Thursday, February 21, 2008

Van Halen....

....sucked.

Van Halen: BankAtlantic Center, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wednesday, February 20th, 2008:

SETLIST:
You Really Got Me
Show Your Love
Runnin' With The Devil
Romeo Delight >
Magic Bus >
Romeo Delight
David Lee Roth harmonica / megaphone solo
Somebody Get me a Doctor >
Mississippi Queen >
Somebody Get me a Doctor
Beautiful Girls
Dance the Night Away
Atomic Punk
Everybody Wants Some
So This is Love
Mean Street
Pretty Woman
Alex Van Halen drum solo
Unchained
I'll Wait
And the Cradle Will Rock
Hot for Teacher
Little Dreamer
Little Guitars (sans intro, which was attempted during Eddie's solo)
Jamie's Cryin'
David Lee Roth monologue about partying in high school >
Ice Cream Man
Panama
Eddie Van Halen guitar solo
Ain't Talkin' About Love

ENCORE: 1984 > Jump



They sucked.

PREFACE: Last year, Van Halen was close to embarking on the David Lee Roth reunion tour, when it had to be postponed, due to Eddie Van Halen entering a rehab for alcoholism / drug addiction. Eddie then issued a public statement to his fans, on his website, saying that he felt it was the best course of action because he wanted to be able to deliver 100% performances out on tour, and felt his performances would be compromised if he attempted to tour before getting sober. Now, fast forward to yesterday afternoon. I had lunch in "The Grove" (Coconut Grove, Miami) and met a very friendly local who is very well "connected" in the music biz. So well connected, in fact, that his identity is intentionally omitted here. He told me that he was backstage at a recent Van Halen show, and how Eddie was sloppy drunk and played like shit. This saddened me. Bummer. I hoped it wasn't true, and gave the situation the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Eddie had one off night, or my "connected" new friend somehow misinterpreted the backstage goings-on.

So, on to the show: It did not take long... just a song or two... to deduce that it was.... "off". As a band, they were very "loose" - the opposite of "tight". David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen were taking way too many improvisational liberties with their vocals and guitar chops, respectively. The timing was off, hence the "loose" non-tight feel. Now I will itemize....

DAVID LEE ROTH (vocals): Not up to task. Rather than singing vocals melodically, the lyrics were chanted in monotone, most often way off cue, and sometimes omitted entirely. There were attempts at vibrato, which just made his voice cut out in a quick rythmic fashion. He sounded as if he may have been OK during the first few shows of the tour, but his voice just became fatigued over time. It was definately a chore for him to work the lyrics through the show. To quote Stephaine Gordon: "Dave's not doin' 'em any favors!" - I concurred. Visually, he was his showman self. Vegas cabaret meets vintage rocker. He obviously trained long and hard in the gym for this tour, as he was lookin' super ripped and fit.

