Friday, May 23, 2008

Van Halen Erupts! Tonight's Concert at MSG....

Tonight was the shit. And I haven't used this expression in nearly 2 decades, so when I say that tonight was the shit, it was quite the shit, because it was quite the night.

David Lee Roth is to Van Halen what Bananas, Nuts, Whip Cream, and Chocolate Syrup are to scoops of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry (Which scoop is Eddie Van Halen? You decide!). Life was still good with front man Sammy at the helm, but it was NOT THE SAME. I love Sammy. I own several of his solo albums. But it was not the same.

For me the thought of having Dave and Eddy patch things up and get back together, was second only to the no longer possible dream of having the Fab Four getting back together.

Tonight was a masterpiece. It was the fucking shit, to be more exact.

We got to Garden nice and early courtesy of corporate America's obligatory rule of allowing it's obedient servants the benefit of leaving early on the Friday before Memorial Day. We took the Long Island Railroad in (oh yeah, we never even paid for the tickets cause the conductor did not check either way!).

The opening band was Ryan Shaw. Whatever. What the hell do you say about that anyway? Who is Ryan Shaw? He sounded to me like a mish mosh of "In Living Color" and some pre-fabricated modern rendition of an American Idol. Enough already with this!

I though Van Halen was coming onstage at 9pm. Buzzz...Wrong! At 8:45 they came out on stage, and proceeded a visceral assault on my sense of being a 42 year old man. Slowly, surely and methodically, I was brought back to the summer of 1979. I was living in Laurelton. James Quinn (Jimmy as we called him) was my best friend. Along with his brother Joe, we were like the only white kids on the block.

It was Jimmy who turned me onto Van Halen. Jimmy, if you're still alive, then please accept this mini-homage to you, dude. Van Halen changed my world, for the better too. Lots of stressful moments during my growth period, diffused a la David Lee's screams. Thanks Jimmy!

I really didn't know what to expect from these guys. In fact, I had even posted a blog a few months ago, when Van Halen suddenly announced a postponement of their tour with my show, on St. Patty's Day, sacrificed to the God's of Broken Promises, pictures of Eddy then and now. The then, was Eddy just after his Women And Children First Album. The now, was Eddy in what seemed like a drug rehab picture. Boy, was I wrong about him. He came out looking clean cut and buff. Between he and Dave, I wasn't sure if they were onstage to rock my ears, or kick my ass, by the looks of the muscular build. Kudos to their professional trainers and to the boys decision to the right thing...Longevity does pay dividends, and I'll never tire of their music either.

Our seats were wonderful. Section 60 , 132 seats 7 & 8. Absolute Dead Center and 4 rows up from the first balcony overhang. I couldn't have asked for a better view, unless I was playing next to Wolfgang himself.

My friend Steve, had asked me to report on Wolfie, and whether or not his play tonight was lacking heart. Wolfie definitely got all the notes right, but he was too serious, and I hate to admit, he just did not get into it like Dave and Eddy did. But it didn't matter really. There was enough of either of the two frontmen to make up for any lackluster moments by the youngling.

In fact, VH got us on our feet and for the first time since I was 17, I think I stood for the whole concert. And I was not alone. They were relentless on stage, never letting up for a moment. Dave's funny comments all along the way were just something that I know only Dave could do. He did it for the Diver Down show and was not surprised to see him back to his welcomed antics.

Eddy wailed. And he wailed again and again and again. He not only perfected Eruption but he morphed Little Guitars and extended them both, beyond belief. Modern day technology as it is, was also of compliment to him, for we finally saw the magic of his incredible fingerwork up front and intimately close to all.

The original people sitting next to me left midway. Perhaps they found better seats? I was glad that they did. I thought they were going to fight with one another. The guy next to me was obviously a Met fan, and it was irking his buddy to the point that he yanked his Met hat off and chucked into the walkway, several rows ahead. Some frined, right? Then I heard him say "Fuck you and the Mets. Fuck you and the Mets." Unfortunately, when you go to rock concerts you're going to be exposed to many rock heads as well.

Surprisingly, Ileana enjoyed this concert a lot. She even told me that she liked it better than the Who concert that I took her to see last year. Referring to Eddie's virtuosity, she told me she could not get over how much noise one person could make. Only Ileana could say that. However she topped herself several times tonight.

Right from the very first song, "You Really Got Me", she thought they were singing, "You need some iced tea". Indeed. This could be Lipton's very first Heavy Metal commercial, no? She excused herself, citing the loudness of it all. But the laguhter continued nonetheless. The sad part is that she was not doing this deliberately to get laughs. She cites ignorance and since we are in a public forum here, I am just going to plead the fifth.

How powerful was the crowd tonight. My God. We all sang all the words along with Dave. Running with the Devil, one of my favorites, was my first leap into hoarseness. Air guitars were everywhere too. What a white boy's delight! lol.

Yesterday we saw Indiana Jones, and today Van Halen. Have I gone back in time? It feels good!

Video of "Beautiful Girl" Listen to all of us signing like lunatics!

Quips like "The Leg Up Your Stocking", and Dave turning to Wolfgang and telling him about how he lives in NY and how there are two things that can fuck up a man, and how Wolfie flirted with both of them before the start of the show, left Eddy red, and the rest of us laughing.

The incredible powerhouse performances tonight masterfully wove itself from one song to the next. About the only clumsy "seg-way" was from Dance the Night Away to Atomic Punk.

