Friday, September 28, 2007

concert review: Van Halen, Opening Night Of Tour, Charlotte, NC

In the encyclopedia, the definition of the term "Rock Show" should read: "See: Van Halen".

I was fortunate enough last night to catch the debut performance of the newly reunited, David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen at Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, and it was pretty incredible.

The staging was pretty minimal for such a show, with only a ramp twisting from the stage up and abobe the drum riser, and a U2-style "ring" into the front of the audience, and thankfully VH let the music be the show, rather than corny visual props. A huge screen above the stage allowed fans to watch Eddie Van Halen's insane fingering technique up-close, and showed the fans in the back David Lee Roth's enormous grin that was there from the opener of "You Really Got Me" through the encore finale of "Jump".

Eddie's son Wolfgang was a nice surprise as a wholly competent replacement on bass for Michael Anthony, fitting in fine on the trademark background harmonies, but looked a little unsure of himself when moving around the stage. The kid is only sixteen, though...I'd have wet my pants walking out on that stage. It was fun to watch him play and sing on "Hot For Teacher", a song written by Roth from a sixteen-year-old's perspective. Let's hope his old man has the smarts to steer him clear from the all the well-documented excesses that gave Van Halen the reputation as the "Kings of Backstage Shenanigans" during their '80's heyday.

Eddie and Dave both looked like they were in amazing shape, and Dave wisely kept the gymnastics to a few high kicks and martial-arts manoevers. Alex Van Halen still kept it all rock-steady, and played one of his patented drum solos that had hardcore fans staring with mouths agape. There are not a lot of drummers in rock these days that can keep an arena full of fans from using a drum solo as an opportinity to run out to the corridors for more beer, but watching Alex wail on that giant six-bass-drummed kit on the big screen was every bit as compelling as watching a good magician to learn the secret of his tricks.

And Dave was...well, Dave. He's funny, sexy, corny, and he remarkably hit every high note he attempted. His intro-story to "Ice Cream Man", in which he accompanied himself on acoustic guitar out on the ring in the middle of the audience, was hilarious and told in a way that only a master storyteller could pull off in such a setting.

And thankfully, no songs from the Sammy era.

All-in-all, a really fun and satisfying night...well worth the price of the ticket. These shows truly are your opportunity to see the world's greatest guitar player and the world's best frontman on the same stage together. I literally had goosebumps more than a few times during show...which in my book is the ultimate barometer of a great show.

Set list (courtesy
01. You Really Got Me
02. I'm the One
03. Runnin' With the Devil
04. Romeo Delight
05. Somebody Get Me a Doctor
06. Beautiful Girls
07. Dance the Night Away
08. Atomic Punk
09. Everybody Wants Some
10. So This Is Love?
11. Mean Street
12. Pretty Woman
13. Drum Solo
14. Unchained
15. I'll Wait
16. And the Cradle Will Rock
17. Hot for Teacher
18. Little Dreamer
19. Little Guitars
20. Jamie's Cryin'
21. Ice Cream Man
22. Panama
23. Guitar Solo (incl. "Women in Love" intro, "Cathedral", "Eruption")
24. Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
25. 1984
26. Jump

(photo courtesy

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