Last night's big (big as in over the top, big as in capital-A Arena rock, big as in the corny hats David Lee Roth cycled through during his costume changes) reunion show disappointed exactly nobody in attendance at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Van Halen included in the two-hour-plus set every big single they released during Roth's '77-'84 tenure with the band: "Pretty Woman," "Panama," "Dance the Night Away." The fiftysomething Van Halen brothers, Eddie and Alex, did big guitar and drum solos, respectively.
Pacing was one of the show's strong suits. Roth kept the banter to a minimum and mostly let one hit fade into the next. Essentially, the band has no ballads ("I'll Wait" is a possible exception) so the high energy sustained itself for over two sweaty, high-impact hours. The shirtless Eddie looked like he spends most of his waking hours with a personal trainer. Gone, it appears, are the VH riders calling for booze and the infamous M&Ms in their dressing rooms and tour buses.
Eddie's 16-year-old son Wolfgang played bass guitar. He sauntered on the stage's catwalks a few times, notably during the bassline intro to "Running with the Devil," and bought some funk-influenced style to his playing. You can tell he's grown up not only with the records his dad made in the decade before his birth but also with the rap-rock hybrids of the last decade. The youngest member of the band also assumed most of the backing vocals, flawlessly, and essentially turned "Pretty Woman" into a duet with David Lee Roth.
Low points? Few far and between. Roth missed a couple vocals on the verses of show opener "You Really Got Me," a song whose lyrics are known by most folks who have ever listened to classic rock radio in their lives. And his extended (err, rambling) introduction to "Ice Cream Man"--delivered while strumming on an acoustic guitar--was a bit surreal. In a Woddy-Guthrie-via-hair-metal flourish, Roth talked about the band's days as a garage band in suburbs where the streets are all named for trees that have been torn down.
Usually when it comes to concerts I'm a Yo La Tengo or Bloc party guy, but you can't beat a hard rock show for good times. The crowd's more concerned with rocking out than looking cool. I've never seen so many Def Leppard t-shirts in my life. Sorry Pink Floyd and Megadeath, Def Leppard is now the band that sells more shirts than records. I overheard *multiple* conversations about Def Leppard t-shirts ("is that the Pyromania tour, third leg, shirt?"..."did you get that at the Joe Louis show in '88?"). And while I applaud the Palace's vigilance, asking for I.D. at the beer stand was completely unnecessary. There was one teen-ager on stage and about two in the audience.