Friday, December 7, 2007

THE STAGE HECKLER: Van Halen's guitar wizardry defies description

I saw Van Halen the other night -- my 3rd concert seeing them, and my first seeing them with their original frontman David Lee Roth.

Also to boot was Eddie's son, Wolfgang Van Halen, replacing the always-in-the-past efficient bass and backing vocalist Michael Anthony... and he did okay for a teenager thrust onto the stage
with his father and uncle, drummer Alex Van Halen.

Despite having cut their hair (therefore doing away with the classic big hair 80s look), DLR and EVH put on a great performance... there were still roundhouse kicks coming occasionally from DLR -- but you could feel everyone in the audience cringing -- hoping nobody onstage was going to "take it too far" and
pull a groin muscle... yikes!

Alex put on a nice mini-drum clinic... and it was obvious he's been watching some of Neil Peart's instructional videos, which is okay... everyone needs to get a few tips from the best...

...but it was Eddie who stole the show. I don't think I can find the words to describe what I was hearing from his guitar... otherworldly? Etheral? I don't even know where to begin...

EVH was all over the map with all his effects, methods, and gear... I've never seen so many foot pedals and gizmos for one guitarist onstage before.

He'd noodle into a bluesy number from Women and Children First, then rock to the pop sentiments of "Dance the Night Away." Then he'd dive into what I've always described as the "dinosaur wreaking
havoc" industrial sounds of "The Cradle will Rock," and then the intense jamming of "Mean Street," the first track off Fair Warning (which my buddy and I agreed is Van Halen's best work).

There were some surprises, such as "Little Guitars" from the band's fifth album Diver Down (1982), and "Little Dreamer" off the eponymous first album
Van Halen (1978), along with "Ice Cream Man" from the same album, featuring DLR on acoustic guitar... holding and playing it Johnny Cash style almost.

The Wolfgang element was a nice touch. All three of the other band members would check in with him regularly, as if to check up on him and offer encouragement... at one point Eddie grabbed his son by the lock of his hair and placed a long fatherly kiss on his face... you could tell throughout the night that EVH was REALLY amped and very very happy to be performing...

I'm sure there was the added kick and rush of performing with his son and only child onstage... I'd imagine it gave a whole new meaning to performing live for him -- now it's a family affair... and Wolfgang's presence will make the other band members behave a little more, I'd imagine.

I was a little skeptical going into the show, but the guitar heroics alone were worth every penny spent.

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