This was the 6th time I had seen the band. I had a big concern as to how they would sound with ex-Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone fronting them. I bought III the day it came out and was still having a little bit of trouble dealing with the new voice. To me it sounded like he was trying to sound like Sammy and not doing a very good job. I have seen both Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth, so he had a couple of tough acts to follow.
It took about 30 seconds for me to forget about that. The band came out, firing up the show, with the Fair Warning classic, "Unchained". Wow! Eddie was his usual en fuego self. And Cherone sounded great. He was very energetic. He moved back and forth across the stage interacting with the crowd as he sang. He appeared very agile throwing kicks and spinning around, weaving amongst the band members. He looked like he belonged there, and had been there from the beginning. One other thing he did was not take away from the rest of the band. He didnt go off on any tangents and stayed focused on what we were all there for. THE MUSIC!
The band had hinted, in prior interviews, they were going to pull out some older not so famous tunes. Probably about three a show. They did just that. "Mean Street" from Fair Warning, "Romeo Delight" from Women and Children First, and "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" off of II. All a very refreshing change from the overplayed radio songs. "Somebody Get Me a Doctor" featured Michael Anthony on lead vocals. He did an excellent job deepening his trademark, high pitched, Van Halen backing sound to sing the song. Props to Mike, excellent job! He is the utility man of the band. He did not do a bass solo. This kind of disappointed me because he usually is pretty entertaining when he breaks out the Jack Daniels bass and gets busy. He did play the JD bass for one or two songs though. Glad to see he still has it.
Eddie was Eddie! Hammer-on solos and artificial harmonics were in abundance. Did his big guitar solo in the middle of "Year to the Day". Solo consisted of "Cathedral", "Eruption" and "316". He also added in a few other things. All around I think he used 4 different guitars during the show. Although one only lasted for about half of "Fire in the Hole" before he broke a string and got rid of it. One thing different was he went back to using a cord instead of the cordless setup. Eddie also had a defining moment in his career. The first song of the encore Eddie played a grand piano on "How Many Say I" (the only time he touched a keyboard or a piano). But most importantly, he also sang lead. Not a bad job for a guy who is not known for his singing and has never sang lead in a band before. I say not bad because he is Eddie, and I have a hard time criticizing him.
Alex did not appear his usual fired up self. Perhaps he wasnt feeling well. His drum solo just didnt have the spunk he usually puts into it. He also looked tired.
The band did not touch anything from Balance (a good thing) or Diver Down, unless you count "Cathedral" during Eddies solo. They did one encore consisting of three songs. "How Many Say I", followed by 1984 hits "Panama" and "Jump".
They overhead monitors and big screen behind the band only came on during Eddie solos or up-tempo songs. This was kind of disappointing. I would have liked to have seen it turned on the whole time for the people way out on the lawn. However they did some great effects, showing multiples of Eddie as he was playing.
All in all it was a very energetic performance. The guys really seemed to be enjoying themselves and having fun. There definitely is a unique chemistry there. I hope it lasts this time. The songs from the new album sound great live. It gave me a whole new appreciation for the CD.
This is definitely a must see show. Even if you are not big on Van Halen it is worth checking out.