I, along with about 16,000 other fans, had been looking forward to this night for quite a while, as VAN HALEN is one of my favorite bands and Eddie Van Halen is one of my favorite guitarists. No matter which former lead singer they bring back, VAN HALEN has so much music to choose from and Eddie is going to play lights out guitar. There were T-shirts from every concert they had performed in and around Dallas and other modes of dress that defied description. I almost wore spandex pants, but thought better of it when I looked in the mirror.
This was a perfect night for a concert. The first day of Fall lets us know it will eventually cool off, the Ferris Wheel was lit up in the background of Gexa Energy Pavilion signaling the imminent start of the Texas State Fair, and The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band had just kicked ass as the opening act with a wicked set of Rock and Roll and Texas Blues.
The late arriving crowd got their adult beverages and were meandering toward their seats as the roadies finished changing the set. The lights dimmed and out walked VAN HALEN to a thunderous applause. Eddie started picking and David Lee Roth started prancing and singing “Light Up The Sky.” The three older members of the band, including Alex Van Halen, looked healthier and happier than they had in years and Wolfgang Van Halen had matured into a young man. It was a good introductory song as it, along with DLR’s sparkly jacket, set the tone for a night of rock and roll.
The audience lit up for “Runnin’ With The Devil” as Eddie owned the guitar and Dave added a scarf to his ensemble, as if he needed something else to play with onstage. I loved seeing the faces of people who were seeing them for the first time, especially as Eddie was playing. The band moved right into “Romeo Delight” as the cameraman focused on Eddie, who was having the most fun since the beginning days of the group. Not to be out-funned, Diamond Dave donned a cowboy hat and rode around the stage using the mic stand as a horse and to simulate drawing a gun on the crowd.
Before the next song, Dancing Dave acknowledged being in Texas, a sure-fire crowd pleaser. The noise got louder, though, when Alex launched into a drum solo preceding “Everybody Wants Some.” Eddie and Dave shared a microphone and they looked like friends. “Drop Dead Legs” was next and featured one of many great guitar solos that captivated the audience. The captivation increased when they moved straight into “Feel Your Love Tonight,” a definite fan favorite. They then played one of my favorites, “Somebody Get Me Doctor,” and the guy in front of me started dancing like a turtle in molasses which captured my attention until the band changed the tempo for a scintillating effect on a great song. Eddie really rocked a couple of tremendous solos on “She’s The Woman,” then “I’ll Wait,” another one of my favorites.
Smiling Dave put on a blue hoodie for the song, which highlighted a smile that lasted all night long. It was wonderful to see him having fun, too. It was Alex’s turn and he banged out a rocking solo that had the crowd moving and grooving. He’s not flashy, but he backs the band extremely well, no easy feat considering the talent level of Eddie. That gave Eddie time to go offstage and grab a short-fret guitar for the song “Little Guitars.”
It was then time for most of the ladies to get up and “Dance The Night Away”. It was a terrific live version and we were all shaking our moneymakers. Then, for some reason known only to God DLR went on a ten-minute diatribe about high school, cars, filling condoms with water, describing the various dance moves throughout the history of rock and roll before telling us that when he makes his Jesus face, he’s actually thanking the Lord for having the greatest job ever.
Deciding to come back to music, the crowd quickly got pumped up again as the women in the audience heard the first notes of their theme song, “Beautiful Girls.” There were some beautiful girls at the concert, too, mixed in the eclectic crowd. There was everything from the front-row rich boys with high-priced escorts to people who looked like they started hitchhiking on Sunday to get there by Wednesday, with the rest of us in between the two extremes.
“Women In Love” was a good rock and roll song with no theatrics, showcasing the band’s true musical abilities. I loved it, some merely liked it and some came to hear only what’s on a greatest hits album. Regardless of their preferences, everyone gave them props for a job well done.
Then came the greatest drum intro ever, as voted upon by many rock magazines, when Alex lit into “Hot For Teacher.” The crowd absolutely went wild, Dapper Dave sported a fancy red sportcoat and Eddie tore up another solo that showed why he is a master guitar player. They bridged into “In QQ Simple Rhyme”, which only the hardcore fans knew and was the bathroom break song for one of the group of women sitting next to me who had finished her Mandingo-sized Sex On The Beach in a souvenir glass and continued with “Dirty Movies.”
The three Van Halens then went backstage while Diamond Dave played a harmonica solo sitting on a stool before changing to an acoustic guitar solo and talking to the audience about world peace, values, dignity and respect, among other topics. That somehow led into a solo version of “Ice Cream Man” before the rest of the band came back out and really rocked it. They didn’t let up on the rocking with “Unchained,” another song that showed off their individual and collective talent.
“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” got everyone on their feet as DLR swung the mic stand like a ninja. They were jamming now and included the required “Hey, Hey, Hey” repartee with the crowd. This was by far the biggest applause of the night so far. That quickly became the second biggest ovation as Eddie took center stage with a guitar solo. The cameraman zoomed in so we could watch on the big screens as it should be on every rocker’s bucket list to see Eddie’s speed, fingering, picking and plucking up close. He has such a mastery of the instrument and manipulation with his fingers that he could shuffle a deck of Tarot cards with one hand. The raucous crowd dialed it up another notch when they played “You Really Got Me”.Their version is one of the all-time great cover songs as they payed homage to classic rock with their straight-on, hard charging sound.
The encore of the evening started with a balls-to-the-wall version of “Panama.” The decibel level must have been close to that of a 747 taking off. It stayed at a fever pitch when they segued into “Jump.” We were absolutely enthralled with Eddie’s unbelievable playing and watching Dancing Dave jump around like a virgin at a prison rodeo. It turned into another lengthy jam, but all good things must end. VAN HALEN came to rock our faces off and they did just that.
VAN HALEN gave us 24 songs in over two hours and we would have stayed all night. If we were that spent from listening, you can only imagine how exhausted they were after playing for us. It was such a pleasure to see a band that has sold almost 100 million albums and still give so much effort and show so much passion.
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS
LIVE PHOTOS: GUZPIX