November 30th, 2007
By Tony Hicks
Uh ... Wow.
Van Halen has apparently re-discovered its long-forgotten mojo. And then
In what has to be one of the most stunning turnarounds I've ever seen in
concert, Van Halen managed to erase years of mediocrity and disappointment
Tuesday night at Sacramento's Arco Arena.
Apparently the newly-determined Van Halen brothers decided to again vie
for the title of planet's greatest arena rock band. Which proves a lot of
people wrong, me included.
Many were skeptical of bringing back David Lee Roth, whose focus and voice
Tuesday were both startlingly good. He's no longer the long-maned,
acrobatic sex god who forgets the words. There were still glimpses of that
Tuesday, but the new, more appreciative Dave has become your favorite,
smiling, rock and roll uncle.
There was also skepticism around Edward Van Halen replacing bassist and
backup vocalist extraordinaire Michael Anthony with his 16-year-son
Wolfgang. The kid didn't miss a note Tuesday. They had him duck one or two
of Anthony's more difficult vocal lines, but he was otherwise nails.
Playing those old classics and having his kid on stage has re-charged the
most important person in the band, Eddie. A trip to rehab earlier this
year didn't hurt. Tuesday he was focused, happy, and brilliant again. He
even seemed to enjoy Roth, hardly the case even in the best of days. It
was a blast watching the pair constantly broke off mid-song to match and
challenge each other note-for-note in breaking down a song, before re-
building it into a massive wall of sound.
Roth opened the show atop the stage, waving a giant red flag while Edward
chunked out the riff to "You Really Got Me." Wolfgang showed his wares
early, on "I'm the One" - a barnburner with challenging harmonies, for
which dad rewarded him with a mid-song peck on the cheek (though they
skipped the vocal break). After "Running with the Devil," they ripped
through a perfect "Romeo Delight," during which Roth and Eddie broke off
for a few seconds of the Who's "Magic Bus." "Oh, you get something for
free tonight," Roth yelled, before getting a brief nipple twist from
Wolfgang. Roth wailed on harmonica before "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" and,
after another breakdown with Eddie, called "Are you having as much fun as
Yes, thank you. A seriously-heavy "Everybody Wants Some," featured Roth
and Eddie challenging one another over who could sound most like a revving
Harley. Alex Van Halen's machine gun drum solo led to Roth strutting out
in a white bandleader's outfit for "Unchained" (don't ask - it somehow
made sense). He looked at Wolfgang during the break "That suit is you,
Wolf. You're gonna get some Sacramento love tonight for sure." The crowd
shouted along with Wolfgang's "C'mon Dave, gimmie a break," response.
"Little Dreamer," was a great surprise, with awesome dynamics and Roth's
unusually intense focus on his vocals. Other than a great story about what
an ice cream truck should really be used for, preceding a giant version of
"Ice Cream Man," Roth kept the between-song banter in a minimum.
Edward's refreshed attitude really showed during his solo, featuring a few
new licks around the usual chunks of "Mean Street," "Spanish Fly," and
"Eruption." It was an energized highlight this time, compared to the
frazzled mess of the last tour.
After leaving the stage with "Ain't Talking About Love," Roth returned to
wave the red flag while "1984" blared. Which, of course, became "Jump,"
featuring a lot of bouncing around from Eddie and Karate kicking from
Van Halen is definitely back ... for now. What happens from here is anyone
guess, though if the new, moderately mature Uncle Dave and re-invigorated
Edward can keep from killing each other, they might actually have a
You Really Got Me
I'm the One
Running With the Devil
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
Dance the Night Away
Everybody Wants Some
So This is Love?
And the Cradle Will Rock
Hot for Teacher
Ice Cream Man
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
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