Of all the reasons to attend a Van Halen concert the top two have to be to rock out and to be entertained. This certainly was the case Sunday night at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Saint Louis as the group held up their end of the bargain on both fronts.
The band (guitarist Eddie Van Halen, Drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen and lead singer David Lee Roth) recently kicked off their summer/fall tour and by the looks and sound of how the show went Sunday predictions of their demise have proven untrue, so far. If you are reading this then you are aware of the band’s personnel history and to peruse that just to talk about it is a waste of time, so I won’t.
Sure Roth and the rest of the band entered and exited from different sides of the stage but onstage they appeared professional in every other sense. Roth did his job acting as emcee for the show and keeping the crowd engaged and entertained.
Roth’s voice sounded better than it had the last time they were in town at Scottrade Center in 2012. Not saying it was perfect, but that is not to be expected with him. If you are expecting vocal perfection you probably should just pop in that CD and be content. However, if you just want to be entertained then this is the show for you.
It’s true Roth’s vocals have wavered over the years (face it, he’s no spring chicken) but they were never technically perfect live anyway. His vocals are geared more for the raw sound and interaction like “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Drop Dead Legs” than on the polished studio sounds of “I’ll Wait” and “Jump”, the latter of which he had to make up for his shortcomings with his ever-effective showmanship.
Eddie proved again why he is considered one of the most influential guitarists on Earth (and still relevant, just check out the new “Minions” movie and you will see why). With an 8 minute solo that split up his trademark “Eruption” among various solo freestyling he has shown that even in his 60’s he can still shred better than most.
Alex also delivered a stunning 5 minute solo that was infused with a salsa kick that kept the party rolling in fine fashion.
During his emcee performance Roth talked (sometimes during the songs themselves) about various events in his past; from early Van Halen gigs at weddings and Spanish influences to driving around his 1951 Mercury to get groceries, in pure anti rock fashion.
Ever the showman, Roth has seemed to accept his place as emcee and not the star attraction by quipping “Eddie Got you into the building, here’s where I sell you the Bibles.”
With deep album cuts throughout the evening the setlist was better suited for Roth’s vocal ability as they hit tracks from each of the albums Roth was the lead vocalist on. And at 24 songs (not counting Alex’s drum solo) the party was near continuous for over 2 full hours.
The show only slowed down when Roth took a seat at center stage with an acoustic guitar and a bottle of whisky. Dolling out even more stories the crowd got a bit anxious when it seemed he was taking too long to break into Ice Cream Man, which he started off by himself playing some bluesy riffs with a harmonica in tow.
Near the end of “Ice Cream Man” Roth could be heard asking to someone to his left “What’s up with the heat?” Welcome to Saint Louis in mid-summer, Dave. Roth fought off the heat with several wardrobe changes, while the rest of the band suffered the sweaty Missouri heat without doing so.
Musically Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang sounded great and were tight all night.
At the end of Panama Roth started to say the customary thank you before retiring to the back before the encore, but changed his mind and blurted out “It’s too hot to move to walk off-stage and pretend. Do you want an encore?” To the crowd’s approval they stayed and performed their staple “Jump”.
Guitar virtuoso Kenny Wayne Shepherd opened and seemed a perfect fit for the slot. Hitting songs like “Deja VooDoo” and “Blue on Black” Shepherd looked as if he was in pain as he poured his heart out into his axe. With heavy bluesy riffs and a southern rock style he performed and dedicated 2 BB King songs “Woke Up This Morning (My Baby’s Gone)” and “You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now” with such reverence and feeling that one could imagine BB King would be proud.
Shepherd has been starting his set about 10 minutes early, to play longer, so don’t straggle in at the last minute or you will regret missing some of his set.
Van Halen Setlist:
Light Up the Sky
Runnin’ With the Devil
Everybody Wants Some!!
Drop Dead Legs
Feel Your Love Tonight
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
She’s the Woman
Dance the Night Away
Women in Love
Hot For Teacher
In A Simple Rhyme
Ice Cream Man (John Brim cover)
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
You Really Got Me (The Kinks cover)
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Setlist:
Never Lookin’ Back
Heat of the Sun
Woke Up This Morning (My Baby’s Gone) (BB King cover)
You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now (BB King cover)
Blue on Black
I’m a King Bee (Slim Harpo cover)
Voodoo Child (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)