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Monday, October 22, 2007

Overdue Van Halen Review

Like everything I'm supposed to have written in the last week, this is late. But here's my take on the VAN FREAKING HALEN concert.

We left about 4pm, almost all of our airstaff (we missed you, Craig!), a few friends, and a dozen listeners. The alcohol began to flow about 3pm, before we even boarded. We'd killed a number of braincells before we even arrived at the parking lot, within walking distance of both The United Center where VAN FREAKING HALEN would be performing, as well as the World's Scariest Damn Liquor Store.

Our seats were decent, right down the middle, with a nice view of all the Bulls Banners (which I was seeing for the first time, I'd never been to the UC before...just the old Chicago Stadium). The opening act was a reggae act, for some odd reason. Though decent, they were merely in the way.

VAN FREAKING HALEN took the stage at 9:30 our time, 8:30 in Chicago. By this time I'd eaten a bratwurst and met George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) in the men's room. There was no foot tapping under the stalls between us, and I didn't call him Norm because I'm willing to bet he hates that. A lot.

From the first notes, it was obvious that every single joke I've made about Eddie Van Halen over the last ten years of bad decisions...though justified at the time...should now be stricken from the record. Axl W. Rose is now the only true laughing stock in rock. Eddie shredded. He hasn't lost a bit of ability, nor has his brother. In fact, when they ripped into Hot For Teacher, it was faster than I recall it from the album. And I remember tempos, because I'm a shitty musician who practices to my favorite albums over and over again. It's what we do.

David Lee Roth has lost a bit of his leap, but he still moved around that stage like Rudolph Valentino shopping for vaginas. He came off very Vegas, but I liked that about him, and having only ever seen him once before (without VH), I have very little comparison to draw from. And I'd never seen VAN FREAKING HALEN before, no matter who was singing. The place erupted when he shouted "I heard you missed us, we're baaaaaack!" during Hot For Teacher.

Now that I'm done discussing the over-50 crowd...let's address the 16 year-old. Wolfgang was solid. He didn't have much stage presence, but...c'mon...he's a teenager in VAN FREAKING HALEN embarking on a major tour while all his buddies are drawing boobs in their algebra books. He did a fine job covering the high notes, and looked like he was having a blast with Dad. At one point, in the middle of a solo, facing each other, Eddie leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. It was a pretty cool little moment.

The overall sound of the band was formidable. Dinosaurs roaming the earth. Not in terms of their age, but their size and power. And not those slow, plodding, fat plant-eating bastards that get pulled down by a dozen raptors in the Jurassic Park flicks, no. They were the huge goddamn monsters who swallowed the satellite phone and dominated the landscape. The Kings Are Back.

I'm fortunate that my career has gotten me through the gates to see a lot of the greats. The first Piano Men tour, Kiss in different decades, Steely Dan, Clapton, the original Sabbath lineup, Rush, Rob Halford, Maiden, Metallica three times...on and on. VAN FREAKING HALEN was one of the top three all-time, easily. They played non-stop for over two hours, including an ll-minute guitar solo that left me shaking my head, too shocked to clap or make any noise at all. There were no breaks, just a three or so minute stop before the encore. They just went out there and kicked our asses, all of us. If the Blackhawks had been in the house, the band would have scored on 'em at least twice.

Next up: Halloween night at The Morris, with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. The total VAN FREAKING HALEN package (minus that Gary Cherone debacle) within two weeks.

Everybody wants some.