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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Van Halen Tattoo Concert Review

This post is dedicated to my friend Keith who has, on occasion, accused me of not keeping things "real" here on The Flirty Blog because I'm almost never negative. The simple truth is that I focus on the positive. If I have a bad experience I don't lie about it, I simply choose not to write about it at all.

When I heard Van Halen had canceled shows from their ongoing Tatoo tour I was relieved San Jose wasn't one of them. But a week and a half ago I attended a concert that was such an unmitigated disaster I feel it's my responsibility to let you know what went down because concert tickets aren't cheap and I'm guessing you work hard for your money and quite frankly, the show was wasted money. It pains me to say that because I've been a Van Halen fan since the early 80's and had always hoped to see them in concert someday.

We arrived at the HP Pavilion at 6:30 PM and found 1/2 price parking several blocks away.

Once inside I purchased an overpriced popcorn that felt like a deal at $4.25 (since a single soft pretzel was $4.00) and at $4.50 I got the most expensive lemonade I've ever ordered.

Positives were the show started on time at 7:30 PM and the opening act was Kool and the Gang.

They were awesome! They sounded and looked great. They played many of their biggest hits including Too Hot and Celebration. They looked like they were having a fun party onstage. It was contagious. They definitely brought up the energy level which is all any headliner can ask of their opening act right?

The night was off to a great start. Had I known then that their performance would be the best music we would hear all night I would have clapped louder and longer and taken more pictures with my iPhone.

Mummy finger was just glad to be out of the house. 

At 9:00 PM Van Halen hit the stage. The excitement was palpable. You know that surge of energy that builds when the lights go down and then erupts when they come back up again and the band strikes those first chords? Yeah. It was like that. The opening number Unchained was recognizable but not a big enough hit to take the energy of the crowd up another level over our initial excitement.

After the opening number things slowly and steadily went downhill.

For starters the sound technicians were out to lunch. The sound quality was truly a-w-f-u-l. The instruments were too loud drowning out David Lee Roth's voice. OK, you may be thinking, but if I was listening to Eddie Van Halen play guitar what the heck am I complaining about? The problem was the garbled sound (aka music) coming out of the speakers took the edge off of the band's performances dropping the quality of the show down to a marginal level. They seriously should hire the Kool and the Gang sound team to run the sound for Van Halen too. Their sound was spot on by comparison.

After playing some new material almost everyone in our section sat down except for one guy who blocked my view of Eddie Van Halen who at that point was the best thing going on stage. In our section they never recovered. The energy was gone.

Roth was very animated. He's definitely in better physical shape than I am. He did his trademark high kicks with his foot easily extending up over his head. Several times. I was impressed. Eddie looked healthy, happy, and like he was having fun. Alex was hidden behind his drums most of the night and Wolfgang, Eddie's son, was solid on the bass. The musicians put out a great performance.

Alex Van Halen's Drum Solo

After the drum solo David Lee Roth pretty much went off the rails. His vocals became non-existent. When three of my all time favorite Van Halen songs were played back to back (Dance the Night Away, I'll Wait and The Cradle Will Rock) you'd think I would have been on Cloud 9, right?

Instead Roth sang syllables instead of words and left out entire sentences, most notably the opening lines of most of the songs. At other times he mumbled a sing-song style what sounded more like a harmony than lead vocals totally changing the way parts of hit songs sounded. It was just bizarre.

On Dance the Night Away (Click Here to see and hear a video a fan shot that night) the backing vocals by Eddie and his son Wolfgang were good but they weren't enough to save the song. Roth skipped the opening line, sounded as if he was hiccuping the lyrics and skipped many other parts of the song.

A tweet on Twitter speculated that Roth ingested something during the drum solo that diminished his ability to sing.

In fairness I don't know if she was right or if his vocal cords were so shot and/or damaged that he simply couldn't sing. Either way at that point between the poor sound quality and Roth's declining vocal abilities the whole thing seriously turned into a hot mess. At certain points Roth seemed to stop even trying to sing. I never thought I'd say this but this was one instance where I wish they had used a vocal track that Roth could have lip synced to. While not desirable it would have improved the show immensely.

The audience kept applauding I think either because they were such diehard Van Halen fans any Van Halen is better than no Van Halen, or, like me, they were applauding for Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang. It was kind of like the Emporer's New Clothes. You got the sense the band was as much a hapless victim as the audience was and we were all part of a DLR train wreck pulling into frustration station.

My biggest disappointment is that this is a legendary band so my expectations were high. It does them no justice and shows a complete disrespect to their fans to put a front man on stage who can't sing. In this day and age of phone video cameras and Youtube you'd think they would do the right thing if not for the sake of their fans, for their own reputations. I was so over it I stopped taking pictures even though the finale had confetti canons.

On the upside the onstage video screen was put to good use. It was rather brilliant the way they used the screen to give everyone in the pavilion a front row seat showing the band in real time, using some playbacks of Roth's high kicks, in black and white, and sometimes with a three layered effect. At certain points the screen went to color but for the most part I love, love, loved the way the black and white looked.

The show was memorable but not in the way I thought it would be. If they come to your city I hate to say this but my advice would be to save your money and skip this tour. I've loved them since the 70's and 80's but this is simply not their year.

I hope whatever the issue is with DLR's voice he is able to rest up, recover and hit the road as the legendary front man he  once was.

#KeepingItReal #Fail #SoDisappointed #ShouldHaveGoneInThe80's

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