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Van Halen rocks packed AT&T Center

Hector Saldaña | MySanAntonio.com

The show: Van Halen at AT&T Center on Friday to promote its latest album, “A Different Kind of Truth,” the first with singer David Lee Roth since 1984. Kool & the Gang opened.

Attendance: More than 14,000; biggest show at AT&T Center this year.

First take: The San Antonio reunion stop took on added significance after word last month that Van Halen was abruptly postponing about 30 remaining concert dates. They’ll play only two more shows — Houston and New Orleans. The official reason given was fatigue. But Alex Van Halen’s rowdy ‘n’ rude drum intro certainly didn’t sound tired at all on opener “Unchained” — and neither did whammy-bar-god guitarist Eddie Van Halen, son Wolfgang on bass or the shimmying, crotch-grabbing Roth, who called it a “Texas-style opening.” A growled, sexy and impossibly tight “Runnin’ With the Devil” had fans on their feet.

A little later, Roth showed he’s lost none of his bad-boy attitude: “Is it too early in the night to make a booty call?” he joked. When a female fan responded that she was born in 1982, he boasted, “In 1982, I was a naked, sexy …”

Odd coupleThank David Lee Roth‘s sense of the absurd and showmanship for Kool & the Gang opening the show. The hits were undeniable and the classy band, which included original members Robert “Kool” BellRonald BellGeorge Brown and Dennis Thomas, kept things funky and gritty. Ronald Bell and Thomas, in particular, delivered soulful outlandish stabs on their saxophones. But “Ladies Night,” “Get Down on It” and “Celebration” simmered more than ignited with this crowd.

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Overnight-Van-Halen-rocks-packed-AT-T-Center-3656880.php#ixzz1yeX1VzIE

Great GIFs of Van Halen & David Lee Roth

Craig Hlavaty  | Blogs.HoustonPress.com

Van Halen’s first new set of material in 14 years, A Different Kind of Truth, is better than it should be. The guys could have slacked off on this and coasted on their legend — however tarnished it may be in the eyes of fair-weather fans — but Truth is no cash-in lightweight or mere excuse to sell merch and concert tickets.

The tour pulls into Houston and the Toyota Center this Sunday night with Kool & The Gang as co-headliners, as David Lee Roth is describing them. “They just get to play first,” sez Diamond Dave.

Whether or not this translates into harmony both live and behind the scenes remains to be sussed out; according to insiders, this current tour has been fraught with strife, with familiar wounds opening between the Van Halen family and lead singer Roth.

Until we actually see the guys come to blows in the media or onstage, though, we’ll chalk that up to textbook rumormongering, as is the norm around the band.

Roth made a few remarks on the bands recent scheduling changes coming up after the Houston date on a recent Vimeo clip. The group is also planning on being on the road the next two years. Fingers — of course — crossed.

While you are here, let’s gander at some great GIFs of Van Halen and Diamond Dave, shall we? Some of these are mesmerizing as hell, especially the ass-shaking one at the end. In a time full of recessions, political strife, public pooping, face-eating, and general uncertainty, we need DLR on the scene now more than ever. Those scissor-kicks, yelps, and naughty smiles can do more than any politician’s pen or smile.

Men, don’t worry – we will never be as cool as the man in these GIFs so we can all stop trying. Ladies, please refrain from jumping onto your work desk and stripping to “Panama” until your boss leaves for the day.

More gifs here!

Van Halen at the American Airlines Center in Dallas (June 20)

The stage was big for just four guys, but it was just the right size for their egos

Jessica Harp | PegasusNews.com

Photo by Steve Lee.

Nostalgia lingered in the air as fans flocked to the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night to see Van Halen perform new tunes from the band’s first album with singer David Lee Roth since the 1984 record – a sight some never believed would happen again.

The band’s troubled track record of dropping lead singers at the first sign of strain had some worried that the show might not go on, especially when lead singer David Lee Roth released a video announcing that the band would be canceling more than 30 tour dates after their June 26 stop in New Orleans in order to prevent the reunion tour from becoming a “robot zombie tour.” But the Dallas show went on flawlessly. If there was any cracking in the foundation, Van Halen didn’t show it.

Long-time fans showed off their Van Halen tour shirts old and new, displaying them like trophies. Unlike the band’s concerts in the ’80s and early ’90s, this one was a family show – though there were moments when Roth got a little raunchy, as was expected. It wouldn’t be a Van Halen show if Diamond Dave wasn’t up to his usual dirty, camera mugging antics.

