effacing demeanor.
Musical highlights: Showing their teamwork from the get-go, Roth scatted to Eddie’s playing during their cover of the Kinks’ You Really Got Me. “It only took us 20 years to get this far,” Roth told the crowd during the next song, I’m the One (another song from the band’s 1978 debut album), referring to decade-long reunion rumors. Two-thirds of the way into the 2-hour-plus show, Alex and Eddie collaborated on a crunching intro toEverybody Wants Some!! During Hot for Teacher, Roth happily exclaimed with emphasis, “I heard you missed us, we’re back.” The non-stop barrage that also included Beautiful Girls, their cover of Roy Orbison’sOh, Pretty Woman and Panama, another from hit album 1984 (released in 1984), filled the arena with hard rock energy rarely generated since, well, the band’s previous forays.
Memorable moments: The absence of bass player Michael Anthony was obvious, but Wolfgang missed nary a beat neither on bass or background vocals. In fact, he had his own rock star moments standing at the stage’s crest to strike the opening notes of Runnin’ with the Devil and slapping hands with crowd members while stalking the runway during Atomic Punk. (Also not mentioned: Sammy Hagar, who served as lead vocalist after Roth, set to tour with Anthony this fall. Those two attended the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.)
He and his father had a couple touching moments including a smooch after Dance the Night Away and Eddie sliding across the stage on his knees — while playing Little Guitars— and coming to a stop at Wolfgang’s feet. Eddie and Roth also had a good rapport and the two slapped hands after Jump.
“They were like a family up there,” said Matt Long, Greenville, N.C.. 36, who attended the concert with his brother Andrew, 33. Both have listened to the band since they were teens. “Honestly, it was something I didn’t think I would see,” he said. “The core of the band is Eddie and Alex, but the alpha male is David. I thought the crowd was going to be older, but this proves their influence and that the interest goes beyond generations.”
Both were more than pleased with the performance. “I think David held back. He hasn’t been in front of 20,000 people in 20 years,” Long said.
Knowing the group’s volatility, he said, “you want to be at the first show because you don’t know what will happen with them.”
In the encyclopedia, the definition of the term “Rock Show” should read: “See: Van Halen”.
I was fortunate enough last night to catch the debut performance of the newly reunited, David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen at Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, and it was pretty incredible.
The staging was pretty minimal for such a show, with only a ramp twisting from the stage up and abobe the drum riser, and a U2-style “ring” into the front of the audience, and thankfully VH let the music be the show, rather than corny visual props. A huge screen above the stage allowed fans to watch Eddie Van Halen’s insane fingering technique up-close, and showed the fans in the back David Lee Roth’s enormous grin that was there from the opener of “You Really Got Me” through the encore finale of “Jump”.
Eddie’s son Wolfgang was a nice surprise as a wholly competent replacement on bass for Michael Anthony, fitting in fine on the trademark background harmonies, but looked a little unsure of himself when moving around the stage. The kid is only sixteen, though…I’d have wet my pants walking out on that stage. It was fun to watch him play and sing on “Hot For Teacher”, a song written by Roth from a sixteen-year-old’s perspective. Let’s hope his old man has the smarts to steer him clear from the all the well-documented excesses that gave Van Halen the reputation as the “Kings of Backstage Shenanigans” during their ’80’s heyday.
Eddie and Dave both looked like they were in amazing shape, and Dave wisely kept the gymnastics to a few high kicks and martial-arts manoevers. Alex Van Halen still kept it all rock-steady, and played one of his patented drum solos that had hardcore fans staring with mouths agape. There are not a lot of drummers in rock these days that can keep an arena full of fans from using a drum solo as an opportinity to run out to the corridors for more beer, but watching Alex wail on that giant six-bass-drummed kit on the big screen was every bit as compelling as watching a good magician to learn the secret of his tricks.
And Dave was…well, Dave. He’s funny, sexy, corny, and he remarkably hit every high note he attempted. His intro-story to “Ice Cream Man”, in which he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar out on the ring in the middle of the audience, was hilarious and told in a way that only a master storyteller could pull off in such a setting.
And thankfully, no songs from the Sammy era.
All-in-all, a really fun and satisfying night…well worth the price of the ticket. These shows truly are your opportunity to see the world’s greatest guitar player and the world’s best frontman on the same stage together. I literally had goosebumps more than a few times during show…which in my book is the ultimate barometer of a great show.
