Live: Van Halen, Houston
There’s a slight buzz in my ears this morning, from last night’s Van Halen concert in Houston’s Toyota Center. The 1970s rock juggernaut, reformed with original lead singer David Lee Roth and touring the United States this summer, cranked it loud enough to leave a ringing in the ears but a very pleasant post concert buzz on the morning after.
The show Sunday night in Houston was Van Halen’s second to last on this tour; they play New Orleans then go on an indefinite hiatus. About a month ago they scrapped about 30 dates after this, citing “fatigue” and “biting off more than we could chew.” Nevertheless, everyone seemed in fine spirits Sunday night.
If you’ve been around a while, or have listened to any amount of classic rock radio, you can pretty much assemble a Van Halen setlist. Toss in a couple ringers from the new album A Different Kind of Truth and a few choice cuts (“Romeo Delight” wasn’t a hit? Unbelievable.) and you have Van Halen 2012.
Frontman David Lee Roth has lost none of his stagemanship, chatting up the crowd with pre-programmed banter (To a woman in the front row: “Is that a video camera? Do you want to make a sex tape?”) and sliding around on his parquet island at center stage.
His singing is another matter, though: Diamond Dave’s vocal range seems to have slipped a bit, although he howled and growled in all the right places. “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Runnin’ With The Devil” got his best singing, and he kind of talked his way through a couple other numbers. He started out pretty strong but later in the show, Dave seemed to be on a totally different page than the rest of the band.
Eddie Van Halen was his usual virtuoso self, so was drummer Alex Van Halen and even Eddie’s 21-year-old son Wolfgang on bass was fine. Wolfie’s mom, actress/pitchwoman Valerie Bertinelli, roamed the backstage area and crossed under the stage toward Wolfie’s side, presumably to meet up during his offstage breaks.
Aside from Wolfgang, each of the other three band members got their own spotlight: Alex rocked a ferocious drum solo under a monstrous video screen and Eddie wailed solo on guitar for about eight or nine minutes.
Roth, for his part, played some nice acoustic guitar all by himself leading into a cover of the blues song “Ice Cream Man” but before we got to that he launched into this WTF? monologue about his ranch and his sheepdogs, complete with endless video footage of them chasing sheep around some field.
The concert roared into the homestretch with “Panama,” “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love” and the set closer “Jump.” Not a bad night of rock and roll – rest up boys, we’d love to see you back on the road soon.