Van Hagar is back. Van Halen reunites with Sammy Hagar and hits the road
After seeing the Sammy Hagar/David Lee Roth show last summer I thought I had seen all the Van Halen I was ever gonna see again, but Eddie and Sammy have kissed and made up and are once again playing like the happiest little band you could ever come across. Sammy certainly has aged better than DLR, but it is still the Dave era songs the kick the most ass and Sammy is now willing to sing more of them than he ever did before. I've always thought "Jump" was just about the shittiest song possible, but hearing "Somebody Get Me A Doctor", "Unchained" and "Ain't Talkin Bout Love" live was well worth price of admission. The Van Hagar era songs that went over the best were "Runaround", "Best of Both Worlds", "Right Now" and "Finish What Ya Started."
Hagar, Eddie power VH comeback triumph
By Sarah Rodman
Right now Van Halen is recovering from a two-night stint at the Worcester Centrum Centre over the weekend.
If last night's show followed the scorched earth, high-energy blueprint of Saturday's performance, then the California boys will need all the rest they can get before pushing on with their summer reunion tour.
Literally from the word ``Jump'' to the rousing final encore of power ballad ``When It's Love,'' the veteran hard rock quartet established that they were back in the race with the right jockey back in the saddle, Red Rocker Sammy Hagar.
Fans may have once argued that original singer David Lee Roth's ``charisma'' trumped Hagar's heavy metal, Jimmy Buffett routine, but Hagar is the one still standing and his powerful pipes remain intact.
The ``come back, Sammy, all is forgiven'' mood pervaded the sold-out crowd who cheered the 56-year-old singer's every goofy step and high-pitched wail and sang along during a two-song solo set and even tossed a ``Red Halen'' banner onstage.
The loudest hero's welcome, however, was reserved for the return of the volatile guitar explosions of Eddie Van Halen, who, himself, was downright ecstatic.
Nothing was going to stand in the way of his good humor, not microphone glitches, an unruly guitar chord or his own confusion about the setlist.
Survival of tongue cancer and hip replacement surgery in the past few years has not diminished his power as he sang with ferocity, leapt about with abandon and commanded his instrument with a jubilant physicality. (Although the pair of cigarettes he smoked did seem ill-advised.) His brightest moments came during a stunning 20-minute guitar solo that included the still dazzling hammer-ons of ``Eruption'' and an endearing appearance by his teenage son Wolfgang.
Eddie's exuberance extended to the whole band, which powered through a muscular two hour, 10 minute set that hit most of the highs of both the Roth and Hagar incarnations of the band and a trio of new tunes of varying quality.
For all his purported willingness to delve into Diamond Dave-era classics, Hagar only sang one more song this time out - five - then he did on the band's 1993 tour, let Michael Anthony handle the bulk of the vocals on the sixth ``Somebody Call Me a Doctor'' - and extended his microphone out to the crowd so often during ``Panama'' that he might as well have been there.
But the ones he did do including fiery runs through ``Jump,'' ``Unchained'' and ``Ain't Talkin' Bout Love'' were fist-pumping arena rock treats.
He gleefully attacked his own songs from his original 11-year stint with the band Hagar, however, including ``Why Can't This Be Love'' and ``Runaround'' with unbridled firepower and literally hit the heights for ``Dreams,'' which he sang from high atop a catwalk.
Especially galvanizing was ``Right Now,'' which featured some updated video accompaniment to their classic 1991 clip including, ``Right now a thirteen year old is illegally downloading this song'' and visuals of George W. Bush over the caption, ``right now nothing is more expensive than regret.''
Right now, its good to have Van Halen back.
WORCESTER -- The well-deserved shouts of "Eddie! Eddie!" must have felt satisfying. And Eddie Van Halen repaid the generous crowd in his trademark way. He cooked up a relentless flurry of over-the-top guitar solos and crashing, wall-of-sound riffs that reminded people what they had been missing in recent years when he couldn't tour due to health reasons.
Still a guitar hero of heroes, Eddie Van Halen has fought off cancer to return to the arena-rock trenches where he belongs. "Eddie feels great," said a brief video-screen message above the stage. Indeed, he looked like a reborn punk, ambling out shirtless, tattoos on each shoulder, in cargo pants and with his hair pulled up like a mohawk.
Eddie cut a formidable figure -- looking as trim as in his fighting prime -- and was so confident that he completely improvised his one long showcase when the other band members left the stage. It ended with a surge of emotion after he brought out his 13-year-old son, Wolfgang, to jam with him. It was the first time that his son -- whose name is one of the tattoos on Eddie's shoulders -- had performed for a sold-out arena crowd, but judging from the boy's almost casual brilliance, it won't be his last. Father and son ended the moment by lying on their backs playing their guitars, then Eddie proudly kissed Wolfgang twice while the crowd went wild.
