OK, let me level with you.
Hipster pretense, “being into Bret Michaels-reality-show-star versus Bret Michaels sensitive tattooed rocker who realized after needin' "Nothin' but a Good Time” that “Every Rose Has its Thorn” …
…hipster ‘Best Week Ever’“ artifice aside the truth is this: Van Halen Totally Rocks.
Shut up Hipsters
I mean Van Halen rocks in that “filling up a stadium with nubile dishwater blondes in tube-tops” way. It’s old school rock - something that, I’m sorry to say, the emo-castrati of our age (it’s not their fault ), post Blink-182-Queen-esque ( lookin' atchu “Chemical Romance” ) teens of this age are simply unfamiliar with. I’m talking about rocking hard minus ennui ( Tool ); Rocking hard minus nonsensical Marxist blather ( Rage Against the Machine ); I’m talking about a Dionysian, graspy, pure pro-libido, pro-beer, pro-“hooray it’s five freaking o'clock on Friday let’s hit the Regal Begal” sense of rock.
Quien es mas macho?
It’s strange, anyone born after 1985 simply doesn’t know the dream: LA, Sunset Strip, Limo with a hot tub in it with several groupies in bikinis,
loud music with way-too-many guitar notes.
The emperor thinks “Eruption” has a few too many notes"
It was the testosterone-fueled dream of 13 year olds of my era and all the eras before. Instead for the fili castrati of today, their pale ghost of a dream is nsparayshun432’s blurry headshot from the ‘turned-on-self’ digital camera on Facebook. How utterly sad.
I had thought for sure a Republican president committed to trickle-down economics and purging “evildoers” from the world would quicken the return of rock of this type ( cf. Motley Crue, Ratt, Cinderella, WASP ) or my own personal favorite mix of gasoline, death, sex, and Les Paul (from Bush I’s era): Guns ‘n Roses, but alas, that appears not to have happened. Maybe we don’t have it in us to rage, rage against the dying of the light, same with Rome, judging by the Silver Age.
Given that the young don’t know how to rock, it’s unsurprising that, in the postmodern age, the age of youth extension to your 70’s, the Baby Boomer concert promoters would go back to the Kilimanjaro preserve for rare and endangered masters of arena rock and haul them back out for our narcissistic look in the mirror before the kids start having discussions that include phrases like “long-term managed care”.
In the post-modern age we resurrect our icons or extend their life with fresh infusions of yoga and unicorn blood forever because we’ve lost our damned cojones and creativity ( shades of Baudrillard’s “Tasaday” essay from Simulacra & Simulation ), we went to Serengeti national park and pulled out the icons of that time when bands could rock, shamelessly, proudly, with some fucking showmanship.
That’s right, we went to the motherlode of feel good, guitar-shredding, put-a-goddamed-smile-on-your-face-you-mopey-bastard rock royalty of dare I say 1976-1983, the musical guests at Spicloli’s party: Van Halen.
“Whoa dude, I blew all my reward money on getting Van Halen to play graduation, bro!”
And what can I say but after 30 years of musicianship, you can’t help but deliver a great show with great music. During this show I realized some essential things about the Van Halen sound. If I were to use any particular scientific term s an adjective to describe their sound I would call it massively phase shifted. I don’t know how I never caught this years before, but everything they do has massive phase shift on it. During Alex’s stunning drum solo I realized that a sea of metallic cymbal, when washed in the Van Halen phase shift turns into a magnetic, roaring, metallic cascade of tin-tasting metal. When the guitar explosion that is Eddie van Halen’s guitar virtuosity ruptures into that ocean it’s like a supermassive gravitational body pulling the metallic seas of a neighboring planet this way and that in a shearing display of tidal friction.
Something should be said about young Wolfgang van Halen who, at his very early age appears to be exceedingly proficient at the bass ( as was his father before him ). I had to give a laugh at the fact that his bass was a modification of the famous Eddie van Halen “5150” Kramer guitar electrical tape theme. I remarked to my buddy that it was almost like the tartan pattern of his clan - a birthright, those hap-hazard stripes. And, I suppose I noticed the filial pride that must have infused the original tartan specifications of the highlands centuries ago.
Son, with Diamond Dave
The set list:
- “You Really Got Me”
- “I’m the One”
- “Runnin’ With the Devil”
- “Romeo Delight”
- “Magic Bus”
- “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”
- “Beautiful Girls”
- “Dance the Night Away”
- “Atomic Punk”
- “Everybody Wants Some!!”
- “So This Is Love?”
- “Mean Street”
- “Oh, Pretty Woman”
- “I’ll Wait”
- “And the Cradle Will Rock …”
- “Hot For Teacher”
- “Little Dreamer”
- “Little Guitars”
- “Jamie’s Cryin’”
- “Ice Cream Man”
- “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love”
Here’s a few comments on specific songs.
“Runnin’ With the Devil”
The phase shifted brown sound of the brothers Van Halen par excellance.
“Everybody Wants Some!!”:
I hope I wasn’t the only one thinking of the claymation scene from Better Off Dead here.
Nothing Stays the Same
Icing on the cake: Young Wolfgang doing the post-guitar-solo cut-up ( on the album too )
Dave: [to some dude in the audience, in the “pit”, who is being broadcast on the huge screen]…you’ll get some leg tonight for sure. Tell us how you do!“
Wolf: "C'mon Dave, gimme a break..”
Dave: “One Break…comin' up…..ungh”
“Ice Cream Man”
This was the biggest surprise of the night to me. The stage went black and you heard some very impressive acoustic guitar playing, just noodlin' as we with an axe say. And up came none other than David Lee Roth who proceeded to recount a story about growing up in Pasadena, CA. He told of the vast suburban boredom experience and that his town was the kind of place where they rip up the trees, put in new streets, and name the streets after the trees you ripped out. Whodathunk it, David Lee Roth, smart growth advocate.
But in recounting the story of growing up in Pasadena he told of a friend of his who had taken a job as an actual Ice Cream man, which led him into doing a great a capella version of the song which, at the end of the verse had Alex’s giant tom-tom’s come in like a tsunami with Ed’s frenetic guitar descent ride us into the second verse. Hell yes David Lee Roth, you are totally badass, still.
And no joke, Dave had an 8 pack, the high kicks that could have taken young grasshopper’s head off in a furious roundhouse kick and during the stellar finale of “1984” demonstrated mad staff twirling skills by twirling a shiny metal staff with such fury I was in mortal terror that he would lose it and impale someone in the mezzanine.
I did have to feel for Dave, thinking about him singing these songs, historically those folks right below the stage must have been nubile young ladies, instead of guys in their 50’s with enough cash to pay the astronomical price required to be in the most-wealthy room only pit.
Like: “Oh hell, more beer gut bald dudes, where the hotties at? MORE TROPHY WIVES!”
But, let that not dissuade anyone from this fact: You can continue loving the Halen all your days, so to you old dudes, rock on, to you women who should not be wearing that tube top anymore, rock on, to the kids with their dads ( Ed and Wolf; The guys in the audience ) rock on, to Alex and Dave, rock on.
In short, let me say this