07/24/2004 @ 04:13 PM: The following is my fan review of Van Halen's Thursday night show at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. I've submitted it to the official Sammy Hagar website, but it has yet to be posted.
I was 20 years old the last time I saw Van Halen with Sammy Hagar; I'm 29 now.
It's about time.
Van Halen's July 22nd Show at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul was everything expected--almost exactly.
There they all were again: Sammy, picking up where he left off and even growing some hair back; Eddie, looking happy to be there and like he downed a couple bottles of wine on the plane; Alex, sporting no neck brace and plenty of percussive thunder; and Mike, looking happy he had a job and somewhere to play that new signature bass.
The group stormed through the exact set list that has been posted from previous shows. And we were treated to all of the documented surprises--Wolfgang making an appearance during Eddie's solo, Mike singing lead on "Somebody Get Me A Doctor," Eddie giving one of his new Charvel 'Art Series' guitars a road-test (a potential sign of his rumored split with Peavey), and so on. Though "Jump" was a fun and enthusiastic opening, the group was rough during the first half of the show. Sammy remarked at one point that they'd been off the day before and had gotten into town just one hour before showtime. Those were apparently two factors that didn't lend themselves to a quality performance. Still, in come-from-behind-win fashion, they picked the energy up and sounded better as the night progressed. Video shown during "Right Now" was mostly the original video for the song but contained some new footage, including a brief jab directed at President Bush's lack of foresight--something I personally appreciated--and a tribute to 9/11. (Some may recall that one of the producers of the "Right Now" video, Carolyn Beug, was on Flight 11 that crashed into the WTC.)
As far as individual performances went, Alex wins the Musicianship Award. He was solid and consistent the entire set. Sammy was... well, Sammy. His showmanship during recent solo tours differs somewhat from that of his role in VH. Perhaps it is because in VH there is a more overwhelming force present (Eddie). Either way, he kept his in-between rants to a minimum, and his voice sounded better than any of the old VH shows in the Twin Cities. Mike... uh, played the bass and sang background vocals. (If I'd been near the stage I would have spiked his water with some hot sauce.) Sammy once called Eddie an "alien" who is "not from this world." I'm beginning to believe him. Eddie was either really drunk or really missing his home planet. Excess is fun and rock n' roll when you're young; when you're 49 it's a problem. Eddie's relentless noodling and noise-making was very cool in a few places, but borderline annoying otherwise. He talked--inaudibly--entirely too often and missed most of his background vocal parts. Also disappointing was his tone--maybe just a problem with the house mix EQ and not his amp--but it was ear-piercing in the presence and highs and devoid of anything "brown."
I dropped $100 for my ticket. Was it worth it? Let me put it this way: In 1988 I paid $27.50 to see Van Halen and four other bands, and that was a lot for a concert at the time. If the VH boys end up making a record and going on tour again--and again charge $100 a head--I'll go, but I may insist that a sandwich and t-shirt be provided with the price of admission.