Last Night: Van Halen at the BankAtlantic Center

Categories: Concert Review

Van Halen with Ky-Mani Marley
Bank Atlantic Center, Ft. Lauderdale
Feb. 12, 2008

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 24 years since I last saw Van Halen featuring “Diamond” David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen together on the same stage. Yes, it was back in 1984 at Madison Square Garden that I was fortunate enough to have my head blown off at the most exciting rock and roll event of that year. For a 15-year-old in high school, nothing could come close.

In 2008, the “Diamond” seems to have lost its luster, and the “Big Rock” show doesn’t seem quite that big anymore. It’s hard to watch rock legends age ungracefully, particularly in the case of Roth. Still, even though the band’s remaining three original members are all in their fifties, Eddie Van Halen and the band can still incite a high-octane reaction from an arena full of fans. A sold-out arena, I might add.

But first came opening act Ky-Mani Marley, son of the late, great Bob. It seemed a strange combination for the bill, two completely different styles of music. The numbers he performed comprised a mix of his own and his father’s (“No Woman No Cry” and “I Shot the Sheriff”). It was apparent that he was very grateful for the opportunity to tour with Van Halen, thanking them several times. I would’ve liked to seen him separately in his own setting.

By the time he finished, the arena was filled to capacity, and the anticipation and excitement was thick enough to cut with a knife. When at last the lights went down, the crowd erupted, and the band kicked off their set with their remake of the classic Kinks song “You Really Got Me.” Yes, it rocked! They then quickly dove into their early catalog with songs like “I’m the One,” “Running with the Devil,” and “Romeo Delight” (which featured a brief section into which Roth incorporated The Who’s “Magic Bus”). On “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” Eddie incorporated a bluesy guitar section and went into Humble Pie’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” and Cream’s remake of the blues classic “Spoonful” as a tribute to acts that influenced the young Van Halen.

Van Halen was always a band known for their “big rock” presentation, both in music and in attitude and swagger. It was a magical combination of Eddie’s sweltering guitar licks and leads, Dave’s hypersexual alpha-male showmanship, Michael Anthony’s chunky bass rhythms and impeccable vocal harmonies, and Alex’s incredible, over-the-top, on-point drumming which stood in contrast to his quiet nature.

The unfortunate reality of Van Halen, 2008 is that Dave seems to have become a parody of himself. The pompous sexual mojo he tries to force down the audience’s throat just seems comical. And the replacement of bassist Michael Anthony with Eddie’s 17-year-old son Wolfgang is out of place. Although his playing impressed for a teenager, his lackluster energy and high school acne just didn’t do it for an original Van Halen fan.

The band later ran though a set of Roth-era titles like “Beautiful Girls,” “Dance the Night Away,.” “I’ll Wait,” “Hot for Teacher,” and so many more … 24 songs in all, plus solos. Hats off to that! All in all, the best part of the show had to be the solos delivered by the Van Halen brothers. Alex gave a tight and clean (not long and tedious) drum solo and got to show off his awesome percussion skills. The combination of video work and added keyboard and horn section lent to a great performance. As far as guitar solos go, Eddie Van Halen leads the pack. His performance was sheer wizardry during one12-minute stretch. He began with soft flamenco/classical style picking, building into a distorted Hendrix-like section before going into the soothing, pipe-organ-like sounds of his “Cathedral” solo from the Diver Down album. He rose to the plateau of the solo with his seminal double handed tapping “Eruption,” which whipped the crowd into
frenzy. Incredible.

There was no doubt that Van Halen could still deliver the goods. By the audience reaction and embrace, I have to be unbiased and give credit where credit is due. But personally, I still remain on the fence. Nevertheless, it was damn cool to see that after all this time, Dave and Eddie were able to put their differences aside and give us all a chance to rock with the Van Halen Express. -- Carmel Ophir

Set List:

You Really Got Me
On Fire
I’m the One
Running with the Devil
Romeo Delight
Somebody get me a Doctor
Beautiful Girls
Dance the Night Away
Atomic Punk
Everybody Wants Some
So This is Love
Mean Streets
Pretty Woman
(Drum Solo)
Unchained
I’ll Wait
And the Cradle Will Rock
Hot For Teacher
Little Dreamer
Jamie’s Crying
Ice Cream Man
Panama
(Guitar Solo)
Ain't Talkin’ Bout Love
Encore:
1984
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