The Boys WERE back in town!
A funny thing happened at the KFC Yum! Center, I went to a rock concert and wound up with a psychological adjustment.
photo Ryan Armbrust
Van Halen, with David Lee Roth on vocals, kicked off their world-wide tour here in Louisville. I have been stoked about this since the news broke and I recovered from the “their kicking off their WORLD-WIDE TOUR in LOUISVILLE” shock. This was something that was supposed to NEVER happen, Dave and Eddie hated each other too much. So, This was BIG in the world of most 35-50 years olds.
The show was a blast. Dave’s voice was sketchy at times, his leg kicks less flamboyant. He is 57. But, Diamond Dave’s personality was still there. “You think this is my first time in Louisville, OH NO…I’ve got quite a history with Louisville…”, Dave also remarked several times “somebody bring me a shot”. I’m assuming he meant bourbon. The band sounded tight, in a good way.
Alex Van Halen was rock solid behind the drum kit and his exciting drum solo had a wonderful, if slightly odd island flavor. Wolfgang, Eddie’s son, was on bass and proved he belonged. He provided a thumping bottom line that gave his dad a safety net to perform his high wire guitar act. I tweeted it during the show and will state it again. Eddie Van Halen is a GOLDEN GOD on Guitar. His hips may have been replaced, but his fingers are still magical over a fret board. His guitar solo, alone on the stage shrouded in a eerie fog was easily the highlight of the night.
However, the entire effect of the concert was cathartic. I talked to several people after the show. Yes they mentioned Dave’s vocal miscues, but to a person they exclaimed what a great time it was. How satisfying the event was. Which is where my psychological adjustment comes into play.
Van Halen had it all as Superstar Rock band in the early 80’s, yet petty things became big issues and the band became broken. But after a couple of different lead singers (Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone), an attempted tour in late 2007 with Dave, it all lead to an “on hiatus” sign being placed on the tour bus for VH.
All this searching, and trying reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a friend about the show (and life). It centered on realizing the magic in a day. The timelessness of a situation. Sometimes when things are going great, it’s easy to imagine that everyday will be just as great. It’s simple to think only bigger and better things are ahead. It’s also effortless to let the appreciation of that moment, that specialness that is a relationship slip through your fingers.
Eddie and Dave couldn’t keep a grip and let it slip away. Now, they are here older, wiser and some would say weaker and NOW they want it back. Cynics will say, “they want the money back”, but several music management folks I talked to about this tour say this is different, that there is a deeper mechanism at work. Redemption.
When the show started, I felt like the audience was collectively holding its breath. Everyone, including me, wanted this to work, wanted it to be good, to be that magic again. But, it also seemed that Dave and Eddie wanted it to be good, to be magical again. But, as most of us know, rekindling chemistry is hard.
So that process began Saturday Night at the YUM Center, Van Halen opened with “You really got me”, but for the crowd it seemed “Running with Devil” became a metaphorical exorcism. Harmonies slipped into place, guitar licks clicked, the sound mix was fined tuned. The audience cautiously exhaled, then roared its approval and sang along in full voice. I could feel the momentum finally hit its stride, as the band ripped and rocked through old favorites, “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher”. But they also trotted out “Women In Love” and “Outta Love Again”, the first time they had preformed those two since the late 70’s and early 80’s. It just worked.
The party was on, and as Eddie and Dave hugged – not once but twice at the end of the show - you knew that for one night at least the chemistry was reclaimed.
Photos by Ryan Armbrust