Sunday, February 1, 2009


It was time to get back to important business - skiing. I verified that the kids did not want to go skiing on Sunday, giving me the freedom to drive up the night before. After putzing around the house on Saturday, I left at 8 PM and was parked in the lot at Arapahoe Basin by around 10 PM, no traffic to contend with. This evening I pulled out a 2 CD show, listening on the earphones, not wanting to disturb others parked in the lot doing the same thing I was. After getting halfway through the show I became so tired that I could not listen to the second CD. Rather than force myself to go on and waste the listening pleasure of some of the best songs to come, I ended the show at the second CD and crawled into the back of the truck to a warm sleeping bag. It was very cold outside that evening, bright stars above the peaks. Light snow fell later that morning when the anticipated cold front passed through Colorado.

Breakfast in the lodge and then on the slope shortly after 8:30 AM. The day started off cold, but the sun crested the nearby mountain and burned off the linger clouds, leading to a comfortable sunny day of carving turns. By 3:00 PM I decided I had enough and called it a day. Considering it was Super Bowl Sunday and there were so few people on the slopes, I thought I'd have a easy ride home. It's never easy. I hit traffic shortly after getting on the highway, crawling at a snails pace until we passed through the tunnel at Idaho Springs. On the way home I popped in the second CD from the same Van Halen show and listened to it while inching my way down the highway, stereo blasting, cigar in hand. Home by 6 PM. A great day skiing!

My choice of shows was from Van Halen's 2004 Summer Tour, their second show of the tour, played at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, PA on June 13, 2004. It is alleged to be a soundboard recording, but my guess it is an excellent audience recording. Great quality sound with the band putting on a top notch performance.It was clear that in the early part of the tour they were having a lot of fun, Sammy chatting with the crowd, with Eddie and Mike joining in. They were happy to be back on the stage together, unlike later in the tour when the papered over cracks began to reappear.

This is what the Hershey Chronicle said about the show on June 17, 2004:

The bad blood is gone. The Gary Cherone debacle is ancient history. The ill-fated reunion with Diamond Dave is just a fading memory.

In short, Van Halen - with Sammy Hagar - is back. If Sunday's concert at Hersheypark Stadium showed anything, it was just how much we missed Eddie, Alex, Michael and Sammy onstage.

The spark has returned and, despite a seven-year split, at Hersheypark Stadium last Sunday night, it felt like Van Halen never left. From the opening moment of show-opener "Jump" to the finale song of "When It's Love," it felt like 1996 all over again.

Throughout the show, the band made it clear that they have no plans on leaving again. "I'm having a gas up here," Eddie yelled to the crowd at one point.

If this band hasn't fully healed, then these guys are some great actors. Unlike the awkward reunion with David Lee Roth in 1996, Sammy and Eddie acted like brothers again - and as if Sammy had never recorded "Little White Lies" about the Van Halen situation several years ago.

They were having fun, and the fans were too. Van Halen ripped through just about every song any long-time supporter would want to hear. Sammy's voice was in top form as he nailed songs from both his and Dave's tenures with the group. "Ain't Talkin' About Love," "Panama," and "You Really Got Me" sounded just as good - if not better - than the Dave originals. Sammy-era songs were drawn primarily from 1991's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, including the hits "Right Now," "Runaround," "Poundcake" and "Top of the World."

Also well-represented was the band's 1986 monster, 5150, from which Van Halen performed "The Best of Both Worlds," "Dreams" and "Why Can't This Be Love?" A welcome addition to the show was the Twister soundtrack hit "Humans Being." The last song put to tape prior to the band's split, its heavy guitar sound translated well to the live setting.

Eddie was in top form, reasserting himself - after a bout with cancer and a bit of antisocial behavior - as the guitar god he truly is. There's no denying that the man enjoys himself immensely while on stage. During his solo, the crowd chanted "Eddie! Eddie! Eddie!" - and he loved it, thanking his admirers several times.

Alex and Michael also provided monstrous solos, demonstrating that even if they've been out of the spotlight, they still have the magic. Sammy also performed a couple songs on his own, singing the crowd favorite "Eagles Fly," then immediately breaking into Ten 13's "Deeper Kind of Love."

However, the band did play three new tracks from their upcoming best-of album, The Best of Both Worlds, due out on July 20. "Up For Breakfast," "Learning to See" and "It's About Time" sounded excellent and were very much Van Halen songs - much more than anything on the Gary Cherone-led III album.

If these three songs are a sneak-preview of what's to come, Van Halen fans are in for a treat. The rebirth of Van Halen with Sammy Hagar is clearly what the fans have been waiting for. That Eddie and Sammy buried the hatchet was definitely appreciated by the 13,000-or-so in attendance.

In the words of a fan banner thrown onto the stage: "Plain and simple: Thank you."

Sun crests the ridge line
Clouds swirl over the divide
Air sparkles with light

They sway back and forth
Fly down the brilliant white slope
Trailing plumes of snow

Years past on display
Faded pictures on the wall
People come and go

Suns march to the west
Dark blue shadows lengthening
Mountains of white light

Wind whipped ridge top
Ski in swirling clouds of snow
Sparkles touch his face

Ride the slow chairlift
Exposed on the mountain top
At the winds mercy

Wind out of the north
Forced up the black mountain face
Snow plumes rise skyward

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