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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Van Halen at Madison Square Garden



Of the handful of new songs that Van Halen played at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, one managed to sum up the spirit of the band’s reunion tour. It was “The Trouble With Never,” a typically full-throttle contraption: grinding riffs, bashing drums, deviously catchy chorus. And as David Lee Roth spit out the lyrics, it was easy to apply them obliquely to his situation in the band: years of estrangement and acrimony with the brothers Van Halen, followed by a recent strategic détente.

“Every Einstein’s assigned/A Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber,” he sang. Which was meant to be funny, and probably a little pointed. The bigger message of “The Trouble With Never,” telegraphed by its title, took aim at a certain kind of declarative vow, like those made by Eddie Van Halen over the years when people speculated about Mr. Roth’s return. Maybe that’s reading too much into the song, but at one point, after an especially ferocious guitar solo, there was also a spoken interlude over a slowed-down groove, culminating in the aside, “Selective amnesia is only a heartbeat away.”

Van Halen — with Eddie on guitar; his brother, Alex, on drums; and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, now filling Michael Anthony’s spot on bass — has been through this sort of thing before. After parting ways with Mr. Roth in 1985, the band installed Sammy Hagar as lead singer and scored four consecutive No. 1 albums. That partnership was followed by a less charmed affiliation with Gary Cherone. The first reunion tour with Mr. Roth, about five years ago, was a commercial smash and an effective reminder that the most committed fans still see him as the enduring face of the Van Halen franchise: its Connery, its Shatner.

What’s different this time around is the existence of a new studio release, “A Different Kind of Truth” (Interscope). The album has a respectable spark, and yet the show included only four of its tracks; on one, “China Town,” Mr. Roth momentarily forgot the lyrics. The rest of the set list consisted of well-honed nostalgia, without any trace of material from the Hagar era: selective amnesia, as the man said.

From a crowd-satiation standpoint this was fine. The band’s center has always been Eddie Van Halen, who still deserves his exalted stature among rock guitarists. Even his heavier riffs came threaded with filigree, and his solos were bold in their extravagance. The one solo that didn’t come fastened to a song, late in the show, featured not only his proprietary tapping technique but also a drift of cascading arpeggios, rendered beautifully strange by his finessing of a volume knob. There could have been more of this.

But then the band had a lot of songs to get through: “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love” as well as signature covers of “You Really Got Me” (The Kinks) and “Oh, Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison). “Panama” was churning but precise, and “Hot for Teacher,” with its double bass drum cadence like a jack rabbit’s pulse, was urgent and galvanizing. “How ’bout a little candy from a stranger, hot stuff?” Mr. Roth ad-libbed, adding a weirdly predatory layer to the song.

Since we’re back on the subject of Mr. Roth: At 56, he continues to convey both a busy work ethic and an insistent effortlessness. Looking trim in sequins and shiny fabrics, he covered the breadth of the stage with fluid footwork, though his trademark high kick was scarce. His voice suggested a similar constriction, coming across strongest in his barking, regular-guy mid-range. In a band so heavy on virtuosity, he’s touchingly mortal.

But he’s still selling a fantasy. Halfway through “Jump,” the inevitable finale, some confetti cannons fired at the foot of the stage, and he dashed off, returning with a giant checkered flag. He waved it to and fro, signaling a crossing of the finish line. Who the winner was he didn’t say, but he looked as if he’d been waiting for that moment all night.

Van Halen performs on Thursday at Madison Square Garden and on Saturday at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.; see all tour dates at

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Return of Diamond Dave

Van Halen singer erupts with reunited band and first new VH album in 27 years



With David Lee Roth back on the mike, Van Halen’s legendary career has “come full circle,” the singer says. Two weeks ago, the revamped quartet broke a 27-year
drought, releasing “A Different Kind of Truth,” its first album with Roth in 27 years. The group — rounded out by Van Halens Eddie (guitar), Alex (drums) and Wolfgang (bass) — arrives at Madison Square Garden for two shows on Tuesday and Thursday.

“We’re pumping thunder, man,” Roth says of the reunited crew. His enthusiasm seems genuine, which is no surprise for a guy who spent nearly three decades apart from the band that made him a star. In between stints singing for Van Halen, Roth, 57, authored two books, issued six solo albums, hosted an NYC talk-radio show and landed a job as an accredited Emergency Medical Technician here in the city.

From soundcheck in Chicago, Roth told The Post what it’s like to be hot for teacher all over again.

You and Eddie are ultimate definition of “frenemies.” What’s your take on his playing these days?

We’re doing a lot of tunes that don’t usually get out of the deck and Edward is more lucid now than any time in my memory. I’m his biggest fan. I still remember the first time I saw him playing in a backyard party in Pasadena in high school. He was great then and he’s great now. We’ve come full circle.

Why do so many women still turn up at your shows?

We’ve always paid a lot of attention to women. Do you think I’d wear yellow-anything for guys? Do you think I move anything below elbow level in honor of my bros? Come on! Every night is ladies night and that feeling is right.

How has the pop world changed since you started the band back in 1972?

These days, I see too much cheerleading and not enough stagecraft, and what I’m seeing isn’t worth cheering for. The questions I want to ask most of my colleagues are: Can you even do the whole song from beginning to end? Can you do it onstage like you did it in the studio? Do you float like a butterfly or sting like a pre-recorded bee?

