Let me preface this blog entry by saying I was wearing my Tequila Goggles during the majority of Van Halen's performance last night. I was also hanging out with some tremendous drinkers who were also huge VH fans. It was a perfect storm of Loud, drunk, stupid, and loose cougars who thought they could still rock the 80's tight sweater with the belt over it look. And that's how it should be when going to a Van Halen show. It's not Rocket Science....unless you're talking about Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing. After last night's show at The TD Garden(Boston, 3/11/12) I realized this tour and new album is for fans like me. The ones screaming for Eddie and David Lee Roth to get over the bullshit and just do what they do best: Make big, fat sounding music that has Elephantitis of the balls. Last night they proved they could still fill an arena. I don't mean the sold out crowd. I mean FILL an arena with their massive ass slapping attitude like it was the bar across the street. The collected Skullets and Old Rock Dudes as well as their kids ate it up.
The set list gave the fans everything they wanted as far as hits: "Running With The Devil" (with audience sing along), "Hot For Teacher", the opener "Unchained" and the closer, "Jump". Plus some deeper album stuff like "Beautiful Girls", "Somebody Get Me A Doctor". They also had a few surprises like a ripping version of "Romeo's Delight". It propelled me back to when they opened with that on the "Diver Down" tour at The Worcester Centrum. They also brought out "I Don't Wanna Hear About It Later" from "Fair Warning" and the biggest surprise for me, "Hang 'Em High" from "Diver Down". The band themselves even seemed surprise they pulled it off with Roth commenting, "We haven't played that one in forever!" Even the tracks from "A Different Kind Of Truth", which were sprinkled throughout the set, seemed to fit right in. Tracks like "She's The Woman", "Chinatown", and "The Trouble With Never" took on a whole new power and urgency live.
Roth laid on the "charasma" with extra cheese through the whole show though at times his diminished vocal abilities were tough to overlook. But it was classic DLR vamping during the low bridge parts of "Romeo's Delight", "Unchained", and "Everybody Wants Some". The weirdest Roth moment was when he appeared on stage alone strumming an acoustic guitar with the massive stage length video screen showing footage of his Sheep Dogs herding Llamas..or maybe they were Alpacas? He talked about how he is really into training his dogs and "You can't be Van Halen fan and not love dogs". Sure Dave. Then somehow in his mind it was a perfect segue into "Ice Cream Man". I liken it to the solo "Saber Dance" he did during the "Diver Down" tour. Just a healthy dose of Weird Dave.
Eddie's solo during "ice Cream Man" was vintage late 70's and he was spectacular throughout the show. Showing the TD Garden why millions of budding Shred Masters still want to emulate his style. His "Eruption-Cathedral-Eruption" solo flowed like lava and at times became spacey layering wave upon wave of feedback and whammy squeal. All done with that signature smile that makes it all look completely effortless.
Alex had a Latin tinged big band type solo that was under whelming but he was as solid as ever during the songs. Wolfgang Van Halen held his own with his Dad and Uncle but there were points where the Absence of original bassist Michael Anthony was missed. Anthony doesn't just play his bass, he Man Handles it. To me it seemed like he was wrestling an alligator..that was in the shape of a giant Jack Daniels bottle. Young Wolfie seems like he has a long way to go before his playing exudes that kind of authority.
I have always been fascinated by how Van Halen can bring the hugeness of their sound and attitude in very simple ways. They had one giant video screen that covered the entire length of the stage. No crazy visuals, just simple shots of the band on stage so the folks in the shitty seats could see what was going on. It was just business as usual for the Roth Era VH. Play big and fill the room. It wasn't a full return to the glory days, but it was close enough. Worth the Hangover.