Sunday July 5th, 2015 in Auburn, WA Van Halen took the stage on the first run of their tour and wasted no time in getting the crowd on their feet, as they pumped out an ultimate classic “Light Up The Sky” from their 1978 hard rocking album Van Halen II, which was last performed in 1980. What followed were 24 more songs with vocalist Diamond David Lee Roth, Wolfgang Van Halen on Bass, a drum solo from Alex Van Halen, and an astounding solo guitar performance from the legend himself, Eddie Van Halen.
I suppose the elephant in the room is the absence of original bass player Michael Anthony, who has been replaced by Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang. Eddie and Wolf did a great job with the backing vocals, yet true Van Halen hardcore fans missed Anthony’s sweet spot high harmonies in places. At the end of the day, we must admit that Wolfgang Van Halen is the real deal. Some complain that nepotism may have got him the gig, but the young man’s god given talent, poise and workman like attitude have allowed him to keep his position on stage. This kid can play, as he proved when standing alongside his father and matching the elder Van Halen’s guitar riff to “China Town” on his bass. The bottom line here is that you can’t blame the kid for being in the band and, in fact, one must give him respect as he performed well and, along with Eddie, did a great job, vocally.
No true Van Halen concert is complete without a little showboating by Diamond Dave, and Sunday night was no exception. Dave’s rock star attitude was filled to the brim strutting all over the stage in Roth fashion and vocally getting in his high pitched squeals and screams with “Panama,” “Everybody Wants Some,” “Aint Talkin Bout Love,” and “Hot For Teacher.”
Surprise set inclusions for this night included “Feel Your Love Tonight” from 1978’s “Van Halen” album, the tap harmonic intro played flawlessly by the virtuoso guitarist, and their first ever live performance of “Drop Dead Legs” from “1984” and hearing “Ice Cream Man” with Roth starting out with a small acoustic guitar while playing the harmonica was a great thrill as well.
It must be said that while Van Halen may be able to change bass players, and even a lead singer, and get away with it, the two bookends that MUST be there are brother’s Eddie and Alex. Alex has aged, but with years has come a perfection of his craft. All night long, the elder Van Halen pounded the skins, keeping perfect timing, adding creative flourishes and delivering a unique drum solo. While he didn’t set his drums on fire, he still played at the top of his game.
Thirty years ago, Eddie was playing his Frankenstein striped guitar, running and sliding across the stage and doing that cool ass double leg kick all night long. He had flowing long hair down to the middle of his back and a wide toothed grin on his face. In 2015, his hair is short, he no longer runs and kicks, but his playing is spot on perfect and his boyish smile is still there. Perhaps it is a sign that hell hath froze over, as he even appeared to enjoy sharing the stage with David Lee Roth, a man he once said he was going to, “kick in the balls” the next time he saw him and the man who inspired the term “Lead Singer’s Disease.”
With the 20,000 that were in attendance noticeably loved hearing hits such as “Beautiful Girls”, “Somebody Get Me A Doctor”, “Romeo Delight”, “Eruption” followed by “You Really Got Me” and ending the evening with a crowd roaring encore of “1984’s” “Jump.” As a witness to Van Halen in 2015, I am uniquely able to answer the burning questions that fans want to know. Was Michael Anthony missed? Yes, but more out of nostalgia than out of functionality. Was the band less energetic on stage? Of course they were, but Roth still managed the splits, an over the head kick and enough dancing to burn off a week’s worth of calories. Did he deliver vocally? Most certainly, although there were a few rough moments but didn’t tarnish the show.
The bottom line is that the mighty Van Halen is back. The band delivered with an amazing set list and an eye-popping stage show that featured one of rock’s best front men and one of the most influential guitar players of all time. If Van Halen comes anywhere near your town, then the only reason for not seeing them live is if the show is already sold out. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait years and years to see Dave and Eddie share the stage again.