Errols Weekly Music Update.

May 25, 2008

Concert Review – Van Halen at MSG – 05/23/08

Filed under: CD Reviews, Concert Reviews — Tags: , — ea0217 @ 12:56 pm

Van Halen at Madison Square Garden on Friday May 23, 2008.

OK so everyone who attended the Garden on Friday night had to wait a little more than two months for Van Halen to make its’ triumphant return to the greatest stage in the entire world. I like to think that even though the boys are from California, that they consider New York their home. No one loves Van Halen more than the Madison Square Garden fans. They were originally slated to play on St. Patrick’s night back in March. I had friends who were so looking forward to that show because they missed them back in November. I told them an extra two months was nothing compared to waiting almost a quarter of a century to see them again. The best thing was that we were not being refunded our money; the show would still go on. And talk about a show? One word: Amazing. When one looks up the definition of this word you’ll find the following synonyms: Astonishing, Astounding, Remarkable, Wonderful, Incredible and Startling. You get the picture? For all of you who have not seen this reunion tour (this was the 2nd stop in NY) I am begging you (pleading, imploring, praying- another word with many meanings) to please go see them when they come back. This is the closest thing to a Led Zeppelin reunion; no one comes close to this band for live entertainment.

Again let me take you through the night’s events- my good friend Paul and I headed down to the Garden all the way from Connecticut and Upper Westchester. Paul had never seen Van Halen with Roth at the helm. I had no worries that he would not enjoy this show, wasn’t even a concern. I knew it was going to be a treat for me because I love seeing the expression of friends who have never seen Eddie, Alex, Wolfgang and Diamond Dave. Paul and I have seats in section 331 and we’re sitting there awaiting greatness and then I hear a voice a few rows ahead of us. I say to Paul- “Is that Jon?” And he says yes. We leave our seats and sure enough it is Jon and three other “family” members. What are the chances?

Seeing their enthusiasm just put me into another level of excitement. This was also their first time. I was feeding off of their energy and told Paul we were not going back to our assigned seats; we are here for the entire show. There is a buzz in the air, then the lights go down, there is milling around on the stage and from our vantage point I can see the legends right in front of me. A few minutes go by and then there it is, the opening riff to “You Really Got Me”- It’s on!! Friday night at the Garden, for a holiday weekend- one can’t ask for a better start. There’s Alex behind the skins with his trademark white headband tied around his head pounding away. Eddie is in front of his brother’s drum set and without me knowing it- this was to be his best night ever playing the guitar at the Garden. As Jon rightfully stated- his solo (and Alex’s) are worth the price of admission. Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, is far to the left of the stage and this kid is going to be a stud just like his dad, it’s only a matter of time. How lucky is he? Being a teenager on stage with arguably the greatest live band ever? Then to top it off – is there a better front man than the electrifying Diamond David Lee Roth? Does this guy know how to work a room or what? As the first song ends, Dave thanks the audience for waiting a few extra months for the show. No Dave- Thank you!!!

And like the show in November- they head into “I’m the One” off of their first album and the air-guitaring starts around the Garden. Then without warning they pay homage to Led Zeppelin and The Who and they wind up playing most of ‘Magic Bus” for the Garden faithful. I don’t remember them doing this back in November but then again I was so out of my mind seeing them for the first time in a while that I may have missed it. Anyway- who cares- they are at the top of their game and it’s only the second song.The third song begins with the unforgettable bass riff from Wolfie “Running with the Devil”- Jon’s brother Chris almost jumped to the ceiling. And in unison we all sang the opening lyrics “I live my life like there’s no tomorrow.” It was one big party that was just getting started. The bass and drumming were identical to the original recording. Wolfgang and Alex are the meat and potatoes of this organization with Eddie adding all the delicious toppings. With the big screen behind the boys you could see the up close work of the hands of the guitar magician. Then as the song ended you had about 17,000 hands in the air matching the bass and drum pounding, along with our heads banging in unison. Fourth song of the set was “Romeo Delight”- classic tune from Women and Children First. Wolfgang’s work here again was spot on. There is a heavy bass line in this song and he hit every note along the way. They made it look easy and you can tell that they have been playing together for a real long time. They make each other better because they are so good individually.