From New York Daily News:
Van Halen Still Brothers in Rock
First, the good news: David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen got through the entire stretch of their first show together in 22 years last night without killing each other.
Now the better news: At last night’s opening salvo of a national tour at the Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, N.C., the two performed with a vintage measure of joy and verve, showing neither the vitriol that long ago fractured them, nor the problems that have plagued them as individuals in the time between – including, most recently, a spell in rehab for Eddie.
Joining the duo in this eons-in-themaking comeback were drummer Alex Van Halen and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass, subbing for Michael Anthony.
The latter snub prevented the tour from pulling off a full revival of the original gang of four.
But the pitched spirit and chops displayed this night evoked more than enough of the band’s ’80s heyday to please any true fan.
From the first power chords of “You Really Got Me,” the band hit a hard groove that didn’t let up for the next two hours.
Eddie’s guitar runs showed again the God-like speed, agility and wit of old, even if he still shows no interest, or ability, to connect this to anything approaching an adult emotion.
We’re still talking frat house stuff here, even from men moving into their 50s.
Same goes for Roth, who remains the same eagerly corny ham as ever. His outfits looked like they came straight from Siegfried and Roy’s back closet.
Still, he came through where it counted. He didn’t cower from hitting the high, screechy notes. And his trademark bellow rang through loud and clear.
The group played 25 songs, batted out in brisk succession, and all from the pre-Sammy Hagar era (1978 to ’84).
It often stressed a mangier and rawer style than what came later, and while that kind of thing can sound sloggy in an arena, last night the sound remained bracingly crisp throughout.
The rhythm section – another big question mark of the night – pulled its weight.
Young Wolfgang kept the bottom in line with his bass lines.
Alex Van Halen’s double bass drums again made the perfect two-fisted mirror to brother Eddie’s bravura riffs and leads.
More than 25 years since he first pioneered his two-hands-on-the-fretboard approach, Eddie remains a technical wonder.
Again, last night his leads did loop-do-loops around the melodies, and peeled into wheelies in the choruses.
It may seem unseemly for a man of his age to retain a tone that’s all leer, but Roth’s camp character helps lend a leavening dose of self-awareness to the character.
Dave and Eddie seemed cordial. They even hugged at one point. But they connected in the music more than in any gestures, and that was for the best.
The repertoire showed the range of their material proudly – from pop like “Dance the Night Away” and “Janie’s Crying” to more obscure pound fests like “Atomic Punk” and “Romeo’s Delight.”
The top hits, played at the end, like “Panama” or “Jump” may be over-played on radio. But after so many years performed by either a listing version of Van Halen or a weak solo David Lee Roth, it was great to finally welcome back the real thing in such fine form.
From New York Post:
Reunion’s a Jump for Joy
VAN HALEN CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After 23 years of merci lessly teasing their fanatical following with rumors, confirmations and concert cancella tions, Van Halen, featuring David Lee Roth, started running with the devil again at a riot ous concert Thursday.
At Charlotte Bobcats Arena, the opening venue of the band’s 38-city arena tour, Van Halen dispelled the doubts that their reunion was just about grabbing some green, or that it was going to implode before Diamond Dave yelped the first note.
The quartet may make millions on this tour, but this show was a rock celebration of the hard-charging vocals and bombastic stagecraft of Roth and the rollicking guitar riffs of Eddie Van Halen.
And the longstanding hate that festered between the Van clan and Roth was nonexistent at this performance.
It was more than just stage chemistry between Eddie and Dave. As unlikely as it may seem, the two acted like brothers who were proud of each other.
As for Eddie’s actual brother, Alex Van Halen, who mans the drums, his big, goofy, toothy smile said he was a very happy to be back at rock camp again.
If there was any noticeable tension, it came from bassist Wolfgang Van Halen (Eddie’s 16-year-old bass-playing son), who commendably kept up with pop and the gang, but was obviously feeling the pressure of having replaced original bassist and backup singer Michael Anthony.
But even young Wolfie’s stiffness eased as the night progressed and the sold-out show got deeper into the set that mixed a few choice covers with most of the band’s classics from the Roth era.
