Sunday, June 24, 2012

Van Halen Concert Review: June 12, 2012 in Anaheim, California

Como estas?

When I saw that Van Halen was going on tour with David Lee Roth again, I figured this would be one of my last chances to catch the original line-up (well most of it), so I got ahold of tickets for the June 12th show at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. I was not aware that Kool and the Gang was opening up for them, which was really quite a surprise.

The concert was supposed to start at 7:30, and I got going a little late, but I didn’t have to worry because the Anaheim police department has the whole traffic situation figured out. I guess between the Angels, the Ducks and Disneyland, they know how to deal with crowds.

It is a good thing I showed up on time, because Kool and the Gang actually started at 7:25, and I have never been to a concert that started early. I was a little puzzled by the choice of this band to kick things off, but they were awesome, and it was a nice change of pace from the hard rock that was to come later.

Kool and the Gang is a big band, and I counted eleven guys on stage, including, two drummers, two guitars, two saxes, trumpet, trombone, keyboards, and one guy on bass, who turned out to be Kool. Everybody got to solo (yes, the trombone guy too), and these guys showed up to entertain. They even had their synchronized dance moves down!

They played all of the favorites, including “Ladies’ Night”, “Hollywood Swingers”, “Jungle Boogie”, Get Down On It”, and their closer “Celebrate”. I know it not the original band line-up, but they brought their A game and played well, and the crowd really got into it.

After Kool and the Gang were done, a small army of men carted off their tons of gear, and left a simple stage set-up for Van Halen. Eddie on stage left with his pile of amps, Alex in the middle on a riser, David Lee Roth up front with his own dance floor, and Wolfgang on a riser on stage right with his mountain of amps.

Van Halen started right on time, kicking things off at 9 o’clock on the dot with “Unchained”. And from the start it was apparent that these guys still have it going on. Eddie looked good (not so skeletal), Dave appeared as athletic and limber as ever, and Alex is still a dynamo on the skins. And Wolfgang did fine, which is a compliment from me.

You see, before the concert I was ambivalent about Michael Anthony no longer being in the band, but after this show I don’t think it really matters. Wolfgang plays the bass well and sings fine, and after all, he is family. He did a good job and deserves to be in the band as much as anybody does. By the way, I am still available to fill in if he does not work out…

It was easy for everybody in the arena to see the show, because they had the biggest video screen I have ever seen behind the stage. It was super high definition video, which gave use plenty of chance to see Dave mugging for the camera.

After the first song they went into “Running with the Devil”, and played a few tracks from their new album A different Kind of Truth. This is their latest album, the first Van Halen album that Wolfgang has played on, and the first for DLR since 1984. And this is what the playlist ended up being: only songs that Dave originally performed on, and no Sammy Hagar stuff. Not that this was a problem, they have more than enough hits to play a two hour show.

By the way, there were no synthesizers on stage, but there were synthesizer tracks in some of the songs they played. So, I do not know if there was a keyboardist off stage, or if they were pre-recorded tracks.

And the show pretty much kicked ass. They didn’t leave out any of my favorite tunes, and the band was on. Dave was out of tune sometimes, but it appeared that he had problems with his –in-ear monitors, so maybe he could hear what was going on very well. He was perfectly in tune when he was singing and playing the acoustic guitar by himself during “Ice Cream Man”.

I only have a few gripes about the show, foremost being that the sound was muddy and Dave didn’t have good monitoring. With this being a high-dollar show and them bringing four of the biggest mixing board I have ever seen, there is no excuse for this. And the other thing was Dave’ video homage and soliloquy to his dogs. I just didn’t get it.

Regardless of this, the show was worth the money. If you get the chance I highly recommend seeing Van Halen while they still have this line-up. You never know how long it will last…


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