It only takes milliseconds to recognize Eddie Van Halen's ferocious guitar tone. Like sonic bullets from a gun, "Unchained" riddled into the audience with its runaway freight train guitar riff as the Honda Center exploded with Van Halen's triumphant stop in Anaheim for a sold out show.
Wolfgang Van Halen led the charge for "Runnin' With The Devil" by thumping his bass at the top of the stairs next to his drumming uncle Alex Van Halen. The always charismatic and smiling David Lee Roth was dancing around stage for "She's The Woman" from their new album A Different Kind Of Truth.
After being warmed up by Kool and the Gang-- who quizzically opened the evening but worked hard to get the crowd grooving up by playing hits like "Celebration" and "Get Down On It"-- fans showed their willingness to approve Van Halen's new material by hoisting their beers for "Tattoo." Besides twirling on stage, Roth used some silver batons for "Everybody Wants Some!!" exclaiming that everyone who attends a Van Halen concert should leave a better person.
The parade of older classics continued as "Somebody Get Me A Doctor" had Roth playing to the video cameras in front of the stage that were projected on a huge LCD screen behind him. Eddie Van Halen was seemingly on fire throughout the night with a huge grin on his face while throwing down some dexterous, two-handed tapping on his fretboard and high-pitched screaming harmonics on "China Town".
Having seen the band on Saturday night at Staples Center, it was clear the few days of rest served the band well as Roth quipped to the crowd that they were "getting a good show tonight" after ripping through "Hear About It Later." Two of their classic covers "Oh, Pretty Woman" and "You Really Got Me" sandwiched a jazz-influenced drum solo by Alex Van Halen.
While I rarely look for deep meaning in Van Halen songs, Roth expounded on "Dance The Night Away" as a euphemism for making love indicating that the phrase "Save the last dance for me" would have new meaning. Cheesy '80s synthesizers swirled for the beginning of "I'll Wait" but soon were melted by some fiery Eddie Van Halen fretwork.
Alex Van Halen's drum skills are sadly overlooked and this was evident as he ferociously pounded the skins for "Hot For Teacher." Roth concentrated on his dance moves for "Beautiful Girls," doing the splits while the video performance replayed it in slow motion behind him on the screen.
Diamond Dave also took the spotlight for "Ice Cream Man," as he started out the song on an acoustic guitar before being joined by the rest of the band. Things really started to heat up as "Panama" had the entire Honda Center singing along. Eddie Van Halen's solo is worth the price of admission alone using volume swells and the arcade kill switch on his custom Wolfgang Van Halen guitar for a staccato effect.
The band piled on two more crowd pleasers--"Ain't Talkin' Bout Love" and "Jump"--to close out the evening. Even though the rest of their tour dates have been postponed from June 26, one can only hope the time off and rest will have Van Halen back in an even better form, although they've set the bar pretty high already.
Critical Bias: I have an Eddie Van Halen MXR phaser and flanger guitar pedals.
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Overheard In The Crowd: "Are those backing vocals taped?"
Random Notebook Dump: Wolfgang didn't wear his LA Kings t-shirt like he did at Staples Center. Smart kid.
"Runnin' With The Devil"
"She's The Woman"
"Everybody Wants Some!!"
"Somebody Get Me A Doctor"
"Hear About It Later"
"Oh, Pretty Woman"
"You Really Got Me"
"The Trouble With Never"
"Dance The Night Away"
"And The Cradle Will Rock..."
"Hot For Teacher"
"Women In Love"
"Ice Cream Man"
"Ain't Talkin' Bout Love"