As fans of certain things in entertainment, we are at times found waiting for moments which may never occur, and at times left grasping at rumors to fill the void for what we badly yearn for. Without being in the industry, we can’t possibly understand the creative differences, or ego-fueled split ups that come to be between musicians, actors or even athletes.
Many times we don’t see a resolution, and our “what-ifs” stick with us for the rest of our lives. We may never see Charlie Sheen on “Two and a Half Men” again, we also may never see Peyton Manning wear number 18 for the Indianapolis Colts, but sometimes, as rock groups like The Eagles have shown us, hell can freeze over. Yes, for all of us who swore it could never happen, mega-rock band Van Halen continue on with David Lee Roth, and here in 2012, they are out to prove that they are stronger than ever!
In the opinions of many, this is as real a Van Halen piece as ever since the carousel of lead singers went round and round. Roth comes back as if he never missed a day, or lost years to the likes of Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone. No, this is not an article being used to debate who was who but just to welcome back the original core to Van Halen.
So there I was, March 5th, 2012 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, waiting to judge for myself just what kind of band VH had become. Yes, I saw many of the YouTube clips from the bands tour in 2007/ 2008, which was stopped at times and re-started, and led in with no new album to support. Nothing can really do proper justice like sitting in an arena yourself and feeling the energy of the crowd, the sound, and the value of entertainment in which a band can produce. Here was the test for a band of 50-somethings and one 20 year old kid with legendary genes.
On this night the show was kicked off by an unusual choice of lead in acts, the 70’s R&B/ Funk producing Kool and the Gang. While the choice seemed strange to many rock purist, or plain ol’ rockers, Gang had the crowd jumping, and dancing through well-known hits such as ” Ladies Night “, “Get Down On It” and of course ” Celebration”. By the end of their set, the crowd seemed to go back in the time machine to the 1970’s, and it was as if the clock never moved, and we were all exactly where we wanted to be.
Within the crowd were plenty of 40+ year olds, partying and laughing and going back to a time when life was more simple. There was also many different age groups, even young kids who said they were there to hear “Tattoo”, one of the bands newest songs, which shows that generations of all sorts feel the magic behind the famous music family, and their ultimate showman lead singer. Males and females, young and old, Van Halen had a wide audience ready to be taken over by the force that their stage presence brings.
As the time finally came, Alex Van Halen made his way out first, sitting upon his drum set and softly pounding upon cymbals as Eddie and Wolfgang made their way to the stage. With just a few warm up chords under their belt, the band worked into a classic tune “Unchained “, and with Roth joining them on stage, with his usual flare, and flash, the show was under way. Another classic hit “Runnin With The Devil” came next before a new song ” She’s The Woman”.
After those 3, Roth took his turn at speaking to the crowd, being the entertainer and crowd friendly leader, almost like the ring leader of an amazing rock and roll circus. Roth gave a clever intro into the song “Tattoo” by showing risky body parts which were covered by the same type of artwork that was described in the song. The crowd by this time was in full throat, standing and cheering as the music played on. It was all too amazing to see how despite many years apart and leaving us wanting so much more, that we could easily forgive our favorites once they embrace us and each other again.
The show moved forward with more crowd-pleasing hits such as “Everybody Wants Some” and ” Somebody Get Me A Doctor” in which Roth claimed ” I’ll be ok, as long as some one gets me a shot!”, referring from his matters to either give him some women or a nice drink. In fact Roth made reference to the Kool and the Gang hit by declaring it “Ladies Night” in Philly, sparking the screams and groovy dance moves of pretty much every woman in attendance, as the band worked its way to the female homage paying number ” Oh, Pretty Woman”.
With a crowd still more than satisfied to remain standing, the hits continued, and the music was right on. Eddie was doing his usual running across stage, Roth was displaying his athletic kicks and shuffling dance moves. Alex blasted through his drum solo, and the young kid, Wolfgang, was claiming his spot in the band, strumming with a nice dose of confidence upon his bass guitar and singing his background vocals. Father and son shared the microphone at times, with Eddie messing with his sons hair, and even planting a kiss upon his sons face. Roth was seen giving the “OK” sign with his hand and Eddie the thumbs up as if they were pleased with all the goings-on with the band on stage.
Roth took a few minutes to own the stage solo, grabbing a guitar and playing a few notes while directing everyone’s attention to a video playing in the background of Roth’s dogs playing in a field. At this point you can see more of a fun-loving human being getting in touch with life and his fans, rather than a bickering, cocky ” rock-star” like Roth was believed to be in the late 70’s and 80’s. With some clever stories and well timed punch-lines mixed in, Roth then showed his range by playing and singing his blues-driven song “Ice Cream Man”. As the song ended, and the rest of the band came back out to join on the harder rock portion of the song, Roth smoothly played some scat singing, and ending with the lyrics “all my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy”, and satisfied we all were.
The highlight was clearly near the end, when after some more hits from the “1984” album Eddie Van Halen took center stage, all lights focused on him as he prepared for one of his legendary, Earth-shattering solos. Taking a seat on the steps set up on stage, Eddie held his guitar in his lap, almost like his baby, and made it speak to the crowd in a way that would fill everyone with chills. He tapped through strings and made sounds distinctive to only himself.
The crowd roared on, and Eddie kept going, faster and stronger than ever, screeching notes and smiling as if it was so very simple. From there he took everyone back down with his slower peaceful piece known as “Cathedral”, a solo piece that brought hand-clapping in sync with its notes, before sliding in to his most popular solo piece, the dazzling “Eruption”. The “Eruption” piece was always the measuring stick as to how “on” Eddie was, and if that was the case, you would have to put him at 100 percent!
With full momentum and power positive they raged through one of their very best hits “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love” which Roth claimed would be the last song of the night. Of course, always ready to please, Roth said after ” Alright, who wants one more song?” and after all the screams shook the ceiling, the band went into its closer, the “1984” hit “Jump”, which many say was the bands most popular song of that era, and one that put them clearly on the map as one of the most popular bands in rock music history. As the song came to an end, the band had showered the stage and the audience with tri-colored confetti, and Roth came out and waved his white and black checkered flag as if to say the race had ended, at least on this night.
Some say they have aged and the style will never be quite the same, and to them I say that I wish I could age so well. Sure, there will be some nay-sayers, but for the true Van Halen fans this was a night they have waited decades for, and there was nothing to disappoint them. So for me and as for many I danced the night away with a warm feeling of an excellent show with one of my all time favorite bands!
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