Kool and the Gang got eager fans ready to dance the night away, playing hits like “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood,” “Ladies Night,” and “Celebration.” The well-oiled funk machine has plenty years of experience and had no problem getting the audience moving. Although only two original members remain in the band, their performance helped keep the nostalgia alive.

Fans didn’t seem to mind that only three of the four founding members of Van Halen were present. In fact, they appeared downright giddy that the band had made it this far without sacking Roth once again. Guitar god Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang, continued his tenure as the band’s bassist, receiving an education in music from his father and uncle, drummer Alex Van Halen, that made every fan envious. The guys, minus Wolfie, are getting older, so the tour was definitely subdued compared to the ones from their youth. No flying around the stage, no rotating or suspended drum kits. Just four guys rocking out.

At 57 years old, Roth can spin the mic stand and high kick better (we’re guessing) than some high school girls. Dressed in a black shirt, black vest, and black reptile skin crotch-hugging pants lined with sequins, Roth went all-out. Most of his jokes fell flat, and his random soliloquies were on the boring side, but he certainly still has it when he’s playing music. He even stated that he was feeling “exceptionally healthy” at the show – a possible jab to the brothers Van Halen for canceling the rest of the tour.

The stage was big for just four guys, but it was just the right size for their egos, especially Roth’s. The band went through hit after hit, and played several tracks from their new album, A Different Kind of Truth. Then Alex and Eddie gave the fans what they really came for: face melting drum and guitar solos that only rock legends can deliver. Backed by a stack of 5150 amps, Eddie’s own design, the men of Van Halen played loud and proud, and we left satisfied.

PHOTO BY: Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic

David Lee Roth took it over the top with Van Halen in Phoenix

by Ed Masley | The Republic | azcentral.comDavid Lee Roth is a lot like Bob Dylan. Not in terms of having written “Like a Rolling Stone” – because he didn’t do that. More in terms of approaching the songs his fans have come to hear him sing with no regard for the original recordings, singing what he feels like singing when he feels like singing it, changing the melody, changing the phrasing, leaving whole parts of the vocal by the wayside on a whim.

There may be notes he just can’t hit at 57, which is fair enough. But there are other notes he could have hit on Saturday, June 16, as he rocked what looked to be a sold-out crowd at US Airways Center with Van Halen. In fact, on more than one occasion, he sang higher notes instead — “My love is rotten to the core” in “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” for example. That part isn’t even high. But it was Saturday (except the time he shouted “yeah” instead of singing it).

Unlike Bob Dylan, though, who seems to sing his songs the way he pleases more because he doesn’t feel as though he should be made to live up to the expectations of his audience, much less his critics, Diamond Dave spent his entire time on stage entertaining the audience, with his slides and his high kicks and yoga positions, his mike-stand-twirling antics, his constantly making ridiculous faces, his comic asides and rambling monologues, his hula dancing on “Tattoo” and asking a girl in the crowd “Have you already made a sex tape with that camera?” during “Romeo Delight.” It almost seemed like singing was the last thing on his mind — his “other” job, his real job being making sure that everyone who paid to see the show was duly entertained.

And here’s the thing. It worked. Even Eddie Van Halen was laughing. So was Wolfgang, Eddie’s kid, who’s playing bass instead of Michael Anthony.

There may have been some people there who weren’t as entertained by Roth’s shenanigans as myself and the Van Halen family on stage. But there sure seemed to be a lot of smiling, clapping, cheering people standing up and partying like it was 1984 for the duration of the concert. And a lot of that had everything to do with Diamond Dave.

The show opened with dive-bombing whammy bar action and squealing high notes on Eddie’s guitar giving way to the opening riff of the classic “Unchained” as Roth slid and twirled his way across the stage in a black rhinestone outfit waving the towel he used to wipe away his sweat throughout the night. The interaction between the mugging front man and the lead guitarist (whose solo on “Unchained,” it should be noted, was amazing) seemed unforced enough to back their story that there’s been no tension on this tour. They seemed like friends.

“Unchained” was followed by the unmistakable low-end throb of “Runnin’ With the Devil,” Roth grabbing his crotch for comic effect and delivering one verse as spoken-word advice to Wolfgang.

