Van Halen: The folks are overjoyed
Where has Van Halen been all my adult life? Growing up in Florida, I don't remember the original lineup coming through Tampa Bay in the early 80s. They've always been on my "must-see" list -- but obviously the boys are playing hard-to-get.
So like the other 16,000-plus fanatics at the St. Pete Times Forum last night, it was time to finally put an end to a long drought. Read Times pop music critic Sean Daly's full review here.
Here's what I took away from the experience.
THE THREADS: Eddie Van Halen started the show shirtless ... launching an abbreviated guitar solo before the band joined him with "You Really Got Me." David Lee Roth alternated between ringleader jackets, and Wolfgang Van Halen chose to layer himself grunge-style. Drummer Alex might have been wearing a dress for all I could tell.
THE TUNES: The band followed the same set list that we published yesterday -- the same lineup for the whole tour. Whatever works, guys.
THE SMELLS: First whiff of that familiar "concert smoke" ... 8:33 p.m. -- two verses into VH's opening song. This was a crowd that clearly wasn't adhering to the Florida Indoor Clean Air Act -- or any other similar statute.
HERE'S JUNIOR'S GRADE: Wolfie can play bass on this level - no question about it. The stage presence will come with time. It's almost like he's "That Fan" -- the one who suddenly finds himself invited on stage. You want to cheer for him. And why not? (Weird thing -- if you stare at him long enough and squint your eyes, you can see Valerie Bertinelli.)
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: "Unchained" seemed a little sloppy. It didn't have that gut-wrenching grinding guitar opening. And Dave fell behind a couple times. "Hot for the Teacher" seemed a little rushed and loose. It's just not the same without the sexy video.
BIGGEST SURPRISE: "Everybody Wants Some" re-energized the band at the set's halfway mark. And "I'll Wait" -- a tune that never really that stood out for me before -- took on an anthem-like quality. I half-expected Bono to walk out, waving a white flag.
A DRUM SOLO ... REALLY?: Does any band born after 1979 still do a drum show during a concert? Still, it gave Dave time to find a new jacket ... and to rub some Ben-Gay on those achy groin muscles.
GETTING PHYSICAL: There probably aren't two better-sculpted 50-something rockers than Diamond Dave and Eddie VH. They look as good today as I looked ... well forget that. I'd sell what's left of my liver to get the phone number of their personal trainer.
MOMENTUM KILLER: An hour and 40 minutes into the show, Dave suddenly picks up an acoustic guitar, strums lightly and proceeds to tell the longest, rambling story in the history of modern rock and roll. Presumably, the other three band members needed a nap. Eventually, it evolved into "Ice Cream Man" -- so everyone was forgiven.
ONE LAST SONG: I never thought of "Jump" as a good song to end a show with. I'm so wrong. It remains an enduring symbol of the 80s, a tune that wraps up everything into one tight, unforgettable memory. You want to high-five strangers, dump what's left of your beer on your head, fall to your knees and then run out and buy three more concert shirts. How many songs have that kind of power?
FINAL GRADE: Let's face it. If you were here Monday night, it's because you love Van Halen and didn't want to miss out on what could be a one-time-only reunion. They could have come out wearing diapers, playing plastic flutes and we'd have gone bonkers anyhow. It was exactly the concert we all willed it to be.
[AP file photo]