Van Halen + Kool & The Gang: Concert Review

So here's my first blog ever. I'm aiming to update this at least once or twice a month. We'll see how things go :-)

I don't know about you, but finding gifts for parents is difficult. My dad's birthday was at the beginning of Feburary and I wanted to do something special rather than the standard birthday card + gift card. I got wind that Van Halen was coming to the Verizon Center in DC and thought it would make a good gift. I don't recall my dad liking much popular music in general after Van Halen's "1984" album was released but I knew he had that album in his collection and was at least a moderate fan of the David Lee Roth era. So I took the day off from work on 3/28, drove in to DC to meet my dad at his office, grabbed some food with him and then headed to the show when the doors opened.

The opening act was Kool & The Gang and they were great. An 11-piece funk band which was every bit as entertaining and dynamic as you'd expect them to be live. Some people might think they were a strange opening act for Van Halen, but Kool & the Gang succeeded in getting the crowd warmed up. It was surprising to see how many rock fans were digging the funk, R&B and soul that Kool & The Gang are known for. They played a lot of their hits: "Jungle Boogie", "Hollywood Swinging", "Ladies' Night", "Too Hot", "Celebration", "Steppin' Out", "Get Down On It", "Fresh", "Cherish" and didn't dive into too many obscure songs. It was about crowd-pleasing. Their set was about 45 minutes long and when they started, the arena was less than 1/3 filled. But by the end of their set, the whole place was energized and ready for VH.

So leading up to this concert, I purchased VH's new album with Roth called "A Different Kind of Truth" and was very impressed at how good it sounded. I think this album, though heavier than their other stuff with Roth, would fit in perfectly with the rest of the albums of that era. You could drop "A Different Kind of Truth" into a playlist with only VH's DLR songs, shuffle them up and things would blend pretty well together as one cohesive unit of rock songs. Yeah. The album is THAT good. After Kool & The Gang finished up, we saw the roadies for VH putting down 8 large squares of what looked like hardwood floor. They made sure it was taped/secured to the stage and then spent about 15 minutes sweeping the panels. I put two and two together and realized that Dave was going to do some fancy footwork as seen in the trailer videos on the VH website which promoted the album and tour. Sure enough, the house lights abruptly go out, the riff to "Unchained" starts and DLR comes out in white socks (possibly slippers) and does his thing: slipping around, spinning and sliding on the hardwood floor. He spins the mic stand around like he's handling a bo in a martial arts movie but his sequin pants (and later, sequin jacket) make him much less threatening and far more ridiculous (in a good way). Alex, Wolfgang and Eddie were all on point for the entire concert. There were no mistakes on their part and everything sounded perfect. DLR forgot the words to "I'll Wait" and after pausing for a moment said, "I forgot the f*cking words! I'll meet you back in the chorus, c'mon!" Apparently, DLR forgetting the words to songs is a common complaint among VH fans but it didn't bother me. It's one of those moments when you just shake your head and say, "Oh that Dave..."

The band ended the show with "Jump" which featured two confetti cannons blasting red, white and blue confetti into the air high enough to hit the lighting rig. It was awesome. While the confetti was raining down, DLR grabs a gigantic, black and white checkered flag and starts waving it onstage. This was the finale but I was a little surprised there was no encore afterwards. The band lined up at the front of the stage, hand-in-hand, bowed, turned around and walked off stage. Then the house lights came up and it was over. It was 90 minutes of solid rock.

A great show all around by both bands.

I like all of Van Halen's music and have all their studio albums (except for VH3 with Gary Cherone...) so I have nothing against Hagar, but even with Dave's mistakes, I'll still take VH with DLR off his game over VH with Hagar at his best. That's just me. As corny, goofy and fallible as DLR is, he still embodies the spirit and attitude that made Van Halen famous. Part of what makes this reunion so special is that it's more than just great music and great musicians. This is stuff that ties directly back into my childhood and influenced me before I even thought about picking up a bass. It helped shape my approch to music as well as my love for it. So yeah, DLR might be the real life Dr. Rockso (a.k.a. "The Rock and Roll Clown" from Metalocalypse) but his part in VH will always be special to me and to the tens of thousands of people that are going to see them on tour this year.

- Mills

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