And then, they dipped into “A Different Kind of Truth,” Van Halen’s first album with Roth on vocals since the glory days of “1984,” for “She’s the Woman,” which found the singer doing crazed flamenco dancer moves. Before the night was through, they’d returned to the new one for “Tattoo,” “China Town” and “The Trouble With Never.” But they knew enough to keep the focus on the classics, including such obvious highlights as “Everybody Wants Some!!,” “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” “You Really Got Me,” “Dance the Night Away,” “And the Cradle Will Rock…,” “Hot for Teacher,” “Beautiful Girls” and “Panama.” They also did the synthesizer-driven hits from “1984,” of course, performing “I’ll Wait” and the set-closing “Jump” with piped-in synth parts.

The sound in US Airways Center was pretty cacophonous, making it hard to hear the vocals in spots.

Even Eddie’s guitar leads didn’t cut through as well as they could have at times. But the playing was tight, with Wolfgang asserting himself on bass and vocals and Alex Van Halen playing a Latin-flavored drum solo to pre-recorded orchestration (which Roth proclaimed “the most amazing goddamned drum solo I’ve ever heard in my life” – or words to that effect).

And then there was Eddie. If Roth brought the smiles to the party at Saturday’s show, it’s still Eddie who brings the musical excitement to the table, tearing off one awe-inspiring guitar solo after another. Naming highlights would be pointless. If he played it, it was somewhere in the range between greatness and brilliance.

There are those who would go to the show specifically to see him play, and of that demographic, there are those who no doubt left the concert thinking he’d be better off touring without a front man as over-the-top as Diamond Dave. But that’s what made Van Halen so much bigger than, say, Yngwie Malmsteen or Steve Vai (who briefly worked with Roth post-“1984″). You get more than guitar pyrotechnics. You get a good time guarantee.

And speaking of a good time guarantee, Kool & the Gang proved an oddly appropriate fit for the opening slot, if the reaction of the crowd was any indication. They played a nine-song set that moved from strength to strength, with their saxophone solos and thumping bass grooves, ending with a four-song power jam of “Jungle Boogie,” “Ladies’ Night,” “Get Down On It” and “Celebration.”

Set list
Unchained
Runnin’ With The Devil
She’s the Woman
Romeo Delight
Tattoo
Everybody Wants Some!!
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
China Town
Hear About It Later
(Oh) Pretty Woman
You Really Got Me
The Trouble With Never
Dance the Night Away
I’ll Wait
And the Cradle Will Rock…
Hot for Teacher
Women in Love…
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Panama
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Jump

Van Halen / Andrew Youssef

Van Halen – Honda Center – 6/12/12

Andrew Youssef | OC WEEKLY

It only takes milliseconds to recognize Eddie Van Halen’s ferocious guitar tone. Like sonic bullets from a gun, “Unchained” riddled into the audience with its runaway freight train guitar riff as the Honda Center exploded with Van Halen’s triumphant stop inAnaheim for a sold out show.

Wolfgang Van Halen led the charge for “Runnin’ With The Devil” by thumping his bass at the top of the stairs next to his drumming uncle Alex Van Halen. The always charismatic and smiling David Lee Roth was dancing around stage for “She’s The Woman” from their new album A Different Kind Of Truth.

After being warmed up by Kool and the Gang– who quizzically opened the evening but worked hard to get the crowd grooving up by playing hits like “Celebration” and “Get Down On It”– fans showed their willingness to approve Van Halen’s new material by hoisting their beers for “Tattoo.” Besides twirling on stage, Roth used some silver batons for “Everybody Wants Some!!” exclaiming that everyone who attends a Van Halen concert should leave a better person.

The parade of older classics continued as “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” had Roth playing to the video cameras in front of the stage that were projected on a huge LCD screen behind him. Eddie Van Halen was seemingly on fire throughout the night with a huge grin on his face while throwing down some dexterous, two-handed tapping on his fretboard and high-pitched screaming harmonics on “China Town”.

Having seen the band on Saturday night at Staples Center, it was clear the few days of rest served the band well as Roth quipped to the crowd that they were “getting a good show tonight” after ripping through “Hear About It Later.” Two of their classic covers “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “You Really Got Me” sandwiched a jazz-influenced drum solo by Alex Van Halen.