EDDIE VAN HALEN (guitar): Big disappointment. His timing was very loose, right from the get-go. Tone was OK, leads were missing flash. He was not very animated, but hey - the guy has a fake hip, so we'll let that one slide. I couldn't help but wonder about what my friend at lunch had told me.... was Eddie drunk? It appeared as if that certainly could be the case, but I was not certain. Another "benefit of the doubt" scenario. But then came his solo. There were butchered attempts at "Little Guitars Intro" and "Eruption", but his solo consisted mainly of extented whammy bar dives, and Hendrixesque feedback wails and percussive tremelo dive improvisations. The more I watched, and waited for him to pull it together into something impressive, the more I realized: He was obviously quite drunk. Trust me, people, I know the signs. The huge jumbotron screen behind him was NOT doing him any favors. Frustrated with sloppy attemps at flashy leads, he retreated aft to his wall of faux EVH stacks and fell to the ground for another extended set of whammy bar feedback dives. Obviously, an intentional time killer for him. At this point, Stephanie turned to me and said "Am I supposed to be impressed by this?" No, Stephanie, you're not. And neither was I. I was cringing inside and felt sad for Eddie as I watched in disbelief. When his solo was over, he walked up to the front of the stage, shrugged his shoulders and looked at the crowd with a look that said something like "..oh well... I tried...". It was sad. The show went on. His playing got worse. He kept messing with his guitar cable, which was getting snagged on his monitor / effects pedals as he attempted to leave the confines of stage left. As he tugged hard on the cable over and over, in a red-faced tantrum, he would actually stop playing. At one point, Eddie actually fell onto his mic stand, toppling it over as he landed on his effects pedals. Trust me, folks, this is NOT part of the show. Those Custom Audio Electronics pedals are expensive. Not very proffessional, in my unproffessional asessement. It all culminated in the encore of "Jump", when the wheels just finally came off the bus. It's a damn good thing that song is centered around a keyboard riff (played from backstage by who knows who), because this keyboard riff served as the glue which held a song together that otherwise might have been aborted entirley. It was that bad. At the end, Eddie was clearly drunk and frustrated - hopefully at himself. He threw his guitar backstage; and I mean threw it FAR. He was by the drum riser, and from where he stood, backstage left was about 25 feet away. It crash landed backstage and immediately let out that harsh electronic "HUMMMM" that fans are never supposed to hear. We all heard it... loud and long. He staggered forward for his obligatory "thank you" bows with the band. He then yelled something into Wolfgang's ear, as he did throughout the night, and they all walked off backstage right. As Eddie walked offstage, he accidentally staggered into one of his faux EVH stack amps, almost knocking it over. He then punched one of the speaker cabinets (ouch - that's gonna leave a mark) and intentionally knocked the stack over to finish the job. OH, to be a fly on the wall backstage after that show! I can only imagine!

God bless you, and good luck to you Eddie. I sincerely hope you find the help that you need.

WOLFGANG VAN HALEN (bass) & ALEX VAN HALEN (drums): Major props to these guys. They held down every song, so that it could remain identifiable, despite each song being butchered by Dave and Eddie. This is a rhythym section's mission in life, and they did it well. Again, props. A true "the show must go on" mentality, which I think is very proffessional. They were obviously not really enjoying themselves, particularly Wolfgang, who had minimal to no stage presence, and was clearly void of any enthusiasm.

In conclusion, it was no big surprise. I've always thought - in my opinion - that Sammy Hagar is ten times the performer that "Diamond Dave" is, and Eddie's personal woes are no real secret to anyone who is as obsessed with guitar rock as much as I am. Eddie is a legend (at least to me, anyway) and it was sad to watch. I'm not mad, as a music consumer. I'm sad as an Eddie Van Halen fan. Get it together, bro. I'm rootin' for ya.

"Remember that we deal with alcohol: cunning, baffling, POWERFUL. Without help, it is too much for us."

2 comments:

Pluto said...

Thanks for the blog. I've been a VH fan for many, many years, and was really looking forward to seeing them on tour this go 'round. But, having seen some of the videos on youtube, and reading objective posts like your's, I think that I'll save my money. I once thought that even a washed-up/drunk VH was better than no VH at all. Now I'm not so sure.

eric said...

Living here in Hawaii, I never had the chance to experince Van Halen live with Diamond Dave. I did have the chance to experience the early years via MTV and some footage via YouTube. Eddie looked on top of his game but his rockstar persona just wasn't there. He is and always will be my favorite guitarist. I'll never forget back in '77 how he blew me away with his first album. Me being a guitar player since '70 I almost hung it up cause my futile attempts to play his style was definitely lacking. I myself am in recovery and I remember spend hours drunk and stoned trying to learn his awesome licks. I tell you , creativity surely lacks when one is under the influence. Recovery is hard and especially if you have a lot on your plate relapse is usually the case. I was playiong in Waikiki for donations on Kalakaua Ave. and could'nt do so without alcohol. I guess it comes with the territory of addiction. Eddie if you somehow find this site, always remember that God has bigger plans for you and that He isn't done with you yet. Your creativity is still there and I look forward to hear the music that you made...It really makes my life so much better. Don't give up my man ! ! ! Pluto Mahalo for your compassion for the man who rewrote the way guitar is played today...EASY DOES IT ! ! !

Sincerely Yours,

Eric Eslinger eslingereric@gmail.com