11/05/2004 @ 04:01 AM: Below is my fan review of the Van Halen show in Fargo, North Dakota, on October 31st. I have submitted it to the official Sammy Hagar website, and it will likely be posted soon, as was my review from the St. Paul show in July.
Van Halen - October 31, 2004
The Fargodome - Fargo, ND
My review of the Van Halen show in Fargo is going to be in significant contrast to my review of the St. Paul show. In that writing I was quite hard on Eddie in particular, and only after I was able to absorb the details of the show did I come to appreciate what had happened. I also marched into that concert with a predisposition for how it should go and sound; it irritates me when other people do that, and yet I was guilty of it myself.
When I saw that VH had added the show in Fargo to their fourth leg I jumped on getting tickets and ended up on the floor, dead center, and fairly close to the stage. I usually prefer to NOT venture much farther north than the Twin Cities (unless vacationing in northern Minnesota), but I recalled making the trek up to Fargo about ten years ago for a concert, and it's less than four hours--worth it for VH.
Again I foolishly walked in with a preconceived notion that a tour stop in podunk Fargo, coupled with a probably exhausted band, would equate to a reduced VH performance. (I totally called the election wrong too, if anyone was wondering.) VH was stellar! The energy was maybe double that of the St. Paul show, yet the crowd was about half the size. How they have been able to actually become more vibrant over the course of a long tour, with the exact same set list, is seriously impressive.
I recall Sammy once saying in an interview from the 80s that VH never rehearsed a show--just the music--and then they'd hit the stage. Indeed that did lend itself to spontaneity and some looser performances at the time. So why did they opt for a tight, rehearsed show this time around? My guess is to ensure quality for the fans who've waited and waited, and to make it worth the money. The individual solos, especially Sammy's and Eddie's, really seemed to be the time for each to break away and improvise a bit.
Solo Sammy is a guy I've really come to appreciate; his energetic performances and albums since the VH split never ceased. He actually got better in many ways, I thought. His lone guitar/voice rock-out of "I Can't Drive 55" following "Eagles Fly" is direct evidence: the Red Rocker delivers. I can only wish to have that much go-power at 57.
Eddie's solo was like nothing I've ever seen--and I mean from any guitarist ever. In St. Paul he was admittedly rusty. (At one point during that show's solo he stopped, looked down at his hands, and shook his head in frustration.) But something clicked in Fargo. He announced: "I'm just gonna fuck around for about ten minutes, so someone time me." I suspect that solo went on for more like twenty minutes, with a brief break in the middle where Eddie stopped to tie his shoe, but I would have stood there all night--absolutely amazing. Guitarists out there can probably relate to the experience of just sitting by yourself and making noise for extended periods of time. We've all done it, and it's completely stream-of-conscious. Eddie took that out with him on this tour; he gave us the chance to peer into his head as he spout out whatever happened to be going through it at the time. (And he did it on a green Wolfgang Special Flametop identical to one of my Wolfgangs--nice touch!) Only toward the end of the solo did the crowd start to offer the "Ed-die! Ed-die!" chant; it started slow during one of the solo's energetic peaks. In a truly connect-with-the-people moment, Eddie stopped playing, put his hands in his face, looked up, and mouthed, "Thank you!" Afterward Mike seemed to make a concerted effort to go say something to Ed. It's anybody's guess what Mike said, but his body language suggested he was complimenting Ed's performance (or so I'd like to believe). I will remember that solo for a long time.
The set list was the same as it's been. I hope the remaining VH shows are as energetic as this one so those fans can have the same experience. Here's to hoping there will be more VH with Sammy in the future!
Man, I've gotta get down to the Cabo Wabo sometime...