While I rarely look for deep meaning in Van Halen songs, Roth expounded on “Dance The Night Away” as a euphemism for making love indicating that the phrase “Save the last dance for me” would have new meaning. Cheesy ’80s synthesizers swirled for the beginning of “I’ll Wait” but soon were melted by some fiery Eddie Van Halen fretwork.

Alex Van Halen’s drum skills are sadly overlooked and this was evident as he ferociously pounded the skins for “Hot For Teacher.” Roth concentrated on his dance moves for “Beautiful Girls,” doing the splits while the video performance replayed it in slow motion behind him on the screen.

Diamond Dave also took the spotlight for “Ice Cream Man,” as he started out the song on an acoustic guitar before being joined by the rest of the band. Things really started to heat up as “Panama” had the entire Honda Center singing along. Eddie Van Halen’s solo is worth the price of admission alone using volume swells and the arcade kill switch on his custom Wolfgang Van Halen guitar for a staccato effect.

The band piled on two more crowd pleasers–“Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” and “Jump”–to close out the evening. Even though the rest of their tour dates have been postponed from June 26, one can only hope the time off and rest will have Van Halen back in an even better form, although they’ve set the bar pretty high already.

Critical Bias: I have an Eddie Van Halen MXR phaser and flanger guitar pedals.

Overheard In The Crowd: “Are those backing vocals taped?”

Random Notebook Dump: Wolfgang didn’t wear his LA Kings t-shirt like he did at Staples Center. Smart kid.

Setlist:
“Unchained”
“Runnin’ With The Devil”
“She’s The Woman”
“Romeo Delight”
“Tattoo”
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
“Somebody Get Me A Doctor”
“China Town”
“Hear About It Later”
“Oh, Pretty Woman”
“Drum Solo”
“You Really Got Me”
“The Trouble With Never”
“Dance The Night Away”
“I’ll Wait”
“And The Cradle Will Rock…”
“Hot For Teacher”
“Women In Love”
“Beautiful Girls”
“Ice Cream Man”
“Panama”
“Guitar Solo”
“Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love”
“Jump”

READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE!

 

 

Singer David Lee Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen stay close during their June 9, 2012 concert at Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by John Harrell)

By Gerry Gittelson, Special to the Daily News

Posted:   06/11/2012 01:51:01 PM PDT | Updated:   06/11/2012 02:00:15 PM PDT

Whenever legendary rock band Van Halen returns to Los Angeles, it feels like a homecoming celebration. | More Van Halen show photos

Except for this past Saturday before a capacity crowd at Staples Center. This one felt more like a goodbye party.

Three weeks ago, it was announced Van Halen had canceled the final 30 dates of its summer tour without explanation — the last stop is now June 26 in New Orleans — amid persistent rumblings the band was not getting along. That’s easy to believe considering Van Halen’s dysfunctional past that has seen ultra-charismatic frontman David Lee Roth leave twice before returning in 2007.

So fans at Staples Center were wondering if this might be it. There’s no guarantee Van Halen will ever return, and for a hard-rock band that formed 35 years ago and continues to thrive on its energetic performances, comebacks become increasingly difficult thanks of the cruel realities of the calendar.

“It would be a shame if this was the last one, the last time,” said Ira Goldstein, 48, a Birmingham High graduate now working as a publisher in Woodland Hills. “Van Halen is a great band, and they need to put their egos aside.”

Goldstein and his wife, Amber, paid $1,500 for a VIP package that included close seats, a soundcheck visit, free drinks and some nice swag.

“When we first heard about all the cancellations, we were concerned because we had spent a lot of money and were wondering if they were going to finish the tour at all,” Goldstein said.

There were the diehards that never miss a Van Halen show. This time, a few minutes before the start of the show, they weren’t just utterly enthusiastic but a little sentimental, too.

“I love Van Halen. I’ve been seeing them since I was in high school going back to the ’70s,” said Dave Reed, 51, of Orange. “I paid a lot of money for tonight, but considering everything, it’s going to be worth it. I went all out.”

If indeed this was Van Halen’s last Los Angeles concert, the foursome did not disappoint. The goup played 24 songs beginning with “Unchained” and finishing two hours later with “Jump,” and every selection was a winner.

On “Everybody Wants Some,” Roth was at his lascivious best. On “Panama,” Alex Van Halen was hitting the drums so hard that you could feel the beats against your skin. On “Runnin’ With the Devil,” bassist Wolfgang Van Halen was standing on the stage riser for the intro riff, pounding the strings for all he was worth.

