Van Halen at the United Center

February 24th, 2012: As seen on Archive (PDF)

David Lee Roth fronted the reanimated Van Halen at Chicago’s United Center; Photo: Ryan Bourque

Van Halen may not be living at a pace that kills anymore, especially with 20-year-old cherub-cheeked Eddie Jr., Wolfgang, replacing the drunk-savant sludgery of bassist Michael Anthony. But that didn’t stop Diamond Dave and the rest of the original pushing-60 crew from chasing their younger, hungrier selves last Friday night (Feb 24) at a sold out United Center show.

Roth especially, proving his throat isn’t some shredded version of what used to be called metal, came ascot and rhinestone-peacocking out of the gate, circus-baton in full whip, leading the boys into an odd choice for an opener—their debut’s requisite Kinks cover, “You Really Got Me,” interjecting trademark ball-grabbing yelps when needed.

He did slow down a bit in uncharacteristic and distracting fashion a few times to complain about some things—a lack of water, the air vents, his mic—but otherwise was a gapless powerhouse, a high-note dynamo while he and the Van Halen lineage blazed through a double-dozen set in a mere hour and a half.

With only four of said 24 cuts pulled from their just-dropped seventh offering, A Different Kind of Truth, the pseudo-greatest hits set did plenty of pleasing amidst the sea of middle-aged dudes that filled the arena. But it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they pulled diversely from the most furious moments of their early 80s run.

It seemed as Eddie wouldn’t have it any other way, sporting a permanent grin from “Runnin’ With The Devil,” to the freight-trainin’ riffs of “Somebody Get Me A Doctor,” scissor-kicking even in the final moments of end-capper “Jump.” There were some piano and synth fills to help him along the way. But otherwise, all Eddie, right hand coming above the fret-board and all.

If there was a slow pace the quartet hit, it would have been on the heels of Diver Down’s Roy Orbison cover “Pretty Woman,” and Alex Van Halen’s ridiculous drum solo, flashed with horn and Santana-esque key samples, that saw a spattering of people seek out another $10 beer. Though even then, immediately after came an eight-foot stack of Marshall-backed “Unchained,” Roth tongue-and-cheekin’ “one break, coming up” before the slam of their veritable wall of sound brought out that chorus line about things never staying the same.

It is early in the tour, though. Who knows, Roth might cat-call his way into surgery. Wolfgang has a 21st birthday coming up pretty soon. There might be some boozin’ afoot. Or Roth could brew up some of the fabled bad blood that put a stop to the current incarnation in the first place, the band crashing in one trite Behind The Music montage. But as the four harmonized on “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love” at the end of the night, Roth still ruffling around like a peacock, Eddie making it all look garage-band easy, there sure as hell weren’t any signs of that on Friday.

Set List:
You Really Got Me (Kinks cover)
Runnin’ With the Devil
She’s The Woman
Romeo Delight
Everybody Wants Some!!
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
China Town
Mean Street
(Oh) Pretty Woman
Drum Solo
The Trouble with Never
Dance the Night Away
I’ll Wait
Hot for Teacher
Women in Love
Girl Gone Bad
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love