Van Halen in Concert !

I saw Van Halen perform in Dallas, supporting their latest album. This was my first rock concert in almost four years. Nancy tells me I'm way too old for this sort of thing....

Opening act was the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Kenny is a young, but very talented, guitarist. Seeing him play, you get the impression he doesn't need a lot of takes in the studio to get his parts right. Hearing him perform the Hendrix classic, "Voodoo Child," you could almost imagine Jimi looking down from above and smiling his approval. You could also imagine Eddie looking on from backstage and fidgeting nervously. This kid is good.

This was Van Halen's first tour with new singer Gary Cherone. To Gary's credit, he has good stage presence and did a great job singing songs from both of Van Halen's previous eras. But guess what -- Van Halen could hire Daffy Duck as lead singer and still fill concert venues. The fans are there to hear, and see, Eddie play the guitar. And as fans go, this was a dedicated bunch. I wore earplugs, yet my ears still hurt from the noise. Not from the music, the amps were actually scaled back a bit from concerts of yesteryear. My ears were ringing from the screaming fans. Fans who, at times, completely drowned out the guitar and vocals! I was also amazed at how many people in the audience could sing (well, actually shout) the words to every song. As for Eddie's guitar work -- he's still up there as one of the very best. From the new songs, to classics from the first album, Eddie picks, hammers, and bends his way deep inside the listeners' hearts and souls (I know that sounds corny, but the Van Halen fans will understand).

And observing the audience members was part of the entertainment. There was the usual collection of "concert freaks," the heavily-tattooed, excessively-pierced, long-haired, oddly-dressed types you just don't seem to see out in public any other time. Lots of folks wearing Van Halen tee shirts from past tours; saw one from the 1986 tour and a couple from 1984! There were also Dockers-wearing, pager-carrying dads with their teenage sons. Quite an interesting mix of ages and appearances. And of course, there was that odd smell that always seems to materialize in the air at a rock concert....

Next concert review: Metallica, July 31. I better start resting up now for that one.

(c) 1998, Scott D. Murdock

First published in The Murdock Muse, July-August 1998