Between the opening version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and the band’s own “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” spontaneous fan-appreciation applause erupted and went on and on. A solid five minutes of cheers that had Roth dabbing at tears and Eddie scanning the house slack-jawed. It was a blue-moon moment of unrehearsed concert triumph that threaded its way through the rest of the show.
Chitchat was at a minimum, as if no one wanted to say anything wrong.
Dave, who wore stitched leather pants and an occasional top hat, gushed, “It took us 20 years to come this far,” and Eddie kept his speeches to simple “Thanks.”
The music was doing all the talking with a set that included warhorses such as “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Everybody Wants Some!!” (complete with Dave mouthing a very credible revving Harley), “Jamie’s Cryin’,” “Panama,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Hot for Teacher” and, of course, “Jump.” It was an all-hits-all-the-time concert, easy for a band that actually is in the Guinness World Records book as having the most No. 1 hits on Billboard’s rock charts.
That said, for most of this 21/2-hour show, no one sat – no one wanted to.
The only major miscalculation in the concert was the 10-minute Eddie solo that was five minutes too long. The guitar ace’s noodling was intricate, passionate and expressive, yet as it went on – and on some more – the repeated patterns became less engaging. No doubt guitar geeks will disagree, but, during that lengthy solo, many in the audience went to fetch beers or sat down to wait for him to finish.
In a year of unexpected reunions from to the Police to the upcoming Led Zeppelin concert in London, the reunited Van Halen has become the most welcome of all.
The band will make three area appearances: The first is at the Meadowlands Nov. 3, with a show at Nassau Coliseum on Nov. 8 and a Madison Square Garden gig set for Nov. 13. If you’re a fan, this is the must-see concert of the year.
From Entertainment Weekly:
Before we get to what happened during Van Halen’s first concert with David Lee Roth since 1984 — and, oh, lots did! — here’s what didn’thappen. Diamond Dave didn’t break out the assless chaps. Eddie Van Halen didn’t trip over his whammy bar. His bassist son, Wolfgang, didn’t wet himself. The band didn’t even break up on stage. Actually, something more startling did go down: Van Halen took an encouraging step toward reclaiming their hard-rock throne (neh-neh, Axl!) — or at least their good name. Not bad for a few fiftysomethings and a 16-year-old.
How would VH kick off this 40-date tour that once-mulleted, now-graying fans have prayed for since high school detention? (They trekked here from all over the country, fearing the band might implode before reaching a venue near them.) Roth waved a giant red flag — holy omen? — and then VH blazed through their multiplatinum catalog of catchy-as-an-STD rockers (”Panama,” ”Unchained,” ”Beautiful Girls”) as if there was much to prove. Which, of course, there was. After the bitter ’85 split with Roth, myriad botched reunions, and lead-singer musical chairs with Sammy Hagar (successful) and Gary Cherone (suckcessful) — plus the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame no-show and the dumping of original bassist Michael Anthony for Wolfgang — the band had transmogrified into Spïnal Fïnger Tap. Yet on this night, the Halen turned rather mighty again. Without the aid of pyro. Midway through ”I’m the One,” the first of several cool surprises, they stopped cold and soaked in thewhoo!‘s for a solid minute. ”It took us 20 years to get this f—in’ far!” bellowed a touched Roth, who left any tensions with Eddie behind, or backstage. The duo were all smiles and high fives. (Cue Naked Gunscene in which dog embraces mailman, Muslim hugs Jew.)
Among the sights and sounds: a tight-abbed Roth in Vegas-y matador jackets, his well-worn voice sounding unusually fresh ‘n’ focused. Despite perching a top hat on his crotch, he radiated as much giddiness as horniness — grateful for redemption. Ditto for Shreddie. After spotty work on 2004’s reunion tour with Hagar, the newly rehabbed guitar wizard stunned with mean riffs, otherworldly squeals, and blistering fretwork, anchored by drummer brother Alex Van Halen’s thunderstickery. (Still, their indulgent solo showcases begat a few urinal breaks.) And up there with his decades-older mentors, Wolfie resembled a contest winner, but calmly issued sturdy grooves and vocals. Anthony’s conviviality and sublime harmonies were missed, yes, but not mourned.
What to make of this? Is it one-time wonderful? A triumph of middle-aged will? A future of CDs, tours, breakups, and makeups? We’ve got devil horns on one hand, fingers crossed on the other.