I have been waiting for 20 years to attend the Van Halen reunion concert. I got my hopes up every time the rumors started and had the rug pulled out from underneath me time and time again. Back in the 70's and early 80's I LOVED Van Halen. I saw them every time they performed in so. Cal and since they live here they were here a lot.I loved everything about them. The glitz and the glam and the swagger of David Lee Roth and the strength of his voice….the truly amazing guitar playing and boyish adorable-ness of Eddie Van Halen, the strong and exciting drumming of Alex Van Halen, and the “everyman” persona of Michael Anthony… You put all of that together and they made magic happen. They were loud and they were funny. They were sexy. Yikes, were they sexy.
I was lucky enough to literally run in to David Lee Roth at a 7-11 on Sunset Blvd early one Saturday morning. I was certain that he had not yet been to bed from the previous Friday night. I was so awestruck that I just watched him from afar. I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak to him without embarrassing myself so I went to the car and begged my boyfriend to try to get David’s autograph. Boyfriend got out of the car and walked right up to him and was promptly turned down. OMG! Self important much?
Even after being slighted by David Lee Roth when the band broke up I was very disappointed. I had never heard of any band that had any real success after a break up other than the Beatles. I figured they’d flounder and then disappear. They did flounder for a while and they made the huge mistake of bringing in Gary Cerone as their new lead singer. Gary was the former lead singer of the band “Extreme”. They were one hit wonders in the mid 80’s with the song, “More Than Words”. Now why would a band that rocks as hard as Van Halen hire a lead singer who’s one and only hit song was sung in a falsetto whisper? Who got paid for making that decision?
I got to meet Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony one Sunday morning when he came to pick up his daughter from a slumber party. I had no idea that one of the little girls running around my friend’s house was the child of a member of Van Halen so when I answered the door and saw him standing there I just about had a heart attack. I went and got his little girl and while we were putting her shoes on and gathering up her lovely parting gifts I asked him what the band was doing and he told me about their new lead singer. He told me that he thought that it was going to be a good change and that he was really happy having Gary in the band.
David went on to a semi successful solo career. With his long blond hair and his amazing gymnastic leaps on stage David was the consummate entertainer. In the mean time Van Halen realized that they had made a mistake in hiring Gary Cerone and they let him go and he was replaced by Sammy Hagar. I had seen Sammy Hagar way back in the 70’s when he was the lead singer of a band called “Montrose”. And while I enjoyed his singing I didn’t want to admit that there was anyone who could take David’s place.
David Lee Roth wrote his autobiography and I couldn’t wait to read it. It was titled, “Crazy From The Heat”, and in my opinion it should have been named “I Am Crazy In Love With Myself”. David Lee Roth is fascinated with David Lee Roth. From that point on I saw this guy in a different light. I was no longer enamored with him or his antics. I was embarrassed for him. The next few years were pretty lean for David. His career dipped to such a low that he actually became a paramedic in the state of New York.
So while David was busy “saving lives”, Sammy and the rest of the gang racked up hit after hit after hit. Van Halen was bigger than ever. Considering myself a “purist” I didn’t want to like the new version of Van Halen and thus I wouldn’t go see them perform and I didn’t buy any of their records. (For you young ‘uns out there…music used to be recorded on these big black circles made up of plastic. There were usually 6 songs on each side once you listened to the 6 songs you had to turn the plastic circle over and start all over again. These black pieces of plastic were called ‘records’.)
After so many years of not really paying attention to Van Halen they came back around to southern California and I relented and bought tickets and went to the concert. I had terrific seats on the floor and the show blew me away. I couldn’t believe that I had been so stupid as to discount this wonderful band because I didn’t think I liked the idea of Sammy replacing David. Oh waaa taa goo siam!
I have seen 100’s of concerts and I have never seen a performer who appeared to have more fun or who loved his audience more than Sammy Hagar. Nor do I think I’ve ever seen a man, especially of his age, with more energy. Sammy was running all over the place, signing autographs, taking pictures, wearing hats and banners that had been thrown on stage from the audience and singing the entire time. He. Was. Adorable.
Of course immediately as I fell back in love with the band….they broke up. Sammy not only left the band…he took Michael Anthony, the bass player, with him.
Sammy had left the band before and cut a couple of solo records but he came back to Van Halen. When it was announced that David Lee Roth had come back as lead singer I was very sad that Sammy was really gone but I thought that it was the answer to all of my Van Halen prayers.
I wanted to see this Van Halen reunion concert and I was not going to settle for a bad seat. I went to the Ticketmaster website and saw that the shows had all sold out immediately. Rats! I was going to have to go through Ebay. When I got to Ebay and saw the prices being asked for tickets I decided that maybe if Van Halen were going to play in my living room and I was going to get to sit on Eddie’s lap then I would possibly pay over $1,000.00 for a ticket. My plan changed and I decided that I would just go to the venue the night of the show and buy a ticket from a scalper. I’ve done this several times with great success so I figured I couldn’t lose.
The night of the show I was pretty much the first person there. I work right down the street from the Anaheim Pond, uh, the Honda Center, so I got there before 6:00 pm. There were no scalpers to be seen. The only people, who were there, other than me, were allowed to go inside. It was freezing cold and drizzling. Not exactly weather conducive to standing around outside trying to look nonchalant. (I don’t know if it’s illegal to purchase something from a scalper but I do know that it illegal to be a scalper so I didn’t want to do anything to bring attention to myself….like stand around all by myself in the rain outside of a concert venue.) So I went to the ticket booth and can you believe it??? They had just released floor tickets that hadn’t been claimed by industry people. I was able to purchase a floor ticket at face value the very same night as the concert!! YAY!
