Might as Well Jump ... for Joy

I saw Van Halen last night, suckers.

Not Van Hagar.

Not Van ... Cherone.

But Van Halen, the only way they were ever meant to be seen.

With David Lee Roth leading the charge.

I'd been waiting a long time for this moment. More than a decade, actually. I quoted Diamond Dave in my high school valedictory speech in 1997: "You gotta roll with the punches and get to what's real, Bulldogs!"

Given the band's strife-laden, noxious history, I fully expected to be disappointed. I mean, if past VH reunions are any indication, the wheels are going to fall off this bus faster than you can reach down in between your legs and ease the seat back.

I caught the inaugural show, the first date of the tour, and I still didn't feel safe until the encore was over. I kept waiting for Roth to club Eddie with his microphone stand, or for Eddie to deck Roth and then barf all over the drum riser, or for Wolfgang to hit puberty and then butcher his backing vocals.

But I was shocked--shocked, I tell you--to see a band with very little ring rust that can still kick major ass. The sound at the Bobcats arena in Charlotte left a little something to be desired, but I still consider myself rocked.

And they all looked pretty good, too. The last time I'd seen Eddie Van Halen in a photograph, he looked like Keith Richards warmed over. And Roth? When last I'd glimpsed him, he reminded me of an anorexic, 80-year-old Hulk Hogan, and it looked like his hair had been applied with a spray can.

But this time around, the two looked fit, fresh and clean. Roth's abs, in particular, were impressive for a man his age, his voice was in fine form, and I'm happy to report that his hair looked better than John Edwards'.

It was Eddie Van Halen, though, who blew me away. He gets a lot of shit, much of it deserved, because he's known as a control freak, an alcoholic, a traitor, a money-grubbing bastard, a backstabber, a window dresser and basically an enormous dickhead.

But from a purely technical perspective, there is no better guitar player, past or present, in all of rock and roll ("Panama" contains the greatest bridge ever written in any song. Period.).

Are there more tasteful players? Yes. Are there players with more soul? Absolutely. Are there other guitarists I'd rather have in my band? You bet.

But as an innovator, groundbreaker and pure virtuoso (the guy played with his back to the audience for years, just so others couldn't copy his technique), Eddie Van Halen is without peer.

And I got to see him, sharing (yes, sharing) a stage with Diamond Dave, both of them having what appeared to be the time of their lives.

Will it last? Let's just say Eddie better keep Hagar on speed dial.

Original MySpace post: 9/29/2007

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