When "So This Is Love" started up, I was taking back to the time of Doug Botero, Flushing, and his Unchained album, that we played over and over on his record player until the grooves on the record would wear out. "Oh My God!" as Dave would say on Hot For Teacher, another staple from the VH repetoire that was lustlfully exorcised to our ears.

After Pretty Woman, Alex launched into a slow but steady (and deafening) drum solo. I've heard better, but the rest of the guys needed a break. After all they are all deep into their 50's!!!

When the whole ensemble started back up, it was off to the races with "Unchained". At this point, I looked at Eddy with my binos to see if he was smirking at all. No longer together with Valerie (Bertinelli), I'm thinking the song must have some meaning. After all, "That suit is you....You'll get some leg tonight fo' shurr!"

As "When The Cradle Will Rock" was thundering through Madison Square Garden, Ily tugged at me. I looked around, and she was blushing. "I can't believe it!" she told me laughing. "I can't believe that they are saying WHACK OFF."

Ileana was referring to next 2 words in the song, which really was ROCK ON.
But to Ileana's ears, they sounded like WHACK OFF.
Oh yeah! Right! Let's sing it together shall we? Here we go.....

"And The Cra-dle...will Rock! And the crayyyy-dle, with Rock...and I say...WHACK OFF!! WHAAAAACK OFFFF!"

I was in tears from laughing, and when I made her realize what the words really were, then she did too. What a goofball!

Oh...Uh Oh Oh...Jimmy's Dying! Yes. If you are my girlfriend, then you don't think that Jamie's Crying. You think that Jimmy's Dying. (followed by the wah wah from Eddie's guitar). This time I was visibly crying from laughter. Jimmy's Dying??!!!! Jimmy's Dying??!!!! Wahp Wahhp!!!

Suddenly the stage went quiet, and there was Roth on stage by himself (or so it seemed) with a guitar in hand. He took us back to his childhood days in Pasadena, Cali. And he told us about an ice cream truck with a fridge that they would that he and his gang could fill it up with beers. He had a friend named Kenny....But then again "Haven't we all had a friend named Kenny at some point, living next door, in the basement, under the stairs, etc?" Following a description of Kenny's four black walls speckled with white dots from when the darts missed the dart board, and how the room began to look like you were looking out of the bridge of the USS Enterprise, he started to play (and sing) the song he said he wrote in 1976, "Ice Cream Man".

I had expected Panama and Eruption to be the encores, but they steamrolled into them with tremendous might. Like I said, the energy they brought forth was uncanny. Even when compared to your typical band age of 20 somethings.

Their was a new next door neighbor sitting to my right now, with his girlfriend. They were stoned, but unlike the idiot before, they seemed harmless. He was really into it, throwing the horns up in the air. He was also like 20.

It is amazing how a child half my age was so into this band. By comparison, I never was into Elvis presley like this. I guess it goes to show you the staying power of the music of my era, and what a wonderful gift it was to have been placed in that period of time. The music of my time does seem to have no end. It's played on mainstream radio stations. Perhaps Rock music is the Classic Music of the last century? Anyway, back to the review.

After "Eruption", which was an all out blitzkrieg by Eddy, they all stormed into "Ain't Talking Bout Love". Towards the end, Eddy injected the classic 3 chord riffs from Deep Purple's, Smoke On The Water. Earlier in the show, they did a little Zeo in a "Bustle in your hedgegrow"

After "Ain't Talking", (link here for it...but then come back!) Dave finally stopped talking. And the lights went to black. But I knew better. There had to be more. The crowd was deafening, and the boys were obviously pleased with the fan participation and non-stop reaction. We gave to them what they gave to us, nonstop devotion. And it only took a few minutes before the disco ball over the stage began to revolve and speckled lights engulfed all of Madison Square Garden. 1984 and then Jump. Fucking A! My night was complete! Or as my friend Doug Botero used to say "Complay-ahhhht!"

And just like all of the war like references that I've made throughout this post, and deservedly so, by the undulating attack from these great musicians, Dave could not have finished the show any better, than to come out with a white Captain's Navy outfit and mention about saluting the service men in town in NY for Fleet Week. Grand Slam, Dave.

As pricey as the concert was, it was worth every penny.

If you have any interest in watching a great show, whether you are a Van Halen afficionado like myself, or just are looking for something to do, you owe it to yourself to check these guys out, if they come to your home town.

Now it's 12:45, and I am waking up in 5 hours for a 9 hour trip to Ottawa. I almost feel like a roadie myself, but hope to kick ass in Ottawa! I will not have access to email or the internet, but will post when I get back.

Have fun and remember to .. Dance the Night Away!!

01.Your Really Got Me (or as per Ileana -> You need some iced tea.)
02.I'm the one
03.Running with the devil
04.Romeo's delight
05.Someone call me a doctor
06.Beautiful girl
07.Dance the night away
08.Atomic punk
09.Everybody wants some
10.So this is love
11.Spanish fly
12.Mean street
13.Pretty woman
14.Alex's drum solo
16.I'll wait
17.And the cradle witll rock (followed by...whaaack off!)
18.Hot for teacher
19.Little dreamer
20.Jamies crying (or as per Ileana -> Jimmy's Dying....weeep woppp!)
21.Ice cream man
23.Eruption//Little Guitars
24.Ain't talking about love

I'll come back with some live footage from tonight's gig as soon as one of the several hundred people filming it with their cameras have posted it up on YouTube.

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