Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Van Halen @ TD Banknorth Garden

Van Halen, TD Banknorth Garden, Boston, MA - March 11, 2012
Review: Dave Bolton

A Different Kind of Truth; It Was Always Van Halen, Not Van Hagar

From the moment that the house lights went down and the opening riff from “Unchained” blasted out of the white speaker stacks, Van Halen hit the ground running.

The full-time return of Diamond Dave Lee Roth to the band that made him a household name in the late 1970’s and which propelled him into a patchy solo career after 1984 was a moment that many of us Van Halen fans believed that we would never see again. Even better was the news that there was to be a new LP and the first new recordings with DLR for 27 years.

A Different Kind of Truth was released in February and, to be fair, it is a Van Halen album. Gone are the numerous arena rock ballads that epitomized the Van Hagar version of the band and in their place are a set of catchy tunes that wouldn’t be out of place on the first incarnation of the Halen. Which is understandable as most of them are apparently old demos that had been sitting in Eddie’s cupboard since Diamond Dave decided that he was better off without the brothers backing him up.

That was then this is now. Not so much a best of both worlds but an erasing of Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone from the set-list. This was a Van Halen gig, a family affair and one where the only non-VH was Diamond Dave himself after Wolfgang VH was drafted in to replace Michael Anthony on bass duties.
But on a Sunday night in front of an enthusiastic (and probably inebriated) Boston audience, the showman took to his tiny wooden dance floor and shuffled his shoes just enough to ensure that we all remembered why we fell in love with this rock band.

Two hours of Van Halen: "Runnin' With The Devil," "Panama," "Hot For Teacher," "Dance The Night Away," "Everybody Wants Some," "Ain’t Talking About Love," "I’ll Wait, Beautiful Girls" – if some of the attendees weren’t on their feet for the new stuff ("Tattoo," "Chinatown," "She’s The Woman"), they were for the non-Hagar classics. If anybody was expecting "Poundcake" or "Love Walks In," they were sorely disappointed.

There were rare outings for "Hang Em High" (last played live in 1982) from Diver Down, "Women In Love" and "Hear About It Later" while the standard covers of "Pretty Woman" and "You Really Got Me" were greeted with loud cheers (and some very uncoordinated dancing from a gentleman near the front of the stage).

There was even an acoustic moment from DLR that he used to highlight his alternative career as a sheep dog trainer, black and white film playing behind his head as he enthused about the joy of herding animals by means of whistling. This then segued seamlessly into "Ice Cream Man" before the inevitable "Eruption" with Eddie taking center stage.

If Dave was the ringmaster showcasing his vaudeville dance stylings while wearing snakeskin trousers and a flat cap, then Eddie was the star attraction. Despite dressed in a black and white tee that made him look like Waldo, the man who inspired an entire generation of hair-metal guitarists was in fine form. Edward Van Halen doesn’t say a lot (he doesn’t need to with the amount of verbal diarrhea that comes tumbling from the mouth of the lead singer) but what he does is play guitar. Really well.

Alex Van Halen on drums rivals his brother for intensity, his drum solo was efficient without being spectacular and young Wolfgang needs to have some more years in the band before he is allowed a chance to be alone on stage but after the years of animosity, the sight of Dave and Eddie hugging was worth the admission fee. There were moments of “tension”, the constant mugging to the camera became annoying and the long story that DLR told about being wolf-whistled by convicts when he was playing as a kid outside the Boston prison brought a faraway look into Eddie’s eyes (perhaps remembering how quiet Hagar was onstage). But you expect DLR to talk and Eddie to just play, which is how it works in Van Halen.

The final song came too soon. That familiar keyboard intro, the crashing of drums and EVH plucking a riff that had the audience air-guitaring in unison. At the corner of the stage, Diamond Dave readied himself and launched himself slightly into the air. The crowd cheered, the cannons exploded confetti and we all jumped.
Van Halen have rolled with the punches, this was a fair warning that Diamond Dave is back and so is the entire family. The tour may be called A Different Kind of Truth, but Van Halen are just a different kind of band.

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