So what sets Van Halen apart from the posers?

We throw a sick party, and if you get invited you gotta go. For starters, on this tour Kool and the Gang are opening our shows, and that’s full circle for us because we used to play “Hollywood Swinging” in five-sets-a-night-beer-bars. And the first three songs on our new record are thunder-funk. What we’re giving is the best of the old and the new — think of it like watching “Dragnet” on your iPad.

You once said you were part Scarecrow from “The Wizard of Oz” and part Bruce Lee. Can you explain that?

There’s a Japanese term, wabi-sabi. It refers to an object that is perfect because of its imperfections. Keith Richards is very wabi-sabi. Your favorite ripped pair of bluejeans — also very wabi-sabi. The Scarecrow singing “If I Only Had a Brain” is pure wabi-sabi. He’s all knees and elbows when he moves. It’s how I think I look on stage.

So where does Bruce Lee fit in?

Bruce Lee is about the pursuit of perfection, the discipline and devotion to hard work. He personifies the confrontational ain’t-talkin’-about-love aspects in me. It’s the art and heart of struggle in me.

You come from a family of doctors and you’ve worked as an EMT. Have you ever saved anyone off duty?

I was driving near Hollywood High in my pickup, and three cars ahead of me there was a hit and run. This kid gets mainlined by a Mercedes, and goddamn if Dust Bowl David Lee Roth in bib overalls doesn’t jump out of a pickup truck and save his life. I stayed with him until an ambulance got there. What a story this kid has. I bet he wrote home “Hollywood is a great place, you gotta come.”

What’s your best fortune-cookie wisdom?

It wasn’t in a fortune cookie, but I’d say: “Just because nobody understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.”

Van Halen rocks like its old times


Detroit Free Press (MCT)


6:05 AM EST, February 23, 2012

David Lee Roth had the big kicks, Eddie Van Halen had the hot licks, and a sold-out crowd at the Palace of Auburn Hills got its fill of good-time rock ‘n’ roll Monday night.

Dropping by metro Detroit for the first time since its 2007 reunion tour, Van Halen arrived with two hours of vintage hard-rock hits and a serving of material from the new “A Different Kind of Truth.”

Show officials declined to release attendance numbers, but the multigenerational crowd appeared on par with previous Palace audiences in the 15,000 range.

If it often had the feel of an early tour stop by a band still working into its groove — well, that’s exactly what it was. The Palace was night two on a lengthy U.S. tour that started Saturday night, and there were moments — such as a shaky “I’ll Wait” — when the kinks were apparent.

Still, a twirling, wiggling front man Roth and the squalling guitar fire of Eddie Van Halen offered ample party energy as the band chugged through songs such as “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “(Oh) Pretty Woman” and “Panama.”

The ’07 tour had been attended by a sense of mystery, a venture into the unknown, as Roth linked back up with his old band mates for the first time in two decades. Monday night felt more like a comfy night with old friends. The interplay between Roth and Eddie Van Halen seemed natural and good-spirited, the roles easy and unforced.

The guitarist largely kept to his station at stage left, occasionally joined at the mic by his son, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen. It was, as always, his show when he wanted it to be, whether sending squalls of sonic fire rolling through “Unchained,” or standing among billowing smoke as he masterfully crafted the multicolored solo that became “Eruption.”

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Review: Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth

By  on February 23rd, 2012


Van Halen

A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope)

Rating: [8/10]

Reunion albums are that diciest of musical propositions—the proverbial idea that works far better on paper than it ever does in reality. No more so could this be the case than with Van Halen, a band whose fans had been clamoring for a reunion with original lead singer David Lee Roth—something that had failed to stick on two prior occasions in the past twenty years.

This 12th studio album represents the return of Roth to the fold for the first time since 1984, (both the year and album). And while Van Halen progeny Wolfgang replaces founding member Michael Anthony, the band still retains its vintage sound marked by Eddie Van Halen’s singular guitar histrionics and Roth’s hip patter and swagger.

Adding to the authenticity was the decision to hit the vaults and unearth previously unreleased material from the ’70s, a wise move that comes across as the band sounding as if they were picking up where they left off 28 years ago. Certain cuts bear the stylistic DNA of previously existing VH songs—“She’s the Woman” has a chugging rhythm not unlike “Mean Streets” and the hammer-ons EVH sprinkles through sections of “As Is” is reminiscent of “Sinner’s Swing.”

Elsewhere, the band’s sense of compositional adventure that yielded prior anomalies like “Little Guitars” and “Could This Be Magic” is alive and well on “Stay Frosty,” which goes from an “Ice Cream Man”-like acoustic guitar intro that switches gears into far-flung soloing, a hint of harmonies and Alex Van Halen keeping time on his the rim of his snare-drum.

While the lumbering “Tattoo” comes off as the album’s weakest song and oddest choice for a lead single, it has an ear-worm quality to it that will have the chorus rattling around your brainpan long after the music ends.

For Van Halen, it’s clear that there is still enough chemistry between DLR and the Van Halen clan to buck the trend of failed expectations and extreme disappoint that’s more often the rule than the exception regarding group reunions.