At this point the Garden is in a frenzy and Alex starts off the classic “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” from Van Halen II (my personal favorite VH album). I love the “Woo Woo” part that turns Eddie loose with the energetic solo that should have everyone bowing saying “We’re not worthy.” Then it happens again, a familiar song but not one of theirs, they morph into another legendary guitarist classic -“Crossroads”- from Eric Clapton. At this point my jaw is dropping and I can’t believe Eddie is playing Eric’s song. Talk about lightning in a bottle? David’s vocals keep the song moving along like a locomotive, they turn back to “Doctor” and end with a thunderous ovation. Eddie keeps it going with the unforgettable beginning riff of “Beautiful Girls” and can the Garden get any more excited? The background vocals on all the VH albums are legendary and Wolfie & Eddie received help from the 17,000 plus singing in unison “Special Plans…” “Of the Sand”…”Oooh La La”.. Great summer song and could be their most popular song ever. Keeping with the VH II theme, they launch into “Dance The Night Away” and the karaoke atmosphere continues, as Dave doesn’t even have to sing. “Have you seen her…”

The eighth song of the set is a dream come true for all the Van Halen fans that have been with them from the beginning- “Atomic Punk”- “Nobody walks these streets at night except for me- the Atomic Punk.” The screeching combination from Eddie and Alex gets me so pumped- I am shadow boxing into the night. Dave ends it by screamimg “The Atomic Punk.” Everyone is trying to catch their breath, even the boys, as the next song takes a while to kick in. “Everybody Wants Some” has the stops and go just like the original and every time the chorus kicked in, the lights would hit the crowd. By this time I am convinced that this show is topping the show in November (which is no small feat). Next up are again Alex and Wolfgang playing together and the dancing in the aisles continues as “So This Is Love” comes out blaring over the speakers. How friggin’ great is Alex’s drumming on this song? He keeps this train moving and Eddie’s guitar solo is phenomenal. He’s on his game and again the screen spotlights his hands. Then it’s on to my favorite of the night- “Mean Street”- how does Eddie do that opening riff? Even live, it’s a sound that you think cannot be duplicated. At this point I can’t wait for David to scream “At night I walk these stinking streets past the crazies on my block.” I am as close to euphoria as anyone can be. The everlasting “Pretty Woman” keeps the memory of Roy Orbison going as the crowd again serves as backup singers throughout.

David, Eddie and Wolfgang take a breather and sit back with the rest of the crowd as Alex begins his solo. Have I mentioned the word amazing? At times it seemed as if there were a few other drummers playing along with Alex because one man couldn’t create this sound, could he? Damn right he did. No way anyone goes to the restroom when he plays. I am no drummer but even I can tell that there are too many alive on the planet that can match his prowess. After the solo it is just a hit fest. “Unchained”, “I’ll Wait,” “And the Cradle will Rock” (where they again morph into another classic tune- “Smoke on the Water” from Deep Purple). One of the highlights after the drum solo was “Hot For Teacher.” I don’t know about you, but every time I hear this song I wonder to myself.. “How does one play the drums to this song?” It seems so difficult. Alex and Eddie played it to a “T”- note for note. Spectacular. “I got it bad, got it bad, got it bad…” “Little Dreamer” is tight and the groove is infectious. “Jaime’s Crying” is another crowd favorite. Things settle a bit and Dave comes out with his acoustic guitar and you know “Ice Cream Man” is on its way. I can’t say enough about Diamond Dave- if you have not seen him live-you are missing out. He’s 55 now and is in phenomenal shape as well.

“Panama” almost brought the house down with Dave pointing at a “look a like” in the crowd and told him that he would get… well you know. Eddie then had his guitar solo and had everyone shaking their head in disbelief that someone can play like he can. Again “we are not worthy.” The show ended with the ever popular “Ain’t Talking About Love” and my favorite part of every Van Halen show is when everyone raises both arms in the air -in unison- and screams “Hey, Hey, Hey.” The encore is their only # 1 radio hit “Jump,” as David rides an over sized blow up microphone. Another staple of their shows is an endless supply of confetti that swirls over the stage and falls on everyone. A snowstorm of cheer that makes the show that much better. At this moment you cannot help feel that you have just witnessed the best show of your life. I am heading to many more shows this year but I know that this one will not be topped…unless it’s Van Halen again. Thanks again Dave, Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang!!! \m/ \m/

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