And on the extended guitar solo “Eruption,” Eddie Van Halen — Wolfgang’s father — was his usual amazing self, once again proving he is, unquestionably, among the very best in world. His fingers were like a blur, and the sounds were beautiful.

The crowd ate it up.

Everyone was singing along to “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” and “The Cradle Will Rock,” and even the selections from new CD “A Different Kind of Truth” went over well, particularly “Tattoo.”

Van Halen came, they saw, they conquered. In turn, we paid money, swilled beer and pumped our fists. A perfect night of rock ‘n’ roll from one of America’s all-time most popular bands.

But as Roth sang such memorable lyrics as “Dance The Night Away,” we had to wonder if this was, indeed, the last dance. Here’s hoping there is more life in Van Halen, but just in case we’ll store this particular evening among the special memories.

VAN HALEN WELCOMES ‘BOTTOMS UP!’ BACK TO THEIR SET LIST IN SAN JOSE

Chad Childers | ULTIMATE CLASSIC ROCK

The great thing about Van Halen is that they definitely have a deep catalog to choose from, and should they feel like picking out a deeper album cut at a show, the band’s longtime loyal fans will be in for a treat.

With David Lee Roth back fronting the group, there’s a chance to really take a trip in the “Way Way Back Machine,” and that’s exactly what happened at the group’s June 5 show at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. About midway through the set, “Diamond Dave” and the band revisited ‘Bottoms Up’ on stage for the first time since 1983. For those doing the math in their head, that was a full eight years before current bassist Wolfgang Van Halen was even born.

Van Halen have been good about keeping their sets fresh with new music throughout the run. ‘And the Cradle Will Rock’ returned during a show in St. Paul, and ‘Blood and Fire,’ ‘Hang ‘Em High,’ ‘Girl Gone Bad,’ ‘The Full Bug,’ ‘Hear About it Later,’ and ‘Outta Love Again’ have all been incorporated into the set lists at some point.

The San Jose show featured 24 songs, bookended by ‘Unchained’ and ‘Jump.’ In the middle, fans were treated to covers of Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman,’ the Kinks‘ ‘You Really Got Me,’ and John Brim’s ‘Ice Cream Man,’ as well as the current single, ‘She’s the Woman.’

Though Van Halen recently postponed a bunch of shows, they will remain on tour through June 26 in New Orleans and they expect to return later in the year.

 

 

Live Review, 6/3/12: Van Halen Finger-Taps Its Way to Glory at Oracle Arena

By Dave Pehling | SF Weekly

Photo by Richard Haick

 

Better than: Any of the still-touring Sunset Strip hair-farmers from the 1980s that Van Halen inspired.

There aren’t too many ’70s-era hard-rock bands that can inspire the kind of unabashed hedonism — a “bring me the skull of Sammy Hagar filled with tequila” type of wild abandon, if you will — as Van Halen with original lead singer David Lee Roth. During the band’s initial heyday, which stretched from its scorching 1978 debut through Diamond Dave’s famously acrimonious departure after the 1984 album and tour, Van Halen served as the soundtrack for infinite teenage bacchanalia in the backs of countless boogie vans. Strange, then, that the scent of sauerkraut and relish on hot dogs overpowered the weed smoke in my section of Oracle Arena Sunday night for the first of Van Halen’s two Bay Area concerts, as opening act Kool & the Gang tried to get the party started.

Maybe it was a sign that all the hardcore VH fans were outside reliving their Heavy Metal Parking Lot dreams, blazing bowls and shotgunning beers like they were still in high school, instead of shaking what their mama gave them to “Jungle Boogie” and “Ladies Night.” Or maybe it was the idea of starting Monday morning with a Van Halen-sized hangover that encouraged temperance in the aging audience. As weird as the choice of opener Kool & the Gang seemed on paper, things made more sense while watching the veteran soul band crank out a tightly choreographed string of hits. Why not kick off an evening dedicated to throwing down with party music of a different stripe? The crowd-pleasing group kept many of those gathered on their feet gyrating and waving their hands in the air through “Get Down On It” and the inevitable set-ending groove of “Celebration.”

