Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Van Halen live!

| February 27, 2012

From the moment Van Halen non-chalantly took the United Center stage, one of the most paradoxical shows in rock began. First comes the band — Alex Van Halen playing comfortably and business-like behind the drums, while Eddie and son Wolfgang, dressed in their button-down shirts and jeans, worked their guitar and bass, respectively, with straight-ahead no-nonsense brilliance.

Then enters Diamond Dave, wearing his countryman mic around his cheek (a la Britney Spears), donning a silver sparkling overcoat and bejeweled pants (a la Neil Diamond), and marching around twirling his cane (a la a ringmaster). The small, hardwood dancefloor installed at centerstage allowed David Lee Roth to slide back and forth and spin around, while a huge forced smile never left his face for the entire 110-minute show, no matter the mood of the song or the banter. It was the ultimate paradox — an honest, blue-collar rock-band being fronted by an over-the-top, pretentious showman.

Of course, part of this is just Roth plying his shtick, but it seemed pushed even farther than usual. In just the first 30 minutes of the show, Roth may have cemented his place as the ultimate male diva, as he proceeded to yell over his mic at his crew about anything he could find to complain about: demanding someone turn off the fans blowing onto stage because they were “messing with the vocals,” calling for bottled water, demanding duct tape for his mic as he threw it at the sound crew, and, at one point, even shoving away the roadie who was attempting to fix his wearable pack with a nasty “Get the fuck away from me!” The nearly sold-out crowd wasn’t sure how to react.

Musically, the band itself was nearly flawless. As the California rockers played through nearly all the hits of the Roth-era (except “Janie’s Cryin’,” which was surprisingly missing), and most of the “new” material off the recently released A Different Kind Of Truth, the Van Halen family delivered impressive veteran instrumental performances including 20-year-old Wolfgang, who had incredible stage presence, confidence, and skills. But Roth struggled vocally, singing so off-pitch on “Dance The Night Away” and the closing song “Jump,” that much of the crowd was seen cringing. He did pull it together enough to perform a solid rendition of “Ice Cream Man” that began with him solo on acoustic guitar, and fairly passionate versions of “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” and the band’s two most famous covers: “You Really Got Me” (which opened the show) and “Pretty Woman.”

Unfortunately, the band didn’t bother to bring a keyboardist on tour, so the songs that needed it (including “Jump”) had to be played to a backing track. Despite Roth’s rants and constant mic issues (he was forced to try to maneuver all-night with a long corded mic when his wireless went out early on), he did manage to maintain the attention of the crowd, who responded with little enthusiasm to the new material but the expected energy to the classics. Eddie’s eight-minute solo near the end of the show was mind-blowing as always, and worth the price of admission.

In one of the oddest opening-act choices of all time, Kool & The Gang didn’t let age slow them down. They brouogh old-school funk to a surprisingly large early crowd and predictably closed with “Celebration,” perhaps one of the greatest songs ever written to close a live performance and win over a crowd.

— Carter Moss

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Category: Featured, Live Reviews, Weekly

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  1. Kenny Abbott says:

    I agree with Carter. DLR was very distracting. So much that I think my wife missed 1/2 of the songs, trying to figure him out.

    I was very impressed by Little Wolfie however, his stage presence, interaction with the fans, and energy helped me forget about Michael Anthony.

    There there is the issue of Eddie VH… I think that this guitar solo may have been even better than the last time that I saw him during the 5150 tour. He was amazing!

    I was also mesmerized by Alex’s 4-kick drum / 2-pedal set-up. Pretty sweet kit trick. Definitely fills the room.

    Well said Carter.