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Concert Review: Van Halen – Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI – 10/20/07

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Written by General Jabbo

Van Halen returned to Detroit Saturday at Joe Louis Arena for the first time in 23 years with original singer David Lee Roth at the mic and for the first time ever without founding bassist Michael Anthony.

In the long Van Halen soap opera, Anthony had a falling out with the Van Halen brothers around 2002, when he joined Sammy Hagar during his joint tour with Roth. This was seen as breaking ranks with the brothers as both Roth and Hagar were out of the band at that point and therefore mortal enemies of Eddie and Alex Van Halen.

Anthony toured with the band on their 2004 tour with Hagar, but only because Hagar refused to do the tour without him. When that tour finished amidst rumors of fighting and substance abuse problems for Eddie (he did a stint in rehab this year), Hagar was once again out and Eddie saw a perfect opportunity for him to take Anthony with him.

Enter Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s 16-year-old son. Turns out, during all those years when Eddie was locked away in his home studio, he was grooming Wolfgang to be the new bassist in Van Halen.

Wolfgang rehearsed with the brothers for over a year when they decided they wanted to take the show on the road. Problem is, they didn’t have a singer. David Lee Roth, whose recent gig as a radio personality fizzled and whose recent solo career wasn’t doing much better, needed Van Halen. Likewise, the band could ill afford to bring in a fourth singer, especially considering their third singer, Gary Cherone, was not accepted by a majority of fans. With Hagar on the outs again, Roth was the only option.

The band announced their tour earlier this year, but postponed it soon after as Eddie entered rehab, suspiciously around the time the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Only Hagar and Anthony attended the event. However, when tickets went on sale in August for the tour, fans who had waited 23 years to see the band’s charismatic original front man at the helm would soon get their wish.

In the first of two Detroit shows, the band played to about an 80 percent full house, opening with their cover of the Kinks’ classic, “You Really Got Me.” Roth was a little low in the mix for the first several songs, but that got sorted out and he sang and performed well, punctuating his vocals with Elvis-style karate moves. He described the new lineup as being three quarters original, one quarter inevitable.

Eddie played with great intensity and passion – a far cry from the hit-or-miss nature of the 2004 tour, which was marred by sloppy playing and band fighting. He had a lot of interaction on stage with his son, high-fiving him a few times (and missing cues as a result) and he had some timing issues during “Hot For Teacher,” but for the most part, Eddie was the Eddie of old – playing well, smiling, running and jumping around.

For having big shoes to fill in replacing fan-favorite Anthony, Wolfgang did an admirable job. He doesn’t have the dexterity on bass, vocal ability or stage presence of Anthony, but he didn’t bring the show down either. Roth took it upon himself to educate him in the ways of rock and roll, saying, “Look out there, that’s Detroit.”

The biggest star of the show was drummer Alex Van Halen. He played as well as he ever has and, more importantly, kept the band together when some songs started falling apart.

With a band as volatile as Van Halen, and with no definite plans to continue after the tour ends in December, fans wanting to catch a glimpse of the (mostly) original band should do so while they still have a chance.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I’m ready for the Staples Center show.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Hold on, fellas. I’ve got tix for the Staples Center show. I have been hearing good things, so I can’t wait.

  • Steve

    Was this a review of the concert or your personal opnion of Van Halen ?? There is only like one paragraph about the show the rest is drivel that has been told many times over and over again . If you knew anything about Van Halen 2007 they never said that they would stop after December. Sounds like your trying to write for some tabloid. Your review is VOID..

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    As I look at the General’s review, I count four paragraphs about the show, which is actually nothing like one.

    If you knew anything about Van Halen, you never say never. Eddie was one time quoted as saying “Roth was not coming back.” Gary Cherone predicted his line-up would last ten years. Your comment is VOID.

  • Sam

    I saw the show at the joe louis and it was nuts. I thought that David Lee Roth did an alright job with the vocals but he made up for the mistakes with his absolute craziness. Thay played the longest show Ive ever seen and played all the hits. Great show

  • crazygal

    I was at the afore mentioned show. I’d say the majority of the audience were between 35 and 45 y/o …hard core fans of the original VH. I’ll tell you what… Ed and Dave where both FLOORED by the cheers of the audience at the start of the show.
    So much so that they started the first song, out of
    timing…it’s like they didn’t expect such a rebel yell from the northern local. Dave walked over to
    Ed and smiled at him as if to say WOW!!! I couldn’t hear you over the crowd either…and then he started humming in perfect timing to Ed’s playing. Then they started the song over again.
    at one point while Wolfgang and Alex were playing
    Dave said hey…look who’s been practicing on the bass. After asking Wolfgang to come closer he put his arm around him and said…Look out there thats Detroit, they don’t look like other fans, they don’t sound like other fans and they don’t party like other fans. at one point while singing to a female fan Dave took her cell phone away from her and shoved it in his pants while saying …well take a picture why don’t ya…then laughing after he’d thrown it back to her…

  • http://generaljabbo.blogspot.com General Jabbo

    Dear Steve.

    Of course it is my opinion – that is what critics do.

    You can’t explain why Wolfgang is the bass player now without getting into the soap opera that is Van Halen.

    And as I look at the credits of the Van Halen Encyclopedia and see my name, as well as look at the ticket stubs from the 15 Van Halen shows I have seen (16 after tomorrow), I think to myself, “Yes. I am qualified to write about this band.”

    I encouraged people to check out the show. Hardly the stuff of a bad review.

  • Chuck

    I was at the palace last night to see one of my all time fav’s I haven’t been to a concert in 7 years Because I used to work there and had seen all the shows I wanted to see, until last night. What a great show, no it wasen’t like an 80s Van Halen show hay were all older it happens But it took me back in time and felt like the 80s again. I loved the show, The kid was great Eddie was great Alax was great Dave was great, but most of all the TRUE Van Halen was great.

  • jerry stiensteinburger

    The reviewer sucks.
    Just about the most lame review I have ever read.
    It’s so not rock and roll!

  • Robert

    Guys, listen…my guess is that whoever keeps dogging on the original review most likely wasn’t even born when Van Halen started, or even during their glory years (78-84). I understand some people want to cause problems, but at least TRY to make yourself sound intelligent. For most of us, it’s like seeing Aerosmith even now. I went to an Aerosmith concert last year when they toured with Motley Crue. Of course, neither band played like they did in the 80s, or hell, even the 90s, but it’s the fact that they still CAN play. And for those of us who loved Van Halen, and others, that’s enough. Kudos to Roth and Eddie for being able to move on. And good luck to Eddie as he continues on a better path.