When the headliners finally took the stage with a minimum of fanfare, the near packed-house was primed for a good time. A brief drum intro from Alex Van Halen served as brother Eddie’s cue to bound from the darkened back of the stage, crunching out the unmistakable opening riffs of “Unchained” to a warm roar of welcome from the crowd. And like the drunken, ne’er-do-well uncle at a wedding reception that has spun out of control, Roth took center stage, happy to serve as master of ceremonies.

For all the rumors of feuding in the wake of the band’s recently postponed summer tour plans, Dave and Eddie showed no signs of bad blood onstage. Sporting wide grins, the pair traded scatted vocals and guitar licks face-to-face during the song’s bridge before the en masse audience shout of “One break, coming up!” brought the band crashing back in for a thunderous conclusion.

It was after Eddie’s son Wolfgang delivered the ominous opening bass thump of “Runnin’ with the Devil” that the first sign of what became a nagging issue throughout the show surfaced. Roth has always been guilty of taking some liberties with lyrics and vocal melodies during live performances, but his half-spoken delivery of the song relied far too much on audience participation to carry the tune.

It wasn’t that Roth couldn’t hit the notes when he tried, as he proved on his more faithful renditions of “She’s a Woman” and “Tattoo,” from the band’s new album A Different Kind of Truth, or on the cover of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.” It’s understandable that age would force Roth to swap his once trademark leaps off the drum riser and mid-air splits for the sliding, soft-shoe routine he currently employs, but it would have been nice if he’d refrained from the full-blown Sinatra-style reinterpretation he so frequently indulged in.

Whether Roth’s vocal shortcomings made much difference to the audience was clear. The crowd ate up his goofy onstage shtick and comic banter between songs while deliriously reveling in the ferocious instrumental execution of the rest of the band. Blazing thorough the classic tunes like “Romeo Delight,” “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” with precision and fire, the multi-generational triumvirate of Van Halens gave the audience exactly the kind of musical pyrotechnics they craved. Some of the more lightweight fare (“Dance the Night Away,” “Beautiful Girls”) could have been jettisoned for edgier songs “Mean Streets” and “Girl Gone Bad” that were inexplicably dropped from the set after early inclusion on this tour, but few fans would quibble with the tune selection.

On bass and backing vocals, Wolfgang seemed content to turn in his solid support in the background. But young Wolfie showed off some prodigious licks that the departed Michael Anthony would have been hard pressed to duplicate: He and his father ripped through the hammer-on heavy intro to “Chinatown,” arguably the most aggressive song on the new album. For his part, Eddie Van Halen remains a gifted freak of nature. Relaxing on the stage steps in front of his brother’s drum kit near the end of the show, the guitarist unspooled an arsenal of tricknology that still sets the head reeling, more than 30 years after he first rewrote the rules of the instrument. If anyone had a complaint after his solo tour de force, which touched on the studio showcases “Eruption” and “Cathedral,” it would have been that just five minutes of Eddie alone was about 10 minutes too short.

Critic’s Notebook

Personal bias: I saw the 1984 tour as a teenager at the Cow Palace and it is still one of my favorite fractured teenage concert memories.

Random notebook dump: Did DLR really just invoke the Saturday Night Live cowbell sketch?

Van Halen has a blast at Staples Center

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen get in close for a chorus at the start of Van Halen's Staples Center opener. Photo: Armando Brown, for the Register.

David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen get in close for a chorus at the start of Van Halen’s Staples Center opener. Photo: Armando Brown, for the Register.

 

Despite rumors of internal strife, the band was all smiles and rocking hard in the first of several Southern California appearances this month, including June 12 at Honda Center.

By GEORGE A. PAUL / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Last month’s news that Van Halen would be scrapping a chunk of tour dates this summer without explanation wasn’t too surprising. Controversy always seems to follow the band around.

Media outlets cited anonymous sources who claimed the cause was internal strife, but it could simply be a matter of the three original members (all pushing 60) over-extending themselves with a mammoth North American jaunt that started in February. Still, that’s a mighty financial loss for a concert run that was reportedly selling well across the board.

Whatever the reason, there were no obvious signs of tension or sluggishness among the Van Halen clan Friday night at a packed Staples Center in Los Angeles. Lead singer David Lee Roth skimped over lyrics at times, but he also did that earlier this year when I caught their dress rehearsal at the Forum.

