Based on what we saw, it was clear that David Lee Roth was somehow irreplaceable. We have always been (and still are) huge Sammy Hagar fans and his material has always been strong. However, after seeing Eddie Van Halen and Diamond Dave on stage together from the opening crunch of "You Really Got Me", it was pretty clear why they got signed in the first place. For all of Eddie's guitar shredding, Van Halen really lost its showbiz look and feel when Diamond Dave left the band in 1985 and they somehow went back to being just another rock band. I don't believe they would have ever been as successful had Sammy Hagar been their original singer. Roth just has a vaudevillian strut, and charisma on stage not normally seen these days when standing on the stage looking at your feet is the standard. He can really work a crowd.
Both Eddie and Dave were all smiles during this killer two-hour plus set at the Greensboro Coliseum. Seeing the lights come up with Dave waving this huge red flag was just really surreal. As Dave said, "We're three-quarters old school and one-quarter new school", referring to Wolfgang, Eddie's 16 year old son and Alex's nephew, who was on bass . "Kind of like watching Dragnet on your iPod." Wolfie's playing and singing worked out really well, and he might be the calming influence in the camp to get these guys through the tour. Eddie's sobriety seems to be agreeing with him and his playing was fantastic. Having seen the original Van Halen with Michael Anthony, it was strange to see Wolfgang on stage, but it is pretty clear that there had to be a change in the band for Eddie and Dave to be able to make it through a tour together. Keeping all four members on stage together would be kind of like Einstein's definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I like to say "hoping" for a different result.
Here are a couple of guitar related notes:
It should be noted that we were really big fans of the Peavey Wolfgang guitars. We profiled them on this site and we were really excited when they made their debut. However, when Peavey started making the "Specials" in Korea, we believe it really cheapened the brand. It was difficult to tell the USA-made and Korean-made Wolfgangs apart, and it was probably a difficult decision to drop the extra cash on the American Wolfgang when it looked almost exactly the same as its cheaper copy. Companies do this all the time. Maybe Peavey was just trying to chase volume with the guitars before Eddie got mad and quit them!
Here is the set list with some performance comments:
1. You Really Got Me
There was a kind of sadness that swept over me Dave spoke during the intro to "Ice Cream Man." He said, to paraphrase, "As the hazy nights would wear on, everyone would become focused on a wall around his buddy's dartboard where errant darts had chipped off the paint." He explained that under a black light, those chips would become a field of stars, and suddenly everyone was sharing a mutual experience of deep space flight. It was pretty deep to me because it made me think of my youth, and those times when I would wonder aloud what the future would hold and what would happen when I had to grow up. For me, one of those incredible experiences was playing outside at Eric's house with Marty and Steve, just having a neighborhood party. That's kind of the thing when you are young -- you just don't realize how special those moments are, and you'll realize it when it is way to late to really do anything about it.
I guess the good part is that we really are getting old, but we can still play guitar, attend concerts, and talk about the good old days. While seeing a 52-year-old Eddie and the 53-year-old Roth rocking the stage brings back fond memories of youth, it is kind of sad to think that Eddie may be the last Guitar Hero. Why the last? Because with the Xbox crowd, playing a plastic guitar-like game controller is just as cool (or cooler) as actually learning how to play a guitar!
Check out Van Halen before it is too late. Also, get out and play some guitar before it's too late. We'll all have plenty of time to sleep one of these days.