The Van Halen boys saved several songs from vocal disaster with their backing harmonies.
“Halloween is around the corner. How many of you are going as me?” David Lee Roth asked the crowd at Van Halen’s Sleep Train Amphitheatre show. While the singer’s quip yielded the biggest chuckle of the night, not all of Roth’s punchlines were intended to draw a laugh.
Diamond Dave has roughened around the edges since his ’78–’84 heyday, when he fronted the biggest hard-rock band in the land. Today, he continues to strut his stuff and talk a big game, but he can’t jump like he used to or dance the night away. He’s still one hell of an entertainer, though — acting like a possessed matador one minute and a martial arts master the next.
The bigger issue is Roth’s voice. He doesn’t so much sing as shout. While this was passable on “Somebody Get Me a Doctor,” it left the audience wanting more on “Everybody Want Some!!” Fortunately, harmonies supplied by the three Van Halens — Eddie (guitar), Alex (drums), and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang (bass) — saved several songs from vocal disaster.
This isn’t to suggest the show wasn’t musically deft or that Dave didn’t have his moments. Rocking 21 songs (plus requisite guitar and drum solos) over two hours gave concertgoers a cross-section of fan favorites (“Drop Dead Legs,” “Dirty Movies”) and chart-toppers (“Panama” and encore “Jump”).
Even crazy Dave, with his cat-who-ate-the-canary grin, owned the spotlight during his intro to “Ice Cream Man”... sipping whiskey, strumming his acoustic guitar, and sharing a funny story about wanting to BE James Brown. In that moment, everything seemed to make sense. Almost.
- Concert: Van Halen
- Seats: Section 103, Row C, Seat 15
- Date: September 30
- Venue: Sleep Train Amphitheatre