David Lee Roth Delivers for Van Halen...Mostly

David Lee Roth Delivers for Van Halen...Mostly
Photos by Eric Sauseda

Van Halen 
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion 
September 25, 2015

In a provocative article published by Billboard magazine back in June, Eddie Van Halen is quoted as saying of David Lee Roth, “He does not want to be my friend,” and went on to explain that he thinks that Roth should act his age and that Van Halen has not recorded a new album for this tour because “…there are four people in this band, and three of us like rock and roll. And one of us likes dance music.”

The article had many people speculating that the current Van Halen tour would implode and that Roth would be out of the band again; however, Eddie and Dave are reportedly getting along fine now and put aside any personal differences they may have. At Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Friday night, Van Halen put on an entertaining and energetic live show and the band seemed to share a sense of camaraderie throughout it.

The band opened the show with deep cut “Light Up the Sky” from Van Halen II, Roth emerging onstage clad in a shiny glitter top, scarf wrapped around his neck and crashing two cymbals together. Roth would change into several different flamboyant outfits throughout the night while the rest of the band stuck to simple jeans and T-shirts, Eddie visibly sweating through his in the still somewhat warm Texas temperature this time of year.

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If you've seen recent YouTube video performances of Roth on the current tour and thought that his voice was less than stellar, you would be correct. At this show, Roth sounded pretty good throughout most of it; however, during some songs, he either forgot or just decided to change some of the lyrics, and even just spoke some of the lyrics during “I’ll Wait” from the band’s album 1984.

Roth did not attempt to pull off any of his signature high-note screams as he did in the '70s and '80s, nor did he jump high into the air from atop the drum riser like he used to do back in the old days. He did, however, manage to twirl his mike stand around like a baton rather impressively during 1984’s “Hot For Teacher,” a song that was well-received by the crowd.

Other songs that got a big positive reaction included “Drop Dead Legs,” again, from 1984; “Unchained,” from Fair Warning; and “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” from Van Halen’s self-titled debut album.

Eddie had a big smile on his face throughout the concert, except when he put on his “guitar face” during intense solos; Eddie’s long stand-alone guitar solo during the concert was fantastic as usual and really got the audience pumped up. During this extended solo Eddie played the intros to “Little Guitars” and “Mean Street” as well as “Cathedral” in its entirety and of course, his most famous recorded guitar solo, “Eruption.”

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Roth engaged the crowd with two rather long stage rants during “Dance the Night Away” and “Ice Cream Man”; topics included Van Halen’s Spanish-speaking influences, Roth’s 1951 Mercury low-rider car, how to dress and walk like Roth for Halloween, Bono, Bon Jovi, the full moon, and Roth’s one-time sexual liaison with an amputee.

Some parts of these rants were amusing but as they dragged on, they made me feel like screaming, “Come On Dave, give me a break!” I couldn’t help thinking some of this time would have been better spent by the band playing a few more songs; may I suggest Van Halen play even more deep cuts the next time they come to town, maybe “D.O.A.” or “Sinner’s Swing!”?

Eddie’s brother Alex played a drum solo during the show that I didn’t really care for, but I am not a big fan of drum solos, period, so there is that fact; during the solo, there was pre-recorded keyboard music accompanying it or else someone was playing the keyboards backstage. During “I’ll Wait” and “Jump,” there were keyboard sounds as well but no one was seen onstage playing keyboards either.

In the aforementioned Billboard magazine article, Eddie Van Halen said that he had to teach former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony how to play every note that he ever played in the band and dismissed the importance of Anthony’s backing vocals, saying, “Mike was just born with a very high voice. I have more soul as a singer than he does. And you know, people always talk about Mike’s voice on Van Halen songs, but that’s a blend of Mike’s voice and my voice. It’s not just him.”

Eddie’s son Wolfgang took over as the bass player for Van Halen after Anthony left, if you have not been keeping up with the band in recent years, and Wolfgang and Eddie’s backing vocals sounded okay to me Friday night; I seem to remember them sounding better when Anthony was on board with Eddie, though. I’m not a musician myself, but it also seemed like Anthony was a better bass player than Wolfgang as well when he was with the band, so perhaps Eddie is a little biased, with Wolfgang being his son and all?

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Overall, I really enjoyed the concert and Van Halen lived up to their reputation as one of hard rock’s ultimate party bands. The packed crowd seemed to eat it up for the most part; after the show, I chatted with a few random people, however, who were not impressed with Dave’s stage antics, with one lady confessing that she was more of a Sammy Hagar fan. The David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar debate seems to continue on and on among Van Halen fans, and probably will for years to come.

On the way to my car after the concert, a group of apparent religious zealots who gathered to protest the show yelled, “Van Halen will send you straight to hell!!” Do they really think that Van Halen is “Runnin’ With the Devil”? People in the vicinity just laughed and kept on walking.

Personal Bias: The first concert I ever attended was the Sammy Hagar-fronted Van Halen at The Summit during their 5150 tour, but I much prefer David Lee Roth as the singer of Van Halen and the music he recorded with the band.

The Crowd: A mix of middle-aged white dudes and busty blond ladies, along with some enthusiastic dancing young people. A significant portion of the crowd was Hispanic and reacted warmly when Roth spoke to the crowd in Spanish during “Dance the Night Away.”

Overhead In the Crowd: “Is he trying to be Neil Peart?” — during Alex Van Halen’s drum solo.

Random Notebook Dump: People who don’t sit in their assigned, ticketed seats and have to keep getting up and moving when the rightful ticketholders show up are very annoying. Just sit in the seat you are supposed to sit in, okay?

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SET LIST
Light Up The Sky
Runnin’ With the Devil
Romeo Delight
Everybody Wants Some!!
Drop Dead Legs
Feel Your Love Tonight
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
She’s the Woman
I’ll Wait
[Drum Solo]
Little Guitars
Dance the Night Away
Beautiful Girls
Women In Love
Hot For Teacher
Dirty Movies
Ice Cream Man
Unchained
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
[Guitar Solo]
You Really Got Me
Panama
Jump


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