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MAMMOTH WVH In Santa Ana, CA

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Monday, September 11, 2023 @ 10:24 AM


At The Observatory 8-27-23

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Photos By Junkman

The new generation of rock is in full swing as far as I and many others are concerned. On a normally sleepy Sunday in Orange County, over 1200 of us gathered to see the chosen one, aka Wolfgang Van Halen, son of the great Edward, and his band, lead the charge of young rockers who are ready to move on from the so called "Classic Rock" era into the future. Touring in support of his second album release, simply titled II it was a joy to witness this young band rock a very enthusiastic audience.

The sold out Observatory venue in Santa Ana was the scene of this forward movement and MAMMOTH WVH the name young Wolfgang has given this outfit, came and conquered the fans, the curious and the skeptical with a terrific, 90 minute, sixteen song performance that blew the roof off not only the theater, but the crowds collective minds.

"What's up Santa Ana? Why the fuck aren't you at METALLICA right now?" the impish Wolfgang cracked, referring to the gods of Metal who were appearing that evening 35 miles up the freeway at Sofi Stadium, and who MAMMOTH WVH had opened for two nights earlier. He continued to be genuinely astonished. "It's pretty much the largest MAMMOTH show ever. There's like a thousand people here."

And with that, the "Mammoth 2 Tour" was off and running. They kicked things off with the title track and "Mr. Ed" (in honor to WVH's late father), as well as the anthem like "Epiphany" all from his 2021 self-titled and widely anticipated debut release. But it was the performance of the bands latest single "I'm Alright" that really kicked things into gear.

This song and its accompanying video (which features a cameo from Wolfgang's mom, actress Valerie Bertinelli, who was in attendance) are becoming my favorites from the new record. The huge sound, complete with driving guitar and drums, as well as perfectly overlaying background vocals got the audience pumping their fists and singing along throughout, much like the audience in the video. There really was a great vibe that was developing between the audience and WVH and his gleaming face mirrored that enthusiasm all evening.

He repeatedly thanked the cheering crowd just about every other song, and looked genuinely moved by the size of the assembly as well as the enthusiasm that was doled upon him and his tight band, which consisted of guitarists Frank Sidoris and Jon Jourdan, bassist and vocalist Ronnie Ficcaro, and drummer Garrett Whitlock.

A bonus track from the first album "Talk And Walk" was a treat, and surprisingly, I noticed many in the crowd singing along. So was "Miles Above Me" from the latest, which Wolfgang explained as "A new song that we really haven't done." It featured great interplay between Van Halen and guitarists Sidoris and Jourdan who traded guitar licks effortlessly amongst themselves.

Another single from the first album, "You'll Be the One" spotlighted his skill with songwriting and arranging, as well as finding the right "hook" that well, does reach out and grab you. Wolfgang seems to have plenty of this. He also has a great sense of humor. During "Like a Pastime" from the latest, he explained at songs end that one of his guitar strings malfunctioned, and the band had to improvise and ending to it. Wolfgang laughingly explained the situation at songs end, and, after repairing the problem, the band rocked the song's coda to the way it was initially intended. It was refreshing to see him having great fun, with a very tight band.

He truly looked stunned at seeing a sold out crowd, and the look on his face showed it. He explained, "Contractually, this is the longest MAMMOTH show ever" which elicited repeated crowd chants of "Wolfie" as WVH and band produced a collective smile.

It was then that he mentioned his famous father for the only time in the show. "This was my dad's favorite song" he announced before tearing into the dreamy power pop rocker "Think It Over". The band followed with the lovely ballad "Distance" the song that put this band on the map, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. The emotional video is a beautiful tribute to his bond with the late EVH, and its live performance brought out the obligatory phone lights amongst the audience members, which is becoming a standard during emotional songs at concerts these days.

"You're To Blame", my favorite track from the first album, followed and brought the house down. Wolfgang, who stood center stage most of the evening, actually climbed the stage right riser and ripped a blistering solo on his matte black EVH guitar, during this song, much to the delight of the audience, who was eventually led into a screaming match from the playful Van Halen.

He then introduced "Take a Bow" as "a song that is fast becoming our most popular song" and proceeded to back that statement as the audience erupted during its powerful performance. The songs modern rock sound also produced a smoking hot guitar solo which had many on the audience, including myself, simply gasp. At songs end, he gently laid his still screaming guitar down and the band left the stage.

Just as the sold out crowd began to roar, the band quickly returned to the stage. WVH chastised the ludicrous habit of leaving the stage to encore, stating "This is stupid. We should just keep playing." He again thanked the crowd for their support and the band cranked out the first single from the sophomore release "Another Celebration At The End of The World".

A beaming Wolfgang Van Halen then proudly introduced his terrific band, one by one, to a huge applause, and they promptly closed the show with the straight ahead rocker "Don't Back Down" from the first album that seemed like the perfect subtitle for this project. Again the crowd erupted, and rightly so. MAMMOTH WVH is a new force to be reckoned with in contemporary rock. I couldn't help but think of Jon Landau's famous quote upon seeing a young act that changed him. To paraphrase, "I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else. I saw rock and roll's future." Great job WVH, looking ahead just got easier.


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