The express train known as Van Halen once again pumped along the tracks Saturday. Returning singer Sammy Hagar played his role crisply and without some of the distracting jive of his earlier years with the band. Hagar stuck to the music and was a turbocharged frontman from the opening, "Jump" (a bit surprising that Van Halen opened with a David Lee Roth-era song, not a Hagar-era one), through such momentum-building tracks as "Runaround" (as Eddie scissorkicked like Pete Townshend and showed no ill effects of hip replacement surgery). Also present were ``Human Beings" and the new "It's About Time," which is about their getting back together after eight years.
Hagar also took advantage of the huge stage production by popping up on an extended runway 60 feet above the crowd to sing "Dreams" before coming down in an open elevator while belting out "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" at the top of his lungs. He seemed quite comfortable singing the Roth-era tunes, though he left out the biker recitation on "Panama," and he was a welcome, unifying force in the way he encouraged the other band members.
Each member also had lengthy solo showcases -- and all were interesting. At most rock shows, fans march to the lobby when the solo jaunts begin, but everyone seemed riveted as bassist Michael Anthony crunched through a feedback-drenched segment, followed by Alex Van Halen's supersonic display on drums -- the video and strobe lights were sped up to keep pace with him -- and Eddie's intergalactic hammer-ons and finger taps.
The concert hit its home stretch on "Right Now" (with some new video messages that had a surprise political bite, including one that said "Our government is doing things that we think only other governments do"); then it was on to the encores -- the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," as well as "Panama" and "When It's Love." There was nothing played from the one CD that Van Halen did with Boston singer Gary Cherone ("Van Halen III" in 1998), but there was enough from nearly everywhere else to make it an overall balanced look at the VH catalog, brought to life with verve.
Opening act Silvertide is a young, cocky Philadelphia hard-rock band with old-school references but not yet enough originality to lift it into fresh territory.
WORCESTER- Van Halen's reteaming with singer Sammy Hagar was supposed to kick the keister of every hard-rock fan patiently waiting for this group to get its act together after a long time gone.
Alas, Van Halen's concert Saturday at the Worcester Centrum Centre was more like a firm handshake than any sort of (welcomed) bashing. Van Halen opened its two-night stand at the Centrum with a competent and confident set, but one that lacked true charisma.
Singer Hagar sounded great, as did guitar legend Eddie Van Halen. And there was nothing holding back the rhythm section of drummer Alex Van Halen and bass player Michael Anthony. But the poorly paced set prevented Van Halen from being truly explosive. All in all, it was remarkably unremarkable.
The opening numbers "Jump" and "Runaround" were nice aerobic workouts for the band and fans alike. The songs also let Hagar work his dynamic cheerleader personality into full boil.
A stage design that extended as two loops into the seating area provided enough ramp and runway space for Hagar to make eye contact with fans in front of him and two handfuls of folks stuffed into the open centers of the loops. Video screens on either side of the stage carried the action to all points in the arena.
Going shirtless and wearing his hair up in John Belushi samurai fashion, Eddie Van Halen looked every bit the freak his imaginative music suggests he is. The king of finger-tap-style rock soloing and all-around flashy player showed his technique remains intact.
But Eddie's solo never built up a single memorable theme. It was just a bunch of guitar-wank snippets. Had he perhaps built in more extended guitar jams into the night's songs, the whole show would have gotten a lift.
Instead, there were by-the-numbers readings of "Poundcake," "Top of the World" and "Why Can't this Be Love." Hagar turned to the part of the Van Halen catalog created by original singer David Lee Roth to pull out "Unchained," and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," both of which made clear that while Hagar is the overall better singer, the sleeker, meaner Roth-era material blows away the slicker, bigger-sounding tunes from Hagar's run with Van Halen.
Van Halen played three new songs, the best being the raunchiest of the trio, "Up For Breakfast." The other two, "It's About Time" and "Learning to See" in no way threatened greatness.
The best of what Van Halen does came at the night's end. Before the encores, the band went wild on "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and then slid into "Right Now," its powerful Hagar-era anthem.
The first round of encores relied on the Roth years again for a cover of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" and "Panama," songs that pushed the band and the crowd into that frenzied state that once defined a Van Halen concert.
But rather than leave on that high note, the band returned to perform the limp "When It's Love," a routine ballad that had its day a long time ago.
The band Silvertide opened the night with a formidable set of tunes sounding straight out of a biker bar. These heirs to the Black Crowes have a national debut album coming out in August, and Silvertide's opening set for Van Halen certainly raised the level of anticipation for that record.