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Photograph by: Marie-France Coallier / THE GAZETTE

 

Review: Van Halen at the Bell Centre in Montreal

BY MARK LEPAGE, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE

MONTREAL – Well, yer semi-good-lookin’… Amazing how an old ho can look like Liz Taylor in the right light.

It doesn’t even take much make-up or hair extensions. Just the appreciation bred by the years, for the band that was Bigger-est and most carny, most SuperBowl, Most American of its crotch-grabbing yahooing era, the ’80s. And now, this time.

Don’t get me wrong – despite all that writing of a New Grace in a recent column, David Lee Roth remains a hooting Vaudevillian, his band a hard rock boom-bah parade candy coating a kind of genius center, but burnished by the fondling hands of time, Van Halen offered their own kind of truth to a crowd ready to celebrate.

Ah yes. The VH had been unlikely from the get-go, with a smart Jewish baton-twirler fronting hard rockers and the dominant instrumentalist of his period, a guy with a smile of bliss and an atomic talent he put to the service of songs about stocking lines running up the back of a chick’s legs. So there was nothing unlikely about opening act Kool & the Gang cheering a surprisingly full quotient of the 9,000 partyers expected with Jungle Boogie, Ladies Night, Get Down On It, and Celebration.

Then with zero fanfare, Alex Van Halen’s drums were bathed in nuclear yellow, DLR was stride-waddling in leatherish pants, and Eddie Van Halen was cranking into a slower version of the Unchained that used to open their shows at warp speed, on a borderless stage, with the entire back wall taken up by the b&w screen. Simple. Clean. Perfect.

Eddie stuck close to home – his pedals and mic – for most of the evening, allowing you to concentrate on the sounds and be reminded of the illicit thrill of his virtuosity and bag-o-tricks. The Horse whinnied in Runnin’ With the Devil two songs in, the Elephant blared, all the stop-time whammy-bar dive-bombing, and the gargantuan riffs.

Dave didn’t have anything to say – kidding, he never shut his yap, about his sheepdogs and cattle dogs and pickup trucks and “Little Elvis” – that was actually pretty funny, joking about a sex tape “nobody wants to see” and 180-ing with “No, in 1982, I was f*****’ good – Little Elvis was in the House that whole tour!” Thereby solving the ancient psyche riddle: you can be self-deprecating and aggrandizing, in the very same minute. Beware the Prides of March. Vocally, he was in fine bray throughout. He was… loveable. But he didn’t have anything to say about the VH reformation. That was handled last go-round, in 2007-8.

And he needn’t have said anything about the Meaning of the VH. You were pointing your ears at it, at a band that has reconciled itself to what it is and must be. Yes, DLR and this Van Halen that couldn’t be more Van Halen with three VHs in it, belong together.

Tattoo drew a big cheer from the crowd. Everybody Wants Some drew a bigger one, bookended with Somebody Get Me a Doctor in the early highlight. After the crazy intro to China Town, Pretty Woman and You Really Got Me, you saw the new songs would slow nothing down. Not when The Trouble With Never was setting up Dance the Night Away. I’ll Wait for the girls, the sonic roman candle of Hot For Teacher for everyone. You realized you’d been pulling for Eddie, and needn’t have – he was in top form and complete control in those fretboard calisthenics, and seated on the steps for Eruption, and unleashing the riff to Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.

Cue Dave solo with an acoustic guitar and his charming ranch tales. “Who likes dogs here?” Really? It’s been a long winter, with all its unexpected trials. You figured you were entitled to this. Panama let the dogs out, and Thursday night on the Ides was Saturday night in mid-July.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/entertainment/Review+Halen+Bell+Centre+Montreal/6312535/story.html#ixzz1pMnWUmyH