Concert Review: Van Halen Bring the ‘Good Times’ to New Jersey

By Brian Ives

“My enthusiasm outweighed my abilities…”

David Lee Roth was talking about his skills as a football player during his extended solo acoustic intro to “Ice Cream Man,” during which he paid tribute to Frank Gifford, and to football in general: “Football has everything to do with who I am,” he said, noting that he had posters of Gifford and Vince Lombardi on his wall as  kid, right next to Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.  It sort of explains Van Halen‘s wide appeal: less creepy and less druggy their their ’70s and ’80s hard rock peers, Van Halen was loud guitar-based music that fit right in in the locker room.

Dave’s sermon came about three quarters of the way through Van Halen’s concert last night (August 9) at New Jersey’s PNC Bank Arts Center. This was David Lee Roth playing a “David Lee Roth solo”: there was a little acoustic guitar, a little harmonica and a lot of Dave being Dave. At other points in the concert, Edward Van Halen had a guitar solo; Alex Van Halen had a drum solo. The instrument that David Lee Roth excels at, of course, is wielding the personality of David Lee Roth. He does it well.

And the “enthusiasm > abilities” equation, it must be said, holds true for him today as a frontman. That’s not really a dig; you can’t expect a guy at 60 to be able to do the onstage jumps and flips that he did in his 20s. And I’m not saying that Dave’s “matured.” But he has adapted to the realities of being a middle aged dude. Instead of performing mind blowing athletic feats onstage while singing, he now spends more time mugging for the onstage cameras, and playing up his “char-AS-ma.” It’s like he’s become the Dave of the post-VH “Just a Gigolo” and “Yankee Rose” videos.

(Maria Ives for 

Related: Op-ED: Van Halen’s 1978 Debut Album Made Rock Entertaining Again

Vocally, he isn’t what he was either, which is the case for nearly every other iconic singer in their 50s or 60s. But here’s the thing: you can go see a cover band if you want to hear someone more closely approximate the band’s sound from the ’70s and ’80s. If you want to see the real deal, then go see it now, while Van Halen is still playing. Will it sound like the record? No, and that’s why you can play the record whenever you want to.

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