By the time I bought my ticket I was still the only one there so I went back and sat in my car for about an hour. Once I saw people start showing up I got out of the car walked over to the front of the building. I could hear the band rehearsing and stood in line with about 8 other people who were foolish enough to stand outside in the freezing cold. I don’t know how this always happens but I was standing in line behind a derelict. And there is nothing better than standing in line with a derelict unless it is standing in line behind a derelict who likes to talk. But just to make it extra special this guy was a derelict who liked to talk and he was a know it all. I generally don’t talk to strangers when I’m in crowds but hey, they were talking about rock and roll music. We, (people other than the derelict), all exchanged concert stories and had a few laughs then someone wondered out loud why they wouldn’t let us inside the venue. The derelict spoke up and said, “Hell, the bands not even here…so why would they let us in?” I told him that the band was here because not 30 minutes ago I had heard them rehearsing “And The Cradle Will Rock”. They kept playing the screeching guitar solo that happens just before David says, “Have you seen Juniors grades?”…… And with that the derelict says to everyone, in a tone that indicated that he couldn’t believe just how stupid I was, “That’s not “Cradle Will Rock”…that’s “Hot For Teacher”. I told him that I was certain that that line and guitar riff was from “And The Cradle Will Rock” and I thought about singing it for him but then I realized that I was conducting an argument with a man who was obviously not in the greatest of mental health so I decided to let him think he won the lyric debate. I might also add that of the 7 or so other people around me…no one chimed in to back up either one of us. (I HATE when I’m in a rumble and no one has my back.) I think everyone was afraid to say anything to this man lest he get upset over the fact that he was wrong and have an episode or something.
Just in the nick of time the people from the JACK FM radio station came along and gave all of us “HO HO HO” shirts. That distracted everyone from the rumble and we were all happy to get a free shirt. I was so cold that I wound my shirt up and wore it around my neck like a muffler. I’m certain that I looked just like Jackie O and I’m sorry you missed it. (I hear next season Stella Mc Cartney will have tee shirts that double as mufflers in her next winter collection.)
They finally opened the doors and let us freezing Van Halen fans inside. But not too far inside. They wouldn’t let us go inside the seating arena. Why? Beats me. That gave me time to buy a pretzel and eat it. And go to the restroom. And look at the souvenirs. And just stand around with my tee shirt wrapped around my neck. I was so cozy warm at this point that I had forgotten it was there. The time came when they finally let us in and I was so excited to get to walk all the way down the stairs to the seats on the floor. Down, down, down I walked. I. Am. So. Cool. I have floor seats. Jubilation, jubilation, jubilation.
Screeeeeeech. Stop the presses. Please refer to the venue seating chart to see where my seat was.
Ok, sections 101-106 are the floor seats. See at the very back of section 104 where there is a little notch that abuts section 225? Yeah. That was my stellar floor seat. Floor seats are usually the best seats in the house unless you have approximately 1,000 people standing in front of you. Urgh!
I was so disappointed. And then to add to the disappointment I had to sit through an opening band. I HATE opening bands. What makes concert promoters think that anyone wants to be forced to listen to someone they've never heard of before? And why would you hire a reggae band to open for a rock 'n roll band? I will apologise in advance for saying this because I'm bound to offend any reggae fans out there ...but...I swear there is only one reggae song in the entire world and it just gets sung over and over again. Fortunately the opening band only sang for 45 minutes.
When Van Halen came out it was wonderful. The show started out with Eddie running out on the stage in his typical concert outfit of torn jeans and tennis shoes and no shirt. David Lee Roth was up on a riser at the back of the stage waving a huge purple flag. Alex was already on the drum set and the bass player just kind of snuck on to the stage. The new bass player is Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli's son. He is only 17 years old but he has the musical genius of a much older soul. You can tell that he isn't entirely comfortable on stage just yet. He stands in the back ground hiding behind his long, straggly hair, never really looking in to the crowd. One day he's going to blossom and he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.
The guitars were wailing, the drums were pounding, the crowd was clapping and cheering....and I was thinking this isn't so bad. I can certainly hear the music and I can see what's going on on the stage because they are showing it on the huge screen behind the band. Then it happened.
Someone stepped on a cat. Or Pee Wee Herman had grabbed the microphone. I don't really know what happened but I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That strong, confident voice with the perfect rock and roll timing had been replaced with this..this farce. I don't know what was going on. David wasn't singing to the beat, his voice was unrecognizable and it was just awful. I think he was trying to sing in a different pentameter to sort of jazz things up, but how foolish is that? You don't record a song and have 50 million people memorize the song then invite them to a sing-a-long and then change it! And I'm not kidding with the Pee Wee Herman statement. There were a couple of times when David's voice sounded just like him!
Aside from the disappointment of his voice....he kept walking around with that shit eating grin of his. Back in the day I thought it was cute, but now I find it completely annoying. In addition to the grin he likes to walk around with his arms out to the side in a pose that looks like he's asking people to revere him because he is so awesome. YUCK!
Someone had better check the temperature in hell because I have come to the conclusion that Sammy Hagar is the heart of Van Halen, and not Diamond David Lee Roth. 'Tis a sad, sad day indeed.
I hope David has not let his EMT license expire.