Van Halen performed at the Ak-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix Monday night. Check out the videos and photos below.
But firs, here’s the AZCentral review:
Why everybody still wants some Van Halen in 2015
Tell people you’re going to see Van Halen in 2015 and you get a litany of reasons why you are throwing good money away for a bad bill of goods. David Lee Roth can’t sing anymore. No one in the band gets along. The Michael Anthony harmonies are sorely missed. Alex looks like Francis the Talking Mule. You get a ton of reasons why emotionally and mathematically 2015 is no longer 1984.
And that all goes out the window the minute you see Dave and his Chris-Kattan-as-Mango grin and Eddie doing his first bit of shredding business. If the camaraderie between Eddie and David at Ak-Chin Pavilion on Monday was fake, then maybe they both should have quit Van Halen in 1985 and gone into acting. They were clearly having a ball and seemingly have gotten over someone else monopolizing the cameraman’s attention.
When opener Kenny Wayne Shepherd concluded his set with “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” and impressively pulled out all the Hendrix histrionics, you were reminded how Jimi redefined guitar playing for a generation. Quite simply Eddie Van Halen redefined lead guitar for the next generation. Unlike previous guitar heroes, there’s no blues foundation to Van Halen’s playing. It’s all his Mozart and Bach training and maybe studying someone hammering away at “Lady of Spain” on an accordion. His solo stint on the encore was seven minutes of purely mesmerizing guitar-gymnastic ecstasy, rolling in bits of “Eruption” and “Spanish Fly” and adding in other new feats of strength, like controlling the volume knob on a guitar that looks like it was crafted out of a paint-chipped stove from the 1950s and making it sound like an army of Zamfirs was on the loose.
That alone would be enough to carry any show but then you have Eddie’s polar opposite Ying, a perpetually clowning rubber-band man, a one-man Ritz Brothers, the lone surviving rocker besides Alice Cooper who retains a shred of vaudeville in his rocking bones. From the moment he comes out smashing two large hand cymbals together like the Music Man had just arrived in River City, you could not take your eyes off the guy. Look, here’s Dave doing tricks with a shawl! Look, didn’t Dave just take his jacket off, how is it that it’s back on? Oh wait, look there’s Dave twirling his mike like it should be “76 Trombones” playing in the background and not “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love.” Look now Dave’s pretending the cymbal is a steering wheel and he’s driving the clown car to Alex’s drum riser. Look Dave did not one but three splits!
The problem with any Van Halen lineup that followed the original model was that Eddie and Alex seemed to think that Roth’s shtick detracted from what they were doing musically. Maybe they learned after some lean years that in a three-ring circus, there’s always a ton of stuff you could be gawking at and that dichotomy makes the whole circus look that much bigger, not smaller.
As for Dave not cutting the vocal mustard because he doesn’t hit every octave-jumping scream like he does on record, well, Dave has never done that. His shtick since day one has been pretending to forget the words so you’ll sing along. I mean, do you really think he’s forgotten the pre-chorus to “Dance the Night Away”? That song has about six words tops! At the band’s highest profile gig, the US Festival, he interrupted their big hit of the day to lead the entire band in an a capella rendition of “Happy Trails. Clowning is his business and no one does it better. He busily worked this crowd and picked his moments to high kick or scream like a pterodactyl. The only song he seemed to be slumming it through like he just caught influenza was “I’ll Wait,” where he put on a fluorescent lime-green hazard hoodie and mumbled his way through everything but the last verse. And no surprise, it’s the only Van Halen song co-written by Michael McDonald and the song Roth lobbied most strenuously to leave off the “1984” album. To me, it just appeared that he still doesn’t care much for it.
The Dave and Eddie show is why a Van Halen ticket is something you should keep tucked away in an album sleeve, why the guy sitting in front of me had seen Van Halen 30 times. Granted, some of that was for Sammy and Gary Cherone. And who ever thought that seeing the Van Halen III tour would one day be a conversation starter? It’s like “Wow you saw the Yardbirds for the millisecond that Page and Beck were in the band at the same time?”
But let’s focus on Alex, who did a tasteful drum solo that never got to the tired thumping of others, triggering orchestral stabs and sounding like a one-man Mardi Gras. And although YouTube doesn’t lie and truly the earliest Van Halen sans Michael Anthony shows sounded ragged and off-key, that was ages ago. Wolfgang has more than stepped up to the plate vocally and filled that void as well as become Van Halen’s co-producer.
Dave used the breakdown in “Dance the Night Away to rag on other lead singers like Jon Bon Jovi and Bono and the messianic stage gestures they do to emulate Jesus and revealed his own variation on the theme. He also worked in an anecdote abut Steven Tyler, who he said paid him the highest compliment when he saw Dave backstage wearing some front man space suit: “I’d wear that!”
Roth also had fun with Van Halen’s reputation for picking pretty young things out of the audience, behavior not becoming of a 60-year old man. “Didn’t I meet your mom on the World Tour in 1979? Welcome to the family, sweetheart!”
So bemoan the fact that they dropped “Jump” down a key or two. Complain because you miss Michael Anthony and his red pants and suspenders. Begrudge Eddie for giving his son a job. You’re missing out on a world class band the likes of which we haven’t seen since 1984 nor likely will again. As Dave exclaimed during “Runnin’ with the Devil” —”I’m the leader of the pack!”
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
Drop Dead Legs/Feel Your Love Tonight
Runnin’ With The Devil
Hot For Teacher
Women In Love
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Ice Cream Man
Dance The Night Away
She’s The Woman/I’ll Wait
Alex’s Solo/Little Guitars
Eddie’s Solo/You Really Got Me