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Van Halen rocks Boston with hits past and present

By Christopher Hurley /


Boston — For a band that’s been running with the devil for over 30 years now, Van Halen shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon — and for longtime fans of the original line-up, that’s a good thing.

Reunited with original frontman David Lee Roth, the quartet, which also includes guitar god Eddie Van Halen, drummer AlexVan Halen and bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, laid down the heavy hammer during its dynamic two-hour show Sunday night in front of a capacity crowd at the TD Garden.

Promoting its first studio album in 14 years, and first with Roth since 1984, the rock and roll hall-of-famers proved that there are still plenty of good miles left in the old VH odometer.

After many years of bad blood between them, Eddie and Dave appeared to have buried the hatchet, and the results have been awe-inspiring.

If you’re looking for any Sammy Hagar-era love ballads of the late ’80s, look elsewhere. This band focused much of the night on tunes from its original six studio albums with Roth, from its classic 1978 self-titled debut to its zenith, “1984.” But this wasn’t strictly a nostalgia trip. The group also played several tunes off its latest album, the remarkably heavy “A Different Kind of Truth,” which only complemented the band’s vast songbook.

With Roth’s magnetic stage presence and Eddie Van Halen’s guitar heroics, the result was an effective mix of rock and roll and Ringling Brothers.

Eddie Van Halen continued to dazzle and amaze with his guitar-playing wizardry. The 56-year old riff master was in fine form, flailing away on all of the band’s signature hits, including the electrifying opener “Unchained,” while also letting loose on tracks such as “Running with the Devil” and “Hear About It Later,” with equal aplomb.

His solo spot, which featured a blend of three instrumentals — “Eruption,” “Spanish Fly” and “Cathedral” — was played effortlessly, prompting many air guitarists in the audience to copy every lick.

Drummer Alex Van Halen drove the band’s unrelenting backbeat with both power and precision. Alex, 58, provided much-needed punch to classic tunes like “Everybody Wants Some,” “Romeo Delight” and “Panama,” while also handling newer cuts like “The Trouble With Never” with relative ease.

But it was his hair-raising rendition of “Hot For Teacher,” culminating with its bodacious crescendo, that even garnered accolades from Roth himself, calling it one of the best rock and roll endings of all time.

Judging by their reaction, the audience agreed.

Although he still looks a little out of place from the rest of the band — due mostly to his relative youth — Wolfgang Van Halen is proving to be a perfect bass-playing foil opposite his dad.

Wolfie, who turns 20 March 16, no longer resembles the contest winner that originally toured with the band during its initial reunion with Roth in 2007-’08. But most important of all — the kid can flat out play and proved it especially on some of the challenging new tunes like “She’s The Woman,” “China Town” and “Tattoo.” He also held his own on many of the band’s most identifiable songs, leaving no weak link in the line-up. Simply put, the musical force is strong with this one.

And then there was Roth. Rock’s ultimate ringmaster took command of the audience from the outset and never looked back. Although he kept his old stage aerodynamics to a minimum, except for a few crescent kicks, Roth, 56, still managed to entertain the crowd as he danced around the stage, belting out classic cuts such as “Jump” and “You Really Got Me” with flash and bravado.

Roth applied ample rust remover to some of Van Halen’s obscure cuts, leading the band through a rousing rendition of “Hang ’em High,” which was last played live in 1983 — much to the delight of the crowd.

Vintage stuff from a classic rock band that still has a strong foothold in the present. But enjoy it while it lasts hard rock fans, because it’s Van Halen — it could all end tomorrow.

Christopher Hurley is sports editor for Gatehouse Media New England. Contact him at

Read more: CONCERT REVIEW: Van Halen rocks Boston with hits past and present – Acton, MA – The Beacon