Review: Van Halen Improvises Way Through Set

Today’s Van Halen seems more like a cast of characters promptly thrown on stage to see if they can make music together. They certainly look the part and musically it often seemed that way on Saturday night’s performance at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington.

The two-hour, 24 song set, which included a guitar and drum solo, was at times the ultimate in hard rock but it often dragged. The band blazed through the first five songs featuring two of their latest “She’s the Woman” and the single “Tattoo” from the album A Different Kind of Truth, released in February, but after that it felt more like watching the band rehearse through songs in preparation for a concert.

Van Halen is on its second go-around with original and iconic singer David Lee Roth who departed the band way back in the 80s. This is also the second time out with Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang who is the ripe old age of 21. Long gone are the hair days of 30 years ago, now gracing the stage for Van Halen is a kid on bass (who was 16 on the last tour), his dad on guitar, his uncle Alex behind drums, and a lead singer who looks more like Liberace.

When Van Halen played in sync they sounded solid and Eddie’s guitar was monstrous. All too often though the band interrupted the flow of music to do what seemed to be an improvised guitar solo for Eddie or Roth simply wanting to slow down the pace and banter with his band mates or the fans. He didn’t pay too much attention to the younger Van Halen nor did the cameras that beamed the stage antics to the crowd on the super-sized viewing screen.

Van Halen started things off with their classic “Unchained” followed by “Runnin’ With the Devil.” Four tracks from Truth made the set list but clearly the majority of the fans were not only there to hear the old stuff but hadn’t even picked up the album.  This truth was evident by the decline in audience participation when the new songs were played and the shameless super-sized advertisement that popped up declaring the album was available at Best Buy.

The show started to unravel with “Everybody Wants Some” as the only lyrics I remember being sung were “Everybody wants some” over and over and over with Eddie seemingly practicing new chords and riffs. Roth forgot his lyrics at one point during the show and let everyone know he had but for the most part he danced the night away.

Alex Van Halen showed his mad skills behind the drums half way through the show with a drum solo that wasn’t overly technical but clearly showed he’s a master of his craft. Eddie launched into his guitar solo arranged around “Eruption” near the end of the evening and even he seemed impressed by his finger-tapping, at one point mouthing “WOW” several times.

Van Halen closed the night with audience favorite “Jump” and, perhaps I’m just a purist, but the keyboards were piped in just like the last tour and that comes across as artificial. Is there no one in the band who can play keyboards? The rhythm is not that hard but, truth be told, except for the big screen and some lighting effects, the band plays with minimal props and little accessories.

Van Halen Tacoma Setlist:

Unchained
Runnin’ With the Devil
She’s the Woman
The Full Bug
Tattoo
Everybody Wants Some
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
China Town
Hear About it Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
Drum Solo
You Really Got Me
The Trouble With Never
Dance the Night Away
I’ll Wait
Hot for Teacher
Women in Love
Outta Love Again
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Panama
Guitar Solo
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Jump

Written By: AndrewT

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