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Review: Nostalgia Rock With Van Halen

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As the Tacoma Street Car made its way towards the Tacoma Dome Saturday night it became more and more packed with happy Van Halen fans. Most of them were loud, excited, and probably two or three Four Loco’s into their evening. They were on their way to see the veteran party rockers and their somewhat reunited original lineup.

It is unclear how they felt after what Van Halen threw out on stage. The draw to Van Halen 2012 is that original singer David Lee Roth is back in the fold. To try and prove that they were more than just a nostalgia act they actually recorded a new album, A Different Kind of Truth, and worked three or four of those songs into their set of classic hits Saturday night. 

You could not help but feel that this show would consist of little more than Van Halen dragging the poor, but respected, corpse of their former relevance on stage only to flog it to see how much gold it produced. This show certainly had its fair share of that. Backed by a giant video screen the band managed to slip an ad for Best Buy into their act as the screen let the crowd know that their new album could be purchased there.

Then there was Diamond Dave. Dressed in tight, bedazzled pants, that nobody over 50 should be wearing, he spun and kicked his way, stiffly, through the set. His vocals were hit and miss, often muddied and undecipherable. At certain points he tried to rekindle the sexual innuendo from Van Halen’s past, only to have it feel as though you were watching your inappropriate creepy uncle leer awkwardly at young girls. Someone needs to remind Diamond Dave that it is ok to act age appropriate and still have a good time.

At one interlude he appeared on stage by himself with an acoustic guitar. As he played soft arpeggios, videos of his dogs appeared on the screen behind him. This then led to a strange and out of place rambling story about how much he loves his sheep dogs. Everyone in the crowd looked around confused, wondering what happened to the rock and roll.

It’s unfortunate that Lee Roth was such a downer as the band behind him sounded as tight as ever. Eddie was smiling the whole night and delighted the crowd with the dive bombs, pinched harmonics and signature finger tapping guitar wailing that you would expect. He played a flawless show and reminded everyone that his guitar spawned a million 15 year old guitar heroes in the ‘80s.

The band’s best moments Saturday night was when they jumped into some of their classic hits. ‘Hot for teacher’ and ‘Panama’ were just as fun as they were 30 years ago and the crowd ate it up. Alex Van Halen and Wolfgang (Eddie’s son) were tight and provided a perfect canvas for Eddie to paint upon with his shredding.

In the future Van Halen should accept the fact that they are now a nostalgia act. The new songs they played were somewhat of an unlistenable mess that slowed down any momentum they were able to create with their classic songs. The songs had elements of the Van Halen from the past but came up short as cheap parodies.

They have a whole generation of fans who grew up on their music and despite the flaws on Saturday night loved hearing songs like ‘Unchained’ and ‘Beautiful Girls’ played in a big arena again. Those are the people they should be playing for instead of trying to plough new ground that isn’t going to bear any golden nuggets.