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Van Halen Live in Anaheim, CA

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Wednesday, August 25, 2004 @ 12:02 AM


Van Halen Live at Arrowhead Po

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I LOVE a great comeback. Be it in sports or acting or music or whatever ya want, to make a great comeback is a true sign of substance, and Monday night's Van Halen show at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (still, to me, the silliest name for an arena I've EVER heard) showed that they still have the substance to put on a hell of a rock show. Just when I had pretty much counted them out of ever reclaiming their glory as THE band to see, to put you in that state of rock and roll nirvana that their shows of the late '70s and early '80s(ie: the ROTH years) did, they came back with, what I and a few thousand others witnessed on Monday, as a resurrection.

First and foremost: Edward Van Halen.We have all heard about his problems with alcohol, cancer, bad hip and personal problems the last few years.On Monday at Anaheim we got "old school" EVH. Shirtless, in shape, leaping about in his patented outstretched jump and playing the nastiest guitar on the planet.There is only one man on this earth that can play guitar like that,and it is Edward Van Halen. He seemed to be getting younger and more energetic as the show progressed as opposed to the opposite.

Singer Sammy Hagar was everything he has always been: a fun, crowd-pleasing ball of energy who just happens to hit all the notes in the songs. I've had the priveledge to see all three Van Halen singers in the past two years sing live, and Hagar outshines them all. Bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen are the backbone of this group, supplying endless bottom-end as well as Anthony's high harmony vocals and Alex's signature snare drum sound.

Opening with "Jump," the crowd went wild as the band tore into my two favorite "Van Hagar" songs, "Runaround" (love that guitar tone!) and "Humans Being" before turning the crowd onto a new song, "Up For Breakfast." Anthony then did his bass solo which was pretty much the same as always: Jack Daniels bass and a shot of Jack Daniels from a large bottle after producing a "mini-bar size" bottle from his pocket.

The band returned with "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" with Anthony on lead vocals. Edward Van Halen brought out his cordless electric drill (appropriatly decorated in his trademark red, black and white stripes) to start the opening chords of "Poundcake" and after another new song, "It's About Time" from the recently released Best of Both Worlds greatest hits compilation, it was Alex Van Halen's turn for a solo.

The band returned to the stage with the exception of Hagar, who was perched high above the stage at the base of the video screen for -- yup, you guessed it -- "Top of the World." After a KILLER version of "Unchained" and "Why Cant This Be Love," it was time for Sammy to take a solo turn including bits of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women" (known to most of you as "Everybody Must Get Stoned") and "Eagles Fly." I was blown away by the choice of "The Seventh Seal" from the Balanced CD for the set. "Best of Both Worlds" followed, with Hagar explaining that it was "5150 time" and the band did their "5150 March" while the crowd ate it up.

Next, for me, came the best part of the night: Edward Van Halen's guitar solo. After getting pumped up the night before while watching a bootleg video of an EVH solo from 1982, I was shocked to see him start with less speed and his famous "hammer-on technique" in favor of some simple chord noodling and doing some cool things with his volume knob. But just when you get used to that, out came the old Eddie Van Halen-guitar-god, and he finished his solo blazing out licks that anyone who plays guitar should see, including my friends 10 year old son, who was seeing his first concert. And, like many of today's generation of kids who have grown up without the benefit of a music program in school, had never seen a guitar solo, much less one performed by a master guitarist like Mr.Van Halen. The kid will remember this one forever.

Speaking of kids, after ending his solo flat on his back, Edward pointed to the backstage area and out comes his 13 year old son, Wolfgang -- carrying a guitar!!! Father and son preceded to play a duet and afterwards a proud Van Halen told the cheering crowd, "I never taught him a note." The younger Van Halen then left the stage and the band launched into a version of "Dreams" and the band waved and walked off stage.Yes, this band has grown gracefully.

Encores followed with "Aint Talkin 'Bout Love" (David Lee Who?) and "Right Now." Once again the band left the stage, and as the lights were still off, you could hear the opening notes of "You Really Got Me" being played. On went the lights and the band tore into their version of the old Kinks song. If you are like me, you remember the first time you heard "Eruption/You Really Got Me" on the radio and knew this band was something special. After segueing into a fist-pumping version of "Panama," the band finished the set with "When It's Love," a strange choice to me, but a great song nonetheless.

What will be next for Van Halen? Who knows? I couldn't help but thinking as I walked back to my car that not only do I love a great comeback, but I also love happy endings. So many bands have made a joke out of themselves by playing half-assed in their later years. If this is indeed a "farewell tour" as many have said, then I could not think of a better way to go than to paraphrase VH themselves, "Standing on Top of the World."


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