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Van Halen Soar Through Hits and a "New" Song at Intimate NYC Gig

Van Halen
Kevin Mazur, Wire Image

The one thing that’ll make the Van Halen reunion with David Lee Roth work and last beyond the band’s upcoming tour and new album is if the principals are having a good time. Well, judging from last night’s beyond intimate gig at Café Wha? in New York City, that won’t be a problem.

David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen and the rest of the band had ear-to-ear grins throughout the entire set. They’d have needed plastic surgery to remove the smiles from their faces.

Café Wha? is a charming, hole-in-the-wall club that has ties to DLR from his youth. Despite the cramped quarters, VH didn’t disappoint. Not for a second. We’re still marveling at how the band fit on that tiny stage, since it is designed for solo acts or up and comers. But intimacy was the key, as the band even walked through the packed-like-sardines crowd to get to the stage. To say that Van Halen were kicking it old school would have been an understatement.

They band soared through a 11-song set that brimmed with hits, save for the “new” song ‘She’s the Woman’ that was terrific and reminded us of those classic first three VH platters. In fact, ‘She’s the Woman’ is an old ’70s demo that’s been revamped for the band’s upcoming album, ‘A Different Kind of Truth,’ which drops on Feb. 7.

You know, another key element of the VH reunion working is continuing those signature harmonies that used to be sung by former bassist Michael Anthony. Well, his heir apparent Wolfie Van Halen is doing a rad job in his stead. If you were up close enough, like we were — not to brag or anything! — you could see DLR mouthing ‘perfect’ to Wolfie as he played quite often throughout the set.

Before launching into set opener ‘You Really Got Me,’ Roth welcomed the audience, consisting mostly of media and press types, to “Occupy Van Halen,” and received a chorus of cheers.

Next up was ‘Running With the Devil,’ ‘Somebody Get Me a Doctor,’ ‘Everybody Wants Some’ and the aforementioned ‘She’s the Woman.’ When Roth, who is a hoot to watch as he entertains himself, went off on a bit of a tangent, recalling his days as a NYC EMT, Eddie would teasingly strum a few chords as if you say, “Move it along a little, Dave.”

The second half of the set included ‘Dance the Night Away,’ ‘Panama,’ Hot for Teacher’ and ‘Ice Cream Man,’ during which Roth shouted out his 92-year-old uncle Manny, who was smack dab in the middle of the crowd. The gig ended with ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ and an “encore” of ‘Jump.’

The band sounded tight — Alex Van Halen’s drumming anchored the set and as a whole and VH played on point throughout. The keys were a little too loud on ‘Jump,’ but that’s no fault of the band and that was the only time things weren’t pitch perfect.

This show certainly restored our faith in the mighty Van Halen and indicated that the reunion is not a cash grab and that there’s still magic in the band.

It’s going to be a fun 2012 with Van Halen back at the forefront of rock.

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