Saturday, November 15, 2008


A couple storms blew through the Rockies this past week, the second tempting me to play hookie from work to go skiing. But alas, there was to much to be done at work and I'm still waiting for more runs to open on the mountains. Otherwise, the week trudged on, at the end of which Friday night arrived and it was time to party!

This night I chose Van Halen's November 13, 2007 appearance at the Madison Square Garden in New York. A great sounding bootleg in which the entire band performs well. This what Glide Magazine said about their performance that night:

When you think of Van Halen, the one word that comes to mind is excess. On the stage and on the small screen they always seemed insanely over the top. They once dubbed their 1982-83 outing in support of Diver Down the "Hide Your Sheep" tour. No wonder they initially caught the eye of Gene Simmons in 1976.

But after seeing Van Halen in concert, without all the overdubs and with a "a little space" between the instruments, you are immediately struck by how great they are musically. Eddie Van Halen is still a guitar-wielding behemoth. Beyond the quotes of "Magic Bus" and "Dazed And Confused," you could really hear a wide variety of influences in their sound, in particular the blues and Latin elements. Who knew that a self-described good-time party band had more to them.

Age may have slowed David Lee Roth a bit, but he's still got the swagger that earned him a permanent place in the front-man pantheon. From the opening notes of "You Really Got Me," it was obvious what Eddie and Alex were missing all these years. The setlist Van Halen has been playing since their tour began in September covers all aspects of their catalog. Jubliant sing alongs like "Beautiful Girls" and "Dance The Night Away" were mixed in with nuggets like "Mean Street" and "Little Dreamer." Eddie's son Wolfgang, the only alteration to the classic line-up, held his own on bass. There have been rumors that his backup vocals, along with the synthesizer tracks, were prerecorded bits from the departed Michael Anthony. Complaints aside, the main attraction of this tour is to see David Lee Roth fronting the band he helped make classic. Beyond the short hair and the slower gait, there seems to be a little humility mixed in with Diamond Dave's bravado. He seems to be truly appreciative of the opportunity presented to him by the Van Halen brothers and the fans. His fall from grace following his departure has been well-documented. His arrest in Washington Square Park for a petty pot deal, his foray into magic on the Las Vegas strip and his short-lived run as a radio shock jock all melted away once he did that first roundhouse kick. Before beginning "Ice Cream Man," Roth shared a little anecdote about partying back in the suburbs which put the last three decades into context.

That's not to suggest that any of the showmanship has been lost. Roth didn't jump on the Tarzan swing or straddle the inflatable microphone that came for the "Jump" finale. But hearing him rip into "Hot For Teacher (with that barrage of drums from brother Alex) or Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" was more than worth the wait as was "Panama," fresh off being featured in this summer's hit Superbad.

It would also be remiss not to mention Eddie's eleven-minute odyssey on guitar which featured bits of "Cathedral," "Eruption" and any other instrumental he's ever played. There were times during his solos that he seemed to be playing three guitars at once, but this was unreal. I haven't seen anything like that since the last time I watched Jimmy Page in The Song Remains The Same. The true guitar hero is becoming a dying breed. Enjoy this one while you can.

Stars set in nights black
Only the brightest survive
Brilliant moon rules the sky

Temperature dropping
Truck coated in ice crystals
Sparkle with moons light

Cast upon the ground
Whether sun or moons shadow
Life's companion

Stands in the spotlight
A guitar sings to the crowd
His solo love song

Fingers from a sleeve
Jacket shields from nights cold
His cigar stub high

Consummate performer
Dave struts high upon the stage
Always willing to please

Smile form ear to ear
After years standing alone
Its good to be back

Standing on the brink
Ponders the near empty flask
He might as well jump

Burst of confetti
The band takes their final bow
Concert at an end

Sits at the Garden
Stops and thinks for a moment
Knowing they were here

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