Van Halen rocked a sold out crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles
Kings of classic arena rock prove that they still have what it takes to satisfy a sold out crowd – albeit with a bit of help from a sensational sound system and a slew of timeless hits.
No, this wasn’t the Van Halen of their heyday but Eddie and company more than held their own at last Friday’s Staples Center concert – especially when you consider that besides bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, all three other members are pushing sixty.
The band made news last month when they inexplicably cancelled a sizeable amount of tour dates causing rumors of infighting as being the cause. Singer David Lee Roth was quick to denounce such claims in a public video released a few days after the their website removed 31 dates from their tour without explanation, adding that the group was “getting along famously” and had to scale down their itinerary simply because they had “bit off more than we could chew.”
If there were any doubters of Diamond Dave’s explanation, they needed only to witness last Friday’s show to dispel any lingering suspicion of in-band drama as the group not only displayed genuine chemistry, but looked as if they were having the time of their lives on stage – either that or each one of the four members can act with the best of them. The only real set back as far as the band members went was Roth’s obvious past-its-prime voice, which honestly does lend credibility to his explanation of being overwhelmed by the massive tour schedule – not too many performers in their late fifties can be made to continually play shows were fans expect them to do their signature mid-air splits night after night, let alone the musical performance.
Although Roth didn’t actually try his signature move, there were enough impressive scissor kicks and spins thrown into the mix and better yet, the classic banter that made the frontman famous was at full blast.
Eddie during his epic solo following "Eruption"
Roth joked with the audience, spoke of his personal feelings of the band’s homecoming (the original band members grew up in Pasadena, California), praised his fellow band members every chance he got – pretty much talked as much as he sang, although he was much better with the talking than with the singing.
At times, the lack of range in Roth’s voice was excruciatingly obvious although that seemed to do nothing to quell the vigor of fans attending the show, or Roth’s for that matter, as the musical maniac kept the energy level way above that of the rest of the band, single handedly guiding the entire performance like the ring leader of a circus. In fact, it was actually the lesser known songs in the groups set list that did more to derail the fluidity of the entire show than any lack of prowess by the band. It felt as though it was almost mandatory to sit down during each of the four tracks they played off their new album, A Different Kind of Truth, unless you didn’t mind being the lone fan standing up, although the crowd in standing room area seemed to be consistently entertained.
Besides Roth’s less than pristine voice (it wasn’t all that bad, but did lack the raw talent he possessed so expertly in his prime) and the speedbumps that were the lesser known tracks, the entire band performed outstandingly cohesive with each other. Eddie Van Halen had plenty of chances to show that he still had some of the best fingers in rock, especially at the end of “Eruption” where he pretty much melted everyone’s collective faces, although there was a song or two where the extended ending seemed a bit overdone. Older brother and drummer Alex van Halen never missed a step in masterfully fulfilling his duties with the back beat and even entertained with a solo of his own – albeit not nearly as impressive as Eddie’s.
And although it’s true that bassist Wolfgang Van Halen may have only gotten the job because of his famous father and uncle, he easily dispelled any quips about deserving the spot as he was dead on with the bass lines and proved with sheer skill that he did in fact inherit his father’s musical ability.
They opened up the night with the song “Unchained” followed by a mix of early and modern tracks off of several albums. Fans coming to see solely the hits were not disappointed as Van Halen managed to squeeze in several of their seminal songs throughout the two hour set including “Dance the Night Away,” “Panama,” “Jump,” “Hot for Teacher” and “Ice Cream Man.” They even threw in a couple of their most successful and recognizable covers such as Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and The Kinks “You Really Got Me Now,” the former of which was arguably Roth’s best vocal performance of the night.
Fans that arrived early enough to catch the opening act were greeted by a great performance by Kool and the Gang, and although much of the set consisted of pretty good funk driven tunes, the audience seemed to be saving much of their enthusiasm for the main act.
Alex Van Halen performing his drum solo during the June 1 show
All in all, Roth entertained the crowd with his classic sense of humor, Eddie wowed everyone with his signature solo work and Wolfgang and Alex held the rhythm section down with expertise. No, this wasn’t the Van Halen of their late seventies/ early eighties prime with all the energy and furor you’d expect from one of the best live bands in the world, but for those looking for an overall well done arena rock show with plenty of familiar hits – albeit mixed in with a few that fail to hit the mark – you have yourself a concert would satisfy any Van Halen fan, the only problem is nostalgia combined with an aging rock band can only go so far, although one has to admit that Van Halen still puts on a better show than most acts today can manage.
Complete Set List:
Runnin’ With the Devil
She’s the Woman
Everybody Wants Some!!
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
Even Diamond Dave gets a chance to do some solo performance work
Hear About It Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
You Really Got Me
The Trouble With Never
Dance the Night Away
And the Cradle Will Rock…
Hot for Teacher
Women in Love
Ice Cream Man
Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love