Music Monday: Van Halen Live

van halen 2015
The band takes the stage

This past Saturday night, I saw Van Halen in concert for the second time. The first time was in 1982 at the Los Angeles Coliseum with thousands of other Van Halen fans. Of particular note, this was my first concert ever. I don’t remember a lot of details from the show [no, I wasn’t high or drunk] except for the wall of speakers behind Alex Van Halen and Diamond David Lee Roth jumping around with assless chaps on.

Fast forward 33 years and things have changed. Pants now cover Dave’s ass. Eddie no longer has long, dark hair and there’s a third Van Halen that has joined the band.

van halen 2015
Collaborating together live

I had been looking forward to seeing them live for many years now, but for some reason, I never made it happen. I never saw them live with Sammy Hagar nor with Gary Cherone. My last chance to see them live was on August 3, 2004. It was after Sammy reunited with the band and they went on their last tour together. The tour ended up being successful, even though the band members were in complete disarray. Eddie was a drunkard and couldn’t play worth shit. No one talked to each other off stage. Sammy left the band soon after. I still was bummed I didn’t see Van Hagar live.

So my chance to see the band again with Roth at center stage was something that I didn’t want to miss. And I was glad I went. The show worked well on so many levels, even if it wasn’t a note-for-note recreation of the classic VH albums and songs. Which, I wasn’t expecting at all.

Set List

The 2 hour 5 minute set included the following songs:

  • Light Up the Sky
  • Runnin’ With the Devil
  • Romeo Delight
  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Drop Dead Legs
  • Feel Your Love Tonight
  • Somebody Get Me a Doctor
  • She’s the Woman
  • China Town
  • I’ll Wait
  • Drum Solo
  • Little Guitars
  • Dance the Night Away
  • Beautiful Girls
  • Women in Love
  • Hot for Teacher
  • In a Simple Rhyme
  • “Dirty Movies”
  • Ice Cream Man
  • Unchained
  • Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
  • Guitar Solo
  • You Really Got Me
  • Panama
  • Jump

van halen 2015
Ending the show after “Jump” with no encores

As you can see from the list of songs above, they dug way deep into their Roth-helmed catalog. Each one of the songs was like gold to my ears. Not trying to recreate exact replicas of the songs, they were re-imagined for us older folk. David Lee Roth is first and foremost a showman. Yes, he had great vocals back in the day. And he can still sing pretty decent now, minus the yelps and screams and the high-end kicks. He went about the stage at a pace he was comfortable with. He told stories during an intimate acoustic intro of “Ice Cream Man”. He hung out with Eddie. He was a front man that showed he wasn’t trying to be his younger self. He simply showed up and performed to the crowd, who for the most part, loved it and cheered him on.

As for Eddie, sobriety has made him great again. His incredible efforts on the 6-string were very much evident. “Eruption” made its way into his guitar solo, albeit mixed in with snippets of scattered other VH guitar gems. I can’t say enough about his excellent shredding and playing.

Alex stayed in his place behind the drum kit, getting his moment of focus during a drum solo that wasn’t too short or too long. He continued to impress on songs like “Hot For Teacher” and “Everybody Wants Some!!” and throughout the rest of the 20+ song set list. He remains, to my ears, one of the better drummers of rock.

Wolfie, who is the official bass player for the band and has been since 2007, is the glue that holds this quartet together. He picked the set list for this tour, which has been getting rave reviews in the cities they have played so far. His background vocals are pretty epic. And that’s saying a lot given I still admit to missing Michael Anthony. He proved himself as a strong member of the band and I can’t praise him enough in watching how he was mostly stationary on the stage, yet stood out as a rock-solid bass player. A chip off the old guitar, sharing the stage with his old man.

When the last song of the night played, I was plenty happy with the overall show. A few bumps, some missed lyrics and a bit heavy on the story telling. Some might think that makes for a horrible experience. But as I said above, I wasn’t expecting original songs and perfect vocals. I was expecting to be entertained with songs that I knew and loved and was ready for a flexible reinterpretation of them with a mostly familiar tone.

If you get a chance to see them live this tour, get a ticket and go. Unless you are expecting the Roth from the early 80’s, then stay home and play the first 6 albums. Otherwise, if you are a long time fan like myself that understands aging rock stars can find a new way to play the hits and deep tracks, then you will be as entertained as I was.

Local Review

  • Daily Herald: Review: Van Halen still living at a pace that thrills
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