by Guest – Angie Daly
I HEARD YOU MISSED US – WE’RE BAAAACK!!
In the pitch darkness, the resonant wail of a single screeching, grinding guitar fills every inch of the huge auditorium and 15,000+ voices are heard to cry out in triumph and euphoria! As the lights wash the stage and the familiar opening riff to You Really Got Me Now explodes in, Van Halen, the greatest rock party band the world has ever known, kicked firmly into gear to a roaring welcome, in their home town of Los Angeles. This is no ordinary gig by no ordinary band. The world has waited 22 years for this tour as the Toastmaster General of the Immoral Majority, Diamond David Lee Roth re-joins forces with one of the greatest rock guitar innovators and virtuoso musicians of his time, Edward Van Halen. Joining them in this new Van Halen (mark IV?) is the elder of the Van Halen brothers, Alex, an often overlooked master of his instrument and legend amongst drummers. Finally, replacing original band member Michael Anthony on bass guitar, (whose departure caused great upset amongst the hardcore fan base, me included) the new generation of Van Halen, Eddie’s son Wolfgang.
They couldn’t have chosen a better track to open with. YRGM captured the mood from the start, sizzling and sexy and led the way to an evening of the best of the original Van Halen six pack. Roth easily had the capacity filled Staples Centre in the palm of his hand, as he slickly grooved his way through a mouthwatering set, I’m The One, Dance The Night Away, Beautiful Girls, Mean Street, Atomic Punk, flourishing his trade mark toothy smile and flaunting his still trim, athletic frame encased in his matador glitzy jackets and leather pants! Pure Dave, pure shmaltz! The fans loved it. His one liner, famed from US Fest back in 1983, “Look at all the people here tonight!” brought a roar from the crowd that seemed to last for ages. One point to note is Dave’s singing voice is better now that it has been in a long time. Whether he’s had voice coaching, I don’t know, but he hit the notes every time and yes, he did remember the words.
There had been a lot of debate over the inclusion of Wolfgang, just 16 years old in March and whether it would work. Well, he’s not Michael Anthony for sure, but he is a chip off the old block and yes, the lad can play… as if by birthright and instinct. Right now, all Wolfie needs is lots of gigs to gain his confidence, and he’s certainly getting them. From seeing videos of the first couple of shows of the tour, he has loosened up a lot and moving all over the stage, his special moment coming when he ran to the top of the stage set, raised his base and to a solo spotlight, began that thumping opening to Running With The Devil. It’s especially poignant to see him interacting happily with Dave but most of all with his Dad. Wolfie gets a big thumbs up. The best is yet to come for him.
Set wise, time moved too fast as favourites such as The Cradle Will Rock, Hot For Teacher “I heard you missed us, we’re back!!!!) , Jamie’s Cryin, Ice Cream Man and Panama seemed to fly by, the throng singing their hearts out and the band playing like they were in their twenties once more. Solo time, and Alex Van Halen proved once again he is a rock and roll machine. One of the highlights of the evening was listening to a guy who is a muso’s muso. Always at the top of his game, the ground shook under your feet as he hammered like a madman, his skills on show and to be envied by many.
Edward Van Halen! Everyone has had their opinion of Eddie over the years. No-one ever said he was an angel. Far from it. From the death of his friend and manager Ed Leffler back in the early nineties, Ed seemed to go on a downward slide. In the last ten years he has fought and beaten cancer, had a hip replacement, lost both parents, suffered the breakdown of his long term marriage and had continued to battle his alcohol addiction. I honestly believe that when they toured in 2004 with Sammy Hagar, that would be the last we ever saw of him. So it was with a grateful heart and a contented smile, I watched in almost tearful awe as the master craftsman proved he still has it in buckets the size of a small continent! Edward was flying. His playing was tight and most of all, that trademark grin was back!! He was loving it! A happy Eddie is an on fire Eddie and he spun his magic that night, sliding across the stage, joking with Dave and Wolfie and best of all, the flying Eddie jumps were back! His desire to move with ease was however, continually interrupted by the wire he has been using on this tour. In fact, he hasn’t used a wireless unit since 1994, insisting that he loses tone via that unit. Edward, in balance, it would be worth it not to have to see you yanking at the darn thing constantly… get rid of the cable!! His own solo was beautiful blend of snippets of 316, Cathedral, Little Guitars until those well worn fingers seemed to blur across the fretboard as he kicked into Eruption to finish off, all accompanied by a superb light show and flickering lasers. His ovation was well deserved before moving smoothly into their final number with that classic, timeless opening riff to Ain’t Talkin Bout Love.
As an encore we were treated to an instrumental, 1984 from the same album as Dave stood waving a giant red flag and finally, one of the most well know keyboard introductions in the rock world, led Van Halen to end a fantastic evening with of course, Jump! It was a special moment, of glittery tickertape, inflatable phallic microphones and a crowd that had the whole of this giant arena vibrating.
It was the night a lot of people, me included, had prayed for, for a very very long time. The chemistry is still there, the show still highly entertaining, the music still outstanding!
Long live the Mighty Van Halen!