REVIEW: Van Halen at Madison Square Garden in NYC
Posted by Michael Mueller on February 29, 2012 at 4:55 PM
Over the past eight years, I've been witness to some pretty low moments in the career of Eddie Van Halen—arguably the greatest rock guitarist of all time. No need to go into dirty details, as most have been publicly aired, but even though I'd seen recent footage of the "new and improved" Van Halen, I was still wondering if I would regret shelling out my hard-earned cash on the exorbitantly priced tickets.
But as the house lights went down inside New York City's famous Madison Square Garden, and Van Halen launched into their classic Kinks cover "You Really Got Me," a wave of adolescent excitement washed over me. There it was: Ed's huge guitar sound, Alex's powerful drumming, even Wolfgang holding down the low end while contributing surprisingly stellar backing vocals, and 56-year-old Diamond Dave showing off his acrobatic and Martial arts-inspired moves like he was still 26 ... And then he started singing. Stumbling through the lyrics with winded effort at odds with his impressive physical fitness, I looked at my wife, and we shook our heads together, thinking, "Uh, oh."
But with the third song of the night, "She's the Woman," one of the highlights from the band's new album A Different Kind of Truth, Roth's vocals began showing signs of life. By the sixth song, "Everybody Wants Some," he was no longer reaching, and as the band launched into "Somebody Get Me a Doctor," Roth was in full stride and that adolescent excitement returned in full force.
The real star of this show, of course, was Eddie, who performed with renewed vigor and unmistakable joie de vivre. Looking much healthier and happier than he has since, well, the early '90s, it was downright special to see this guitar hero back on his game. Wielding his new EVH Wolfgang Stealth signature axe and with a backline of EVH amps generating heart-thumping "brown sound" throughout the arena, Eddie plowed through classic riffs with power and precision. His solos were bold yet bouncy, with lead fills often reaching that "effortless, off-the-cuff" level that makes his playing so special.
From the electrifying ending to "Ice Cream Man" through the final notes of night closer "Jump," Eddie seemed to shift into overdrive, reaching his zenith during his seven-and-a-half minute guitar solo, comprising bits of "Eruption," "Spanish Fly," and "Cathedral" and showcasing classic Van Halen-isms like tapping, volume swells, tapped harmonics, and tremolo picking.
After the confetti cannons exploded and the band took its final bow, as we shuffled out of the Garden, the excited utterances of thrilled fans pretty much provided the evening's verdict. Van Halen, at least for now, is back—while not better than ever, certainly better than they've been in a long time, and definitely worth that exorbitant price of admission.
Van Halen 2/28/2012 NYC Set List:
You Really Got Me
Runnin' With the Devil
She's the Woman
Everybody Wants Some
Somebody Get Me a Doctor
Hear About It Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
The Trouble With Never
Dance the Night Away
Hot For Teacher
Women in Love
Girl Gone Bad
Ice Cream Man
Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love