Reviews, Feb. 7 

VAN HALEN IN ALL ITS "NESS." They rocked for real.
  • VAN HALEN IN ALL ITS "NESS." They rocked for real.

Van Halen

Jan. 30, Alltel

In the words of David Lee Roth, “three originals and one inevitable” came to town last week and, as I saw it, they kicked some ass. The band was the most recent version of Van Halen (VH version 3.2.1 or something like that) and from the perspective of an old guy who dearly loves Van Halen v.1, loathes “Van Hagar” (which, frankly, should've never made it past beta testing) and can't even tell you what that other crap was (that guy from Extreme? NO), this was the first Van Halen tour in years to get me excited enough to get off the couch and into the arena.

The hype is that this was a “reunion” of the original band, but that's just PR baloney. The “three originals” present were, of course, the Van Halen brothers (Eddie and Alex) and the only real front man Van Halen ever had — Mr. David Lee Roth. The “one inevitable” was one Wolfgang Van Halen, who is Ed's son, Alex's nephew and all of about 16, on the bass. That's right, no Michael Anthony, so this was not the “original” Van Halen, end of story.

So, you might ask, if this wasn't the original band, why care? Because this latest incarnation of the band marks a return to the original “ness” of the band — call it “Van Halen-ness.” To wit, oftentimes truly original, ground-breaking, sincere, spiritual music (like Van Halen, v.1) happens not as a result of all of the elements being objectively “good,” but rather because when thrown all together, it just works — each element brings out the best of whatever it is that is so truly original, ground-breaking, sincere and spiritual in the first place. The problem arises when great bands play together for so long that they lose sight of their “ness.” This is usually borne out of some motivation to make it “better,” which usually leads to replacing what some satanic A&R guy has convinced the band is The Weak Link. Think of all the times you've heard it said that “Ringo Starr is the worst drummer,” or as it was later in the Roth era for Van Halen, “David Lee Roth is an idiot, they need to get someone who can really sing, and write about something that means something.” Well, history has now taught us that this was, is and always will be bullshit.

Back to the show: Although this was not the original band, Van Halen-ness was in full effect. From soup to nuts, this was a bitchin' show. The killer song list was taken mostly from “Van Halen I” and “II,” “Fair Warning” (yes!), “Diver Down” and “1984.” And the crowd was all Dude Power. My air guitar chops are rusty, but I busted out a few air whammy bar dive bombs anyway.

Michael Anthony was missed. The whole bottle of Jack Daniels in one sip thing? The impossibly high harmonies? The fighting the bass thing, and the beating-out-the-quarter-notes-on-“Running with the Devil”-with-his-fist thing? Not there. But I've got to tell you, Wolfie is a really good bass player, and seeing him up there with his dad and uncle gave the show a nice vibe that no other fill-in bass player could have.

Another great thing about Wednesday night is that this was not a show designed to win over new fans, as these dinosaur rock tours often attempt to do. This was a concert built to give those who are in touch with their Van Halen-ness a shot of the real stuff. No overly stupid light show. No new songs. Just Van Halen giving it to us full strength, with David Lee Roth as the perfect foil to the mad guitar skills of EVH and Alex demonstrating that drummers in a rock band need to, well, rock.



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