Live Review: Van Halen Vaults Back Into Spotlight with High-Flying Kicks, Superhuman Stamina

Published on May 16th, 2012

VH
May 13, 2012 – Van Halen’s highly praised new album may be called “A Different Kind of Truth”, but the current tour reveals there’s nothing different about their shock-and-awe approach to the stage. Halfway through their North American leg on a Saturday night in Winnipeg, the band had no trouble re-creating the moments of glory that made them one of the most exciting live rock acts to ever tour the earth. 57-year-old David Lee Roth spent the entire evening demonstrating acrobatic moves than most 27-year-old frontmen could only dream of, and the Van Halens (Eddie, Alex, and now Wolfgang) gave proof that head-spinning instrumental talent runs in the family.

On their second tour with Roth back at the helm since 1984, it’s hard deciding which of the band’s accomplishments is the most significant feat. Is it the mid-air spinning kicks that the uber-flexible David Lee Roth whips out? The brilliant return to form of guitar god Eddie Van Halen, whose fingers moved so fast they may have started his instrument on fire. Or the fact that all four band members are not going after each other’s throats – but instead smiling and laughing on stage together.

It’s easy to forget this is a band that has been through more relationship drama than your average soap opera. They’ve survived drugs, alcohol, three lead singers, cancer, lawsuits, divorces, and even the 1990s. To top it all off, Roth said as recently as 2006 that any reunion would result in a “Jerry Springer style fist-fight”. Van Halen is the last band that could be expected to mount a stunning comeback tour more than 35 years after forming, but that’s exactly what’s happening. And they seem to be having more fun than ever.

“My name is Mr. Roth and I am your substitute teacher for the remainder of the concert. If you are a spanish language student, you belong in Panama. That’s about 4 songs down the hall, just a little more to the left.”

He can scream, he can kick, and he’s witty. Roth proved he’s still a triple threat on this night. Although his multiple scarves, shirts, and glasses put him up against Madonna for most costume changes in a single performance, it didn’t make his outlandish green jackets any less fun.

Smiling wide and dancing the night away whenever he wasn’t singing, Roth was wiping sweat off his face at the end of song one. Four splits, a half-dozen kicks, and a hundred shimmys later, he was still yammering out the words to “Jump” while shaking around like the energizer bunny. If it wasn’t for his devotion to clean living (he’s even a big canine fanatic now), you’d swear that 1980s stimulant drugs were making a comeback.

The show lasted over two hours and included every hit a casual fan could ever want, along with enough deeper cuts and new songs to keep the die-hards satisfied. The famous vocal harmonies are still there in full force even minus bassist Michael Anthony, and especially showcased on chorus-echoers like “Beautiful Girls” and “Hot for Teacher”.

Everyone in this band appears reserved when put next to Roth, but Eddie filled the role of showman just as well as he did his standard role of guitar genius. A healthy lifestyle has clearly done wonders not only for his playing but also his looks, which are more youthful than the last tour. His extremely young son Wolfgang is understandably quiet as he plucks away on the bass, but there was a gleam in his eye from time to time as he caught sight of Roth whipping up a kick or his dad wailing on an extended note.

There were no fireworks or explosions, no moving platforms or sliding surfaces. For a band that would seem to want every frill known to man making the job easier, they achieve their shock value with unbridled talent and personality. One massive LED screen and a truckload of confetti was the extent of the “stage” show. For comarison, Rihanna recently employed a moving sidewalk to assist her sliding dance moves. All Roth needed was a well-swept piece of hardwood flooring.

There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing this band move and play as if the last 30 years never happened. For all the crowd could have cared that night, it was 1984 again, and their substitute teacher was Mr. Roth.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Posted by Andy on May 17th, 2012, 04:43 [Reply]

    Brilliant stuff – great review and even better shots!
    Fantastic stuff!

    …looks like Wolfgangs mum is still cutting his hair though.

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