Van Halen, April 10, 2012 Sunrise, FL
by Todd McFliker
Experiencing Eddie Van Halen at the top of his game on April 10th at Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise was nothing short of spectacular. At the memorable concert supporting this year's A Different Kind of Truth release, Eddie wore a smile from ear to ear and his old-school guitar solos were simply amazing. Alex Van Halen banged away on his drums, while Eddie's son, Wolfgang, more than earned Michael Anthony's seat on the tour bus as a fantastic bass player. Unlike the disappointing lead singers that followed his Reagan-era departure, David Lee Roth only touched upon material that he actually recorded with Van Halen. As a direct result, the set-list could not have been better, ranging from their 1972 self-titled debut to the magnificent 1984, along with their notable recent studio work. Audience members were on their feet for more than 2 hours.
Following an impressive set by one of Eddie and Dave's longtime favorites, Kool & the Gang, Van Halen immediately exploded with 1981's “Unchained.” Diamond Dave did not look like himself, flaunting short hair. Regardless, the frontman still executed his trademark high kicks throughout the night. Draped in a black pinstripe vest and glittering pants with a massive belt buckle, he danced around his simple stage, engaging in fabulous interplay with Eddie. An enormous monitor allowed the crowd to see the artists' every move, while a nostalgic Dave sported a devilish grin. "It's getting hot in here tonight," he declared as Eddie played the opening chords to the hard-hitting "Runnin' with the Devil." "How 'bout something new, fresh, exciting," he asked leading into the new album's "She's the Woman." "Romeo Delight" was followed by the powerful recent single, Wolfgang's bass-heavy "Tattoo." Alex's tribal beats introduced the jungle-like intro of "Everybody Wants Some!!" It was unfortunate that the unfavorable acoustics of the giant venue caused the singer to sound muffled.
"It looks like Florida still stays up late on a school night," Mr. Roth announced. "And this is the perfect weather to go with those lines up the back of your stockings" he explained before their second record's dramatic cut, "Somebody Get Me a Doctor." True Van Halen fans were let down to hear the cover of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman" without Eddie's jaw-dropping "Intruder" leading into the Number One single. The same can be said for the band's live version of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" that was played without "Eruption." Then again, folks didn't know that the best was yet to come from the talented guitarist.
"Dance the Night Away" and "I'll Wait" were delivered before music lovers began to hear Van Halen's best single from MTV's golden days, "Hot For Teacher." However, Dave stopped the excitement during the drum-heavy introduction. "Somebody intentionally put the blowers on, and it's turning into a refrigerator here onstage," he expressed with fury. Apparently, it was blowing so much cold air on the boys that Dave lost his cool. Onlookers where in awe as the singer ranted about his stage crew for another minute, making unnecessary and vulgar remarks. Every man, woman and child in the arena was anxious for the gang to get back to "Hot For Teacher." How would Bono or Perry Farrell have handled the situation? Either one of them may have stopped the show, but they would've made a light-hearted joke out of the circumstances. There certainly wouldn't have been any name-calling. Finally, Van Halen got back to business. "My name is Mr. Roth, and I'll be your substitute teacher for the remainder of the concert," he said. Flickering red and yellow spotlights swept the stage as the showman spun around in 360s.
Following "Beautiful Girls," Van Halen began performing the opening riff's to the new albums "Stay Frosty." Again, Dave interrupted the music, stating "I don't want to do this. I want to play 'Ice Cream Man' for you, right now." The childish melody was a simple delight. Then came a high point of the evening, 1984's potent "Panama." Yet, the best part of the evening was undoubtedly Eddie's awe-inspiring guitar solo which included pieces of the grand "Eruption." The high-speed accomplishment was brilliant, lasting more than 7 minutes. Watching the satisfied man's childish grin, as well as hearing the unparalleled precision of his guitar chords on the big screen will be stuck in patrons' memories for the rest of their lives. Knowing he had struck gold, the legendary guitarist gave his viewers a confident thumbs-up.After "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," Roth claimed that he didn't want to leave the stage. Asking if we were interested in hearing an encore, Van Halen had everyone on their feet for their most successful single, "Jump." Once again, immense spotlights roamed the crowd, but this time confetti fell over the floor seats. Dave hopped high into the air before he waved a giant black and white checkered racing flag above his head. The vocalist thanked South Florida for being extremely wonderful as Van Halen exited the stage. After a few minutes of cheering, concertgoers made their way out front. Hearts were still thumping and spectators displayed smiles as big as Eddie's on the Bank Atlantic Center stage. It may have taken a couple of decades, but Van Halen is back. They relived their classics from the Seventies and Eighties the way that they were meant to be experienced, on the road. Eddie's unmatched finger-work more than overshadowed the second-rate sound at Bank Atlantic Center, and even David Lee Roth's obnoxious tirade onstage. Standing as arguably the greatest living guitarist on the planet, Eddie Van Halen was phenomenal.