Pit of Hell: Van Halen – Oracle Arena 6-3-12

The Dream is Alive (Not Over)!

Van Halen – Oakland June 3, 2012

It was a dream come true. Finally, Van Halen with David Lee Roth touring a new album “A Different Kind of Truth”. This was not a nostalgia show. The first album tour since the legendary “1984”. I never thought it would happen. But, to pull a quote directly from the new album: “that’s the trouble with never.” And I am an unabashed, card carrying fan of the biggest bar band in the world, the mighty Van Halen! Now to the show.

 

Our seats were just left of the sound board with a perfect view and great sound (except during Dave’s soliloquies and low vocals, which were muddy). Just prior to showtime, Matt Bruck, Eddie’s long-time guitar tech and Guitar World writer, shook hands with the principal sound engineer working the board to give his stamp of approval on the guitar tone. The stage was simple: drums, bass, guitar, and microphone. As the stage went dark, Alex began a short intro drum solo, followed by brief intro solo by Eddie, then Wolfgang appears, and finally a grinning (from ear to ear) Dave. It was magic. They burst into the opening riff of Unchained, and the crowd went completely nuts. If there was ever an opening song, this is it. The unmistakable sound of Van Halen would captivate everyone for the rest of the night. A few times throughout the set, the band would slow things down to give Dave a chance to offer the crowd advice on life, love, politics, technology, and his shameless pursuit of life’s indulgences.

Dave is back, in full force, as crazy as he’s ever been. Even kicking out his trademark gymnastics moves on occasion. He couldn’t hit all the high notes all the time, and sometimes he left the singing to the crowd, perhaps pacing himself for the finale. But when it really counted, especially over the last 5 songs, he nailed them with style.

Eddie was on fire all night. It was really good to see him in his element, sharing his love for music and the guitar with the rest of us. He has inspired so many players throughout the years, but none has ever come close to his particular ability, feel, phrasing, and originality. Towards the end of the set, Eddie played a solo that included portions of his well-known works like Cathedral, Spanish Fly, and a reworked (played in off-time using different notes and effects) version of the most famous line from Eruption, but mixed in with some new fret board acrobatics. The master was at work, and he was smiling the whole time with his trademark happy solo face.

Wolfgang is a mean bassist with chops to match his father. I still miss Mike, who was arguably Van Halen’s secret vocal weapon, and a seriously underrated bass player. But Wolfgang brings the goods. On the new material, Wolfgang shows his own style of playing, which is technically outstanding complete with soul and feel. On the older material, he played it all with respect to the original style, shifting between picks and fingers all night. He and Eddie’s background vocals were excellent.

And Alex, the train engine that has kept the show rolling in time since the band’s high school days in the early 1970’s, was his dragon-master self behind the kit. His solo section was very ‘80s Latin inspired, bringing an entirely different rhythm to the mix.

I sincerely hope they release another original record with as much intensity as this current one, tour it, and dominate again. Along with Anthrax, this is the biggest and best comeback of 2012.

Long live the MIGHTY VAN HALEN!

 

Set List

1. Unchained

2. Runnin’ With the Devil

3. She’s the Woman

4. The Full Bug

5. Tattoo

6. Everybody Wants Some!!

7. Somebody Get Me a Doctor

8. China Town

9. Hear About It Later

10. Oh, Pretty Woman

11. Drum Solo

12. You Really Got Me

13. The Trouble with Never

14. Dance the Night Away

15. I’ll Wait

16. And the Cradle Will Rock…

17. Hot for Teacher

18. Women In Love

19. Beautiful Girls

20. Ice Cream Man

21. Panama

22. Guitar Solo

23. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

24. Jump

 

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