Van Halen rock New Hampshire with new and old

A review of Van Halen at the Verizon Wireless Arena on March 13, 2012

, Editor-in-Chief

When they first reunited five years ago, nobody really expected the original Van Halen lineup with frontman David Lee Roth at the helm to last. Yet, the tour was a massive success and prompted the band to enter the studio to record new material. Now, with last month’s release of A Different Kind of Truth, the legendary classic rockers are back on the road for a tour that hit Manchester, New Hampshire on Tuesday. With a diverse setlist that featured plenty of greatest hits with a handful of new tunes and rarities, Van Halen delivered a rock solid show before a near-capacity crowd at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

The show began as drummer Alex Van Halen quietly made his way to the drum kit with guitarist Eddie Van Halen and Eddie’s son, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen in tow. Roth soon followed and the band casually launched into “Unchained”. After recalling summers spent at nearby Lake Sunapee, Roth led the crowd through another fan favorite in “Runnin’ With the Devil”.

Similar to their 2007 reunion tour, the band packed in a plethora of their Roth-era greatest hits to the setlist, including “Everybody Wants Some!!”, “Dance The Night Away” and their classic cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”. Noticeably absent, however, were “And The Cradle Will Rock…” and “Jamie’s Cryin'”.

Of course, the band is out to promote their first studio album in 14 years (and first with Roth since 1984), and subsequently a small batch of new songs made their debut early in the night. “She’s The Woman”, a quick rocker, came first and fit in well. “Tattoo”, the lead single off A Different Kind of Truth, was given a warm reception from the crowd and came across better in the live format. “China Town” was a shot of adrenaline, while “The Trouble with Never” fell flat.

For the diehards in attendance, Van Halen dig up a handful of rarities for the set. “Women In Love” off 1979’s Van Halen II, “The Full Bug” off 1982’s Diver Down and “Girl Gone Bad” of 1984’s 1984 were all surprise inclusions but it was “Hear About It Later” off 1981’s Fair Warning that fared the best amongst the set of old nuggets.

The band’s stage set-up was modest, aside from the giant video screen that served as it shiny backdrop and stretched the whole length of the stage. Instead, the band let the music do the talking. And boy, do these guys boast some sonic power. Of course, Eddie Van Halen remains the primary attraction for the band’s live show. His impeccable fretwork left the crowd in awe on numerous occasions and the countless sols seemed to raise the bar higher on each occasion. After a bought with cancer, the 55 year-old looks healthy and is clearly happy to be on stage. He boasted a beaming smile all night and played with a joy of a teenage rocker. Perhaps, its the opportunity to share the stage with his son, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen. Much was said when the then 16 year-old replaced ousted bassist Michael Anthony from the band’s lineup for its 2007 reunion tour. However, during that tour, he proved he had plenty of talent to hold down the position. In the years since, Wolfie’s talent has only blossomed further. His backing vocals, while still short of Anthony’s, have also improved. More so, as he turn’s 21 this week, he’s playing with plenty of confidence on stage. Drummer Alex Van Halen was a beast behind the kit, laying down the foundation throughout the night and taking the spotlight for a stellar solo midway through the set.

For his part, Roth was the master of ceremonies. Always a better showman than a singer, the story was the same on Tuesday. A little stiffer with age, Roth was still a ball of energy and worked the crowd with ease. Vocally, he was relatively sharp with the exception of some strain by the end of the night. It was also good to seem him withdraw from using a headset as he did earlier in the tour, and use a proper mic (this is a rock show, not Broadway).  And yes, there were plenty of flying kicks too. He also was conscious of a fight that broke out on the floor, ordering the band to cut off their rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman”. “Knock off the fucking fighting, Fuck you!” Roth screamed. “What do you think this is, a fucking mosh pit? You’ve got all the best-looking women on the fucking East Coast here and all you can fucking think of is fucking fighting?!”. The crowd roared with approval before Roth added, “Ladies, I’m on your side, yeah.” The band then started the song over from the top, sparking an even louder sing-along.

Roth took center stage to deliver the start of John Brim’s “Ice Cream Man” on acoustic guitar before the rest of the band joined midway through to deliver an extra spark. After a thrilling take on “Panama”, the stage officially belonged to Eddie. The guitar god delivered a riveting seven minute solo with seemingly effortless ease. Soaring with crescendos, he weaved through elements of his previous hit instrumentals including the thrilling tapping climax of “Eruption”.

The band returned for “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” and rather than exiting for a brief break, they remained on stage and rolled through the encore with show-closer “Jump”. The finale sent the crowd into a frenzy as Roth waved a giant checkered flag. For this race, which clocked in at just under 2 hours and served as the final stop on the U.S. leg of their world tour, Van Halen proved they still have plenty of gas left in the tank.

Early arrivals were treated to an opening set from Kool & The Gang. It may have seemed like an odd selection at first, but the classic R&B/funk band got the crowd moving with a hits-filled set that climaxed with the 1-2 punch of “Get Down On It” and “Celebration”.

Setlist

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 (Roy Orbison cover)
   Alex Van Halen Drum Solo
11. You Really Got Me (The Kinks cover)
12. The Trouble with Never
13. Dance The Night Away
14. I’ll Wait
15. Hot For Teacher
16. Women In Love
17. Girl Gone Bad
18. Beautiful Girls
19. Ice Cream Man (John Brim cover)
20. Panama
   Eddie Van Halen Guitar Solo
21. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
22. Jump

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