Sunday, September 30, 2007

Might as well ...

So, yes, I went to see Van Halen last night, and the quick and dirty verdict is that they've still got it, and Wolfie held his own but Michael Anthony was missed. But before I get into what happened last night in Greensboro, let me take a trip down memory lane, because, when you get right down to it, classic rock is just oldies music for Boomers and older Gen-X'ers such as myself. What better way to start a review of an oldies act than with a look back at youth.

I saw Van Halen when I was 13 on the Women and Children First tour at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Va. That revelation always elicits a "wow" from the VH fans I know, most of whom saw them either on the 1984 tour or during the dark Van Hagar years. It was in August, and I had gone to Busch Gardens with my mom, our neighbor Miss Margaret, and Miss Margaret's teenage daughter Suzanne. As it turned out, the hotel where we stayed was right beside the coliseum, and the show wasn't sold out, so that night, Suzanne and I just walked up, bought tickets and went in. I don't know why I remember this, but the opening band was called Cats. It was general admission, so we ended up getting great seats in the first level up from the floor. I remember Dave's awesome high kicks, and thinking that Eddie seemed a little out of it because he kept turning his back on the audience. I also remember the smoke was so thick in there that we could barely see the beach balls that people kept batting back and forth. And I remember the crowd being a sea of denim and hair.

But one of the many big "D'oh!" moments in my rock life is that I was supposed to see them two years earlier opening for Boston with Poco and The Outlaws at Carter-Finley Stadium, but couldn't go because I came down with mononucleosis. Three school friends of mine, Pat, Herb and Louise (all real names) went with Louise's older sister driving. That could have been my first rock 'n' roll road trip, but instead I was sick in bed with a stupid infectious disease!

After the show, they couldn't stop talking about the crazy opening band with the swaggering lead singer and lightning-fingered guitarist. They also brought me a T-shirt with the Boston space ship and the words "BOSTON SMOKES RALEIGH!" with Van Halen in small letters on the back. That T-shirt disappeared off of a clothes line a few years later at my aunt's house in Johnston County when I spent the summer there working in tobacco. I had worn it to the tobacco field in hopes of impressing some cute guy. Double "D'oh!"

Anyway, the point of all that is that while I have a cool Van Halen memory, my old friends, whom I haven't seen in years, have much cooler memories.

Last night's scene was much different than that show I saw at Hampton. The bell bottoms had been replaced by tapered dad jeans, and what little hair was left was topped by baseball caps. And I can honestly say this was the only major rock concert I've ever attended where I did not smell any marijuana smoke. And this time my seats were in the nosebleed section, but thankfully there was a huge screen behind the stage, to prevent us all from having eyestrain.

They opened with "You Really Got Me," and followed the same set list from Charlotte. Strangely, half the folks in my group insisted later that they played "D.O.A.," while the other half (including me) insisted that they didn't.
Dave seemed to have a few mic troubles during the first song, and there were a couple of times during the show where Alex seemed to lose the beat, but otherwise they were musically on it. Wolfgang Van Halen did an impressive job with the bass, and his and Eddie's backing vocals were good, but Michael Anthony's presence was missed.

Dave strolled the "S"-shaped stage, looking age-appropriate rock-starish in leather pants and a series of trim-cut blazers, including a military-style jacket to start off the evening. Eddie looking healthy and trim with close-cropped hair, went shirtless with a pair of white man-pris and some low-top sneakers. Wolfgang wisely stuck to all-black.

They played one of my favorite VH songs, "I'm the One," but DIDN'T do the "shooby-do-wah" breakdown -- probably because you really need Michael Anthony to do that. Instead they stopped, and Dave and Eddie hugged each other. They actually wiped tears away from their eyes as the audience roared. Other highlights included "Everybody Wants Some," "Somebody Get Me a Doctor," and "Ain't Talking Bout Love," which had every single person in the coliseum pumping their fists to the "Hey, Hey, Hey" part. Dave began "Ice Cream Man" with a rambling, but touching, story about getting high, shining a black light on a wall where people had been throwing darts, and imagining that the paint chips were stars. Apparently he met someone he lived with for several years while doing this, and "Ice Cream Man" was her favorite song.

But there were some definite low-lights, including Alex's drum solo, during which every woman in the coliseum, including yours truly, decided to take a bathroom break. I've never liked the song "Little Guitars," so I decided to take a little catnap (I have the ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time except at night in bed). I was snoozing pretty nicely too, until Jessica elbowed me to ask me if I was asleep. That's why I can't say for sure if they played "D.O.A." or not. I swear they were still playing "Little Guitars" when I woke up, but I guess it's possible they did some sort of medley in the middle of that song.

The other stinker was "Jump," in which Eddie's guitar suddenly began emitting an ear-splitting, atonal wail. The look of disbelief on the faces around me was hilarious. It was so bad, that in the van ride home later, Chris kept going on and on and on about how this was the best concert he'd ever seen, that it was the best concert EVER, but he ended every word of praise with, "except for "Jump."


Anonymous said...
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Foster & Blade said...

haha. This is Bob The Blade-I was just trying to bone up on that particular show because we are counting down the Triangle's Top Ten Concerts. It has to be number one. All those bands a one time. Not trying to rub it in!