After twenty-two years, there's no better time for Van Halen's original lead singer, David Lee Roth, to tour with the band again. Every aspect of our current pop culture has been influenced by the decade that, until two years ago, we all wanted to forget: skinny pants and leggings fill our closets, synthesizer-driven music has reemerged in rock, hipsters are the new yuppies.
There weren’t many hipsters at last night's concert at Target Center, however. The crowd was full of die-hard, thirty-plus Van Halen fans wearing double-denim (light-wash jeans and jean jacket/shirt), singing along to every tune, and playing lots of air guitar.
The band played what felt like their entire catalog in the two-and-a-half-hour set, opening with "You Really Got Me" and barreling through hit after hit, including "Running with the Devil," "Beautiful Girls," "Dance the Night Away," "I'll Wait," and "Jamie's Cryin'."
A month into this tour, Diamond Dave and the Van Halens—Eddie on guitar, Alex on drums, and Eddie's sixteen-year-old (!) son, Wolfgang, on bass—were nothing short of manic. Roth and Wolfgang took turns climbing the ramp that swirled behind and above the drum kit, Eddie and Roth strutted on the semi-circle catwalk that extended from the stage and created an unbeatable, 360-degree show for the select crowd seated up front. Roth was a spectacle with countless high kicks, three wardrobe changes featuring three different top hats, and the campiest grin I've ever seen on an arena stage. Eddie, shirtless for the entire show, with no wardrobe changes, was all smiles too, jumping around stage left while screaming on the guitar.
All of them were on their game, musically, except for a hilarious guffaw during "And the Cradle Will Rock," when Roth declared, "I forgot the f**king words!" and joined the band again at the chorus.
A cranked-up rendition of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" led into the first solo, on drums. Roth picked up the next solo, prefaced by a long segue of strumming an acoustic guitar during which he shared fond recollections of his pothead days in the seventies. Eddie's solo started with him perched on the edge of the stage with a melodramatic spotlight shining on him, then he teased the crowd with a little help from Wolfgang and Alex, sped up, slowed down, then finally gave the crowd the intense shredding we were waiting for.
The show that had us on our feet the whole time ended, fittingly, with us off our feet and in the air throughout the predictable one-song encore, "Jump." The stage antics increased as confetti rained upon us and Roth retrieved a ten-foot inflatable microphone from his roadies, which he then dragged across the catwalk, rode across the stage, and retired. I can't tell you how many people whipped out their cell phones to take a picture of that display, including the two security guards standing behind us.
Aging bands on reunion tours don’t always live up to the glory of their heyday. But almost thirty years after the original Van Halen formed, the current lineup that Roth called "three-quarters original, one-quarter inevitable" was 100 percent unstoppable.