Van Halen didn’t get to be one of the world’s biggest bands by sitting on their hands and being a wallflower. No, David Lee Roth and the Van Halen brothers grabbed the bull by the horns so hard sometimes they’d snap one of them right off. A hot summer Saturday night was ideal for rolling the calendar back a couple of decades or more, and the songs have certainly withstood the test of time.
The real question that was constantly asked was “Did Dave’s vocals hold up as well?” Let’s be fair here – with the somewhat abusive singing style of Roth, filled with hootin’, hollerin’ and screeching, the larynx of thirty years ago isn’t there any more. But it hardly matters, to be honest. Eddie’s guitar pyrotechnics are as impressive as ever, Wolfgang has settled in nicely as rhythm partner to uncle Alex, and the father/son combo of the backing vocals is likely Van Halen’s secret weapon and makes you wonder “Michael who?”
Despite the recent interview with Billboard where Eddie claims to have zero connection with Roth, the two are all smiles the entire evening, starting it out with a do-si-do and then letting the music do the talking from there on out. If the bass throb that starts “Runnin’ With The Devil” doesn’t get the neck hairs at attention, you may want to see an audiologist. Over two hours, the band spread the wealth of the myriad hits they’ve penned, with highlights coming via the salacious “Feel Your Love Tonight” and “Beautiful Girls.” After Eddie’s finger tapping zigzags on “Hot For Teacher,” Roth grabbed a mic stand and the prop became an impromptu flame thrower. Eddie and Wolfie shared a mic for the background vocals of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” and shared a fist bump afterwards. A shared high five earlier in the set underscored that this particular ‘take your son to work day’ will always be much cooler than yours. Van Halen may not hit the same quarter mile time as in their prime, but they still love to rev the engine and it’s still worth a trip around the track.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd came on as support, and is well known in the blues circles as a Stevie Ray Vaughn type of player. Moody Strat riffs? Check. Blues scales until your ears fall off? Check. Chris Layton as your drummer? Check. Cover of “Voodoo Chile”? Check. Obviously he’s a talented player, and his good natured grin and flailing mop top were signs he was certainly enjoying himself, but it got a bit too predictable for me.