David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen in 2012.
Rex Features, Associated Press
With: Kool & the Gang.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sat. 5/19
Where: Xcel Energy Center, W. 7th St. & Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul.
Tickets: $49-$149. 800-745-3000 or ticketmaster.com.
The ups and downs of Van Halen
- Article by: CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER
- Star Tribune
- May 18, 2012 - 6:33 PM
Not only is it arguably the most famous guitar solo of all time, but Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" might also be the perfect musical embodiment of his namesake band. It starts off like a D-Day air attack, veers between low and high notes, turns ugly, comes to a grinding halt and then returns and sort of plateaus off into the sunset.
Against many odds, damaged livers and egos, Eddie and his drummer brother, Alex, return Saturday to Xcel Energy Center with Van Halen, rock's greatest sibling-led, libido-driven band not named AC/DC. Or at least it's almost Van Halen. The tour once again features original singer and circus showman David Lee Roth but not founding bassist Michael Anthony, whose shoes are being filled by Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie's 20-year-old son with actress Valerie Bertinelli. Hey, it beats mowing Dad's lawn.
This seemingly hopeless assemblage of family blood and bad blood has turned out to be surprisingly rock-solid. Van Halen's Target Center show in 2007 -- when Wolfie still had baby fat and homework to burn -- wound up being a powerful and convincing throwback to the band's grimy, sweaty early days. That musical aggression continued on the new record, "A Different Kind of Truth," issued in February to somewhat tepid sales and radio play but mostly positive reviews.
Behind the scenes, Eddie has battled worse things than Diamond Dave in recent years. He has repeatedly been treated for alcoholism and oral cancer, which required the removal of a third of his tongue and then recurred in 2011. Word is he's healthy again, and playing "Eruption" with gusto -- unlike the sloppy version at Xcel Center in 2004, when he appeared drunk and disoriented, maybe because tequila maker Sammy Hagar was fronting the band.
So can we call this current Van Halen era a comeback? That depends on how you rate other points in the band's nearly 35-year career.
Feb. 10, 1978: The debut
Van Halen burst out of the gate with its eponymous album, boasting such rock-radio staples as "Runnin' With the Devil," "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love" and "You Really Got Me," sending 14-year-olds everywhere to the guitar store.
1979-80: The follow-ups
"Van Halen II" began a string of yearly wham-bammed albums, producing more hits: "Dance the Night Away," "And the Cradle Will Rock" and an amped-up version of "(Oh) Pretty Woman."
1981-83: The grinding years
Pretty women, petty rock-star antics and pharmaceuticals abounded as they toured their way to mega-stardom. This is the decadent era of David Lee Roth's infamous backstage request for a bowl of M&Ms with the brown ones taken out. (He now says it was a test to see whether promoters read their contracts.)
1984: The blowup
Everything exploded with "1984," the album that turned VH into MTV stars with "Jump," "Panama" and maybe the most lovably sexist rock video of all time, "Hot for Teacher." Ten million U.S. copies were sold, giving Roth grander ideas than brown-free M&Ms.
1985: The blowout
Roth quit the band to star in his own babe-clad videos and become an author, failed movie star and eventually a Vegas lounge act. Eddie Van Halen tried to recruit Patty Smyth of Scandal to fill Dave's shoes, but she turned him down.
1986-87: The Sammy years, take 1
Sammy Hagar said yes. Fresh from his "I Can't Drive 55" success, the Red Rocker couldn't resist the green. He made plenty of it as VH's "5150" album soared and the Monsters of Rock Tour (with Scorpions and a young Metallica) packed stadiums (including the Metrodome).
1988-95: The Sammy years, take 2
Hagar's monstrous start turned mushy. Touchy/feely power ballads such as "When It's Love" and "Right Now" maintained the band's commercial success but turned off many longtime fans. Dopey rockers such as "1-900-SPANK" didn't balance things out, either.
Sept. 4, 1996: The return of Roth, take 1
Promoting a greatest-hits package, the band made its one and only appearance with Roth to hand Beck a trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards. Diamond Dave's ham meter was turned up to 11. "Have you noticed how things have changed?" he asked. Apparently they had not changed enough.
1996-99: The What's-His-Name years
Enter singer No. 3: former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, whom Eddie repeatedly praised for not having an ego. As if Van Halen fans mind egos. The "Van Halen III" album and subsequent tour received a resounding thumbs-down.
2004: The Sammy years, take 3
After a few quiet years licking their wounds, the group went back on the road with Hagar. In his autobiography, he says Eddie was inebriated and lost in "Eddieland" throughout the tour, and the band members stopped speaking.
March 8, 2007: The hall of shame
Only Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony -- soon to become ex-members -- showed up for the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The real tragedy that night, however, was Velvet Revolver's performance of "Ain't Talking 'Bout Love."
Fall 2007: The return of Roth, take 2
Out of rehab, Eddie returned healthy and seemingly happy to be back on tour with Roth, especially since son Wolfgang Van Halen, then 17, was the new bassist. The shows were old-school and well received.
2012: The hair and now
Never mind the hair weave, Diamond Dave is back. He and the band convincingly harked back to their early heyday on the album "A Different Kind of Truth," and concert reviews have again been favorable. No knock on Wolfie, but the only way up from here is to bring back Anthony, too.
Follow Riemenschneider on Twitter: @ChrisRstrib
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