“Unchained” served as the launch for the veteran Pasadena hard rockers’ highly satisfying hometown gig. Drummer Alex Van Halen initially emerged in darkness and dashed off a brief solo intro before the other guys joined in, jam style. Roth spun around, did a little soft shoe and appeared happily right by guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s side (where he would frequently return), scatting along to the revered axeman’s licks.

The two-hour, 22-song set touched upon all Roth-era albums, with an emphasis on 1978’s classic self-titled debut. All four tracks culled fromA Different Kind of Truth – the first full-length Van Halen collaboration with Roth in nearly 30 years – came across strongly live, especially the brawny rhythm and searing guitar work of “Tattoo.”

Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth strikes a pose at center stage as drummer Alex Van Halen rocks out during the band's Staples Center concert in Los Angeles on Friday. ARMANDO BROWN, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Keeping with the same basic running order as elsewhere on the tour, Van Halen included plenty of AOR radio staples, pop chart hits and deep album cuts to please both die-hard and casual fans in attendance. I witnessed some people going through air-guitar motions whenever Eddie engaged in another fast-fingered display of brilliance (“Hot for Teacher,” the full-steam-ahead charge of “Panama”).

On the minus side, a muddy sound mix at Staples was one of the worst in recent memory. Both Eddie and young bassist son Wolfgang’s backing harmonies often came to the rescue when Roth’s yelps could barely be heard, notably on “Dance the Night Away,” “Beautiful Girls” and their indelible cover of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.”

Halfway through the concert, Roth alluded to graduation ceremonies and jokingly anointed himself class president, valedictorian and pep squad commissioner at “Van Halen High School.” The latter title was definitely appropriate, since the fit and trim singer danced around, engaged in a few trademark leg kicks and demonstrated awesome martial arts-type moves using microphone stands, particularly during “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” and the standard show-closer “Jump.”

Randy as ever, Roth asked a gal filming his every move if she wanted to make a sex tape, then recalled a period in the band’s career when he spent most offstage time naked in the company of sexy ladies.

Alex did the requisite rock-show drum solo; mercifully brief, the tropical vibe (with programmed horns) was refreshing. Much later, Eddie’s longer guitar solo was breathtaking. Intensely focused, he proved those chops remain intact after all these years. Some trippy, late ’60s visual effects on the huge projection screen (Roth compared it to the size of an old drive-in movie theater) were a cool touch.

Another came during Roth’s solo acoustic guitar segment on the bluesy “Ice Cream Man.” With black-and-white home footage of his dog and sheep running around a field and hills, the vocalist narrated and professed admiration for the animals. Then the band gave it a powerful finish.

Despite previous announcements, some concert-goers still might have been puzzled to discover Kool & the Gang were handling opening act duties. VH actually used to cover the group’s 1974 Top 10 R&B hit “Hollywood Swinging” during its club days on the Sunset Strip, so there’s a long-standing affinity for their soul and funk.

In L.A., Kool & the Gang’s 50-minute, nine-song set was full of energy and got a welcome reception from the audience. Now featuring original members Dennis Thomas (alto sax), George Brown (drums), Robert “Kool” Bell (bass) and brother Ronald “Khalis” Bell (tenor sax), the 11-piece nonetheless had trouble getting some call-and-response action going with the crowd.

The current co-lead singers do an admirable job, but neither can compare to soulful tenor James “JT” Taylor, who was at the helm of this outfit during its commercially successful 1979-89 pop-crossover period. Standouts at Staples included the extended, groovy “Too Hot,” rock-leaning “Misled,” the sax duel during “Get Down on It,” a spirited “Jungle Boogie” (with a rap interlude by Prince Hakim) and a rousing “Celebration.”

Setlist: Van Halen at Staples Center, Los Angeles, June 1, 2012

Unchained / Runnin’ with the Devil / She’s the Woman / Romeo Delight / Tattoo / Everybody Wants Some!! / Somebody Get Me a Doctor / China Town / Hear About It Later / (Oh) Pretty Woman / (drum solo) / You Really Got Me / The Trouble with Never / Dance the Night Away / I’ll Wait / And the Cradle Will Rock / Hot for Teacher / Women in Love / Beautiful Girls / Ice Cream Man / Panama / (guitar solo-incorporates Eruption/Cathedral) / Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love / Jump

Next up: Staples Center again on June 9, Honda Center in Anaheim on June 12. Tickets are $29.50-$149.50.

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