Last Night: Van Halen and Kool & the Gang at Toyota Center
We're two songs into last night's sold-out Van Halen show at the Toyota Center when lead singer David Lee Roth spots three comely ladies in the front row of the house with cameras. In the span of three seconds, he turns into the Diamond Dave we all know from YouTube, the lovable scumbag you wouldn't leave alone with your own grandmother.
"When I die, sprinkle my ashes over 1982," he leers at the gals. It's a great line, quotable, too. Roth was trying to be cute, mentioning one of the best years of his career (Diver Down hit America that April), but he ended up talking to the girls for nearly two minutes.
Have you ever been at an awful party and had to endure listening to an oily pickup artist lay out his wares? Imagine that in front of almost 19,000 people.
But above hearing the man lay mental pipe in the time we all could have heard, say, half of a "You're No Good," it foretold a night that would be maddening, saddening and altogether frustrating. This was the David Lee Roth Show ("Daaaave TeeeVeeee!") and not the Roth-led Van Halen that some of you knew as teens and young drunken angels.
Kool & the Gang
David Lee Roth and the Van Halen Family Band, if you want to call it that.
Yes, it could be said with some exaggeration, and tongue firmly sunken and glued in cheek, that openers/funk legends Kool & the Gang were the main act and that Van Halen played their afterparty. I thought that during the K&TG set jokingly, but as each VH song reeled out, it was like a hellish Nostradorkus prediction.
Seriously, K&TG still give a shit, even if there are only four original members of the group and they rely on younger front men to bring tunes like "Celebration" and "Ladies Night" alive. I never thought I would hear "Jungle Boogie" or "Too Hot" live and alive.
The notion of having a classic funk band opening for a classic rock band seemed dumb to some, but when you think of the influences in the VH and Roth stew, it makes total sense.
Let's start with what was right.
The set list was on point, with the right amount of megahits, himbo anthems and album gems. The rigging and lighting, absolutely beautiful. The video techs helped make infinite, trippy images of the group on the massive screen behind the band.
The presentation was free of the flashback shots that most aging touring groups distract audiences with. The production at the Beach Boys show earlier this month was like watching a concert inside a photo album.
Speaking of photos, the band's lax photo rules are a breath of fresh air in an industry where you can get kicked out of a venue for taking a cellphone picture of a band. They allowed any and all photography, which is why you can see most every date on this tour on YouTube.
The Van Halen Family Band -- Eddie, uncle Alex and son/nephew Wolfgang -- was playing with menacing precision. For his age, Wolfie was in the pocket. Sure, we all miss Michael Anthony, but with Wolf you at least know that it's in reverent hands. His backing vocals aren't terrible, either.
Alex had two short drum solos and mostly kept to himself as per the norm, and those solos seemed very subdued.
As for Eddie, he played with effortless ease and made even world-changing pieces like "Eruption" look like cake. He worked up seven sweaty minutes of finger-tapping bluster and technique that had everyone's mouths agape. That's the Eddie that had been hiding the last tour in 2007/2008. Welcome back. Stay awhile. Release some of that stuff on the floor of 5150.
Now what was wrong?