Some secret shows tend to be bigger than others. I've been fortunate to catch a few in my concert going years but last nights friends and family dress rehearsal show with Van Halen is definitely top five. Things started off great when it turned out the Forum wasn't charging their usual $25 rip off parking fee.
Van Halen is gearing up for their world tour in support of their latest album, A Different Kind of Truth with original singer David Lee Roth back in the fold. Their tour stops off at the Honda Center on June 12th and you better get your tickets now. As a kid who used to wear a Diver Down painter's hat all the time back in the '80s, I was beyond excited to grab a rail spot on Eddie Van Halen's side of the stage.
The lights went out at the Forum and the cheers filled the arena as the signature guitar riff of "You Really Got Me" blared through the ten custom EVH amplifier heads and guitar cabinets. David Lee Roth was in a sparkling sequined jacket with a headset microphone dancing and posturing in a way on he can get away with.
Wolfgang Van Halen kicked off "Runnin' With The Devil" with a ferocious thumping on his bass guitar perched on top of the drum riser next to his uncle Alex Van Halen. Everyone was cheering along with beers hoisted in the air or playing air guitar around me. We all understood that we were lucky to be in attendance.
Throughout the night Eddie was grinning from ear to ear having a seemingly great time on stage and recreating his classic mid air jump kicks while flawlessly hitting every note on his guitar with ease and grace. They delved into a new song "She's the Woman" which had a classic Van Halen chugging riff punctuated by a Eddie guitar wah pedal solo.
Diving back into their old catalog, "Somebody Get Me A Doctor" sounded superb as both Eddie and Wolfgang were singing the background harmonies while David Lee Roth continued with his twirls and kicks. They quickly fast forwarded to their latest single "Tattoo" which sounded much better in the live format as Eddie had switched out his guitar to the classic red, black and white stripe pattern model.
"Everybody Want Some!!" had David Lee Roth brandishing a pair of mic stands like weapons while Eddie and Wolfgang came together and Eddie put his arm around his son for a feel good moment of the show. The assault kept coming as "Beautiful Girls" kept the energy level high. The band got a small breather as David Lee Roth showed off his guitar skills by playing the intro of "Ice Cream Man" on an acoustic guitar before the band kicked it into high gear.
The only small hiccup of the evening was David Lee Roth encountered some microphone problems during the new song "China Town" which momentarily threw him off. David Lee Roth shrugged off the microphone problems donned a new shiny jacket and ripped into "Dance The Night Away". It was hard to not smile along with Eddie Van Halen as he tore apart "Hot For Teacher" while David Lee Roth tossed out guitar picks into the crowd.
Another new scorching song "Blood and Fire" worked into the setlist seamlessly and kept the momentum going. The highlight for all the guitar nerds in the building was Eddie Van Halen's updated rendition of "Eruption" incorporating new techniques including rolling his volume knob back and forth for a sweet violin sustained sound that had everyone's jaw on the floor.
Going out in a bang Van Halen closed out their set by playing "Panama" and "Jump" even though I would have loved to see Eddie play the keyboards for it. The streams of confetti and the swell of cheers from the crowd left no doubt that Van Halen will be in top fighting form when they return to the Honda Center. Don't miss this tour.
While I was skeptical about Kool & The Gang opening the show, I must admit it was entertaining to hear "Celebration" and "Get Down On It". But it comes down to it that no one can really open for Van Halen.
Personal Bias: I own an the Eddie Van Halen MXR Phaser and Flanger Guitar pedals.
Random Notebook Dump: Spotted Tom Dumont and Tony Kanal from No Doubt!
"You Really Got Me"
"Runnin' With The Devil"
"She's The Woman"
"Somebody Get Me A Doctor"
"Everybody Wants Some!!"
"Ice Cream Man"
"Dance The Night Away"
"Hot For Teacher"
"Blood and Fire"