Van Halen @ Madison Square Garden (11/13/2007)

In my own personal list of top three bands, the mighty Van Halen has long remained in the second spot following KISS. The bands reunion with singer David Lee Roth was nothing less than historic in my book so attending the appearance at Madison Square Garden was something that could not be avoided. I didn’t shoot any photos but hope that my article on the site keeps your interest just the same.

van halen logo

Artist: Van Halen
Venue: Madison Square Garden (New York, NY)
Opener: unknown
Date: 11/13/2007
Label: Warner Bros

The first announcement of a reunion between the Van Halen brothers and their original lead singer David Lee Roth came several months ago but due to unforeseen personal circumstances needed to be put on hold until a number of things could be worked out. Lucky for the fans the plans were soon back on the drawing board and rehearsals began for what was to be one of the most anticipated tours in Rock & Roll history. I admit that while I had long prayed for this show to happen I honestly never thought that it would see the light of day and this was primarily based on all of the back and forth comments and bickering between the camps of Roth and the Van Halen brothers that we were always finding across many websites or in band interviews. Yet, here we were and not only was the event happening but it was ready to commence. I found myself in a long sold out Madison Square Garden in New York City, the very same place that I first saw Van Halen back in 1982 during their “Diver Down” tour. It was around this time that the guys became one of my top three bands and have held this status since. Needless to say the entire place was electric in terms of the level of excitement and I couldn’t wait to see, hear, and experience the whole thing. It would not be a full reunion as many had hoped for as bassist Michael Anthony was out of the picture and in his place would be young Wolfgang Van Halen, the sixteen year old son of Edward VH. Many fans screamed about this and yet the tour still sold out at every venue that it was to hit so I am sure everyone was more than just a little bit curious.

The applause in the Garden was thunderous as the lights went down and the guitar riffs of Edward began to be heard across the PA and within seconds it was on. The mighty Van Halen had returned in the fashion that both old and new fans had wanted and waited to see for over two decades and from the first note of “You Really Got Me” there was not a fan in the audience who was in their seat. David Lee Roth came out waving a big flag and I admit that I was surprised to find that it wasn’t any particular countries colors but just a plain flag. It would have sent people through the roof if he had done this same entrance with our glorious red, white and blue if you asked me. Their stage setting for the tour was rather sparse in terms of overall effects and enhancements. It was pretty much the bands amplifiers, and Alex’s sizable drum kit along with a ramp that went to a second level under three massive video screens. These screens brought the show to larger than life proportions and while that is often the case with such implements, I felt that whoever was working the cameras for this aspect of the stage show really seemed to know the bands material inside and out. “I’m The One” was the second tune in the set and a blistering number from the band’s debut and as you watched the guys deliver it you felt like no time had passed at all. The sound was clear and crisp and it showed very early tonight that the guys were “On Fire”, if you could pardon the obvious pun. After the first few songs it was easy to see that young Wolfgang was doing a great job as well and any reservations about his playing ability were gone within minutes of the show. Let’s face it, how bad is the son of Eddie Van Halen going to be on his instrument? The kid was doing a fine job of handling both the bass parts of his predecessor as well as getting the backups down alongside his Dad who was belting them out while defying human comprehension with his guitar in front of the hungry crowd.

David Lee Roth was the ultimate emcee this evening and I expected nothing less from a showman of his stature. He was talking a mile a minute and from my vantage point was a little tough to understand at times but when I could lock into him he was the same Dave that I had been a fan of since the beginning. Little quips between the tunes and referring to the group as three parts Van Halen and a shot of Roth or something of that nature. For the most part he was a constantly glowing smile and laughter as the band delivered hit after legendary hit. The set list was beyond good and of course would feature no material from the bands years with Sammy Hagar. While some of that stuff was great as well I don’t think there was a person in the room who wanted to hear any of it. Tonight it was all about the classic years; that run of albums from 1978 thru 1984 – you know the ones I’m talking about because they’ve been part of your record and tape collection for decades. Tonight the fans would get something from every one of those albums and find music from “Van Halen”, “Van Halen II”, Women & Children First”, “Fair Warning”, “Diver Down” and “1984” all being a part of the musical menu being offered up by the group. You know a set list is on target and that your tunes are a part of people’s upbringing when you find them singing along with you as you perform. This was happening for almost every verse and chorus tonight and there was also a whole lot of dancing going on as well. This was always what made the appeal of Van Halen music so great in my mind because it just made you feel so damned good inside and with its assistance the ills of the world were left miles away and you were able to decompress and rock out like nothing else mattered. Roth used to say in the past interviews that the audience used to leave their shows six feet off the ground and he wasn’t kidding about this. The reaction at their past shows was certainly going to be the case tonight as well based on how this was playing out.

I am quite certain that we shall be seeing a live DVD release for this tour or at least selections from it so I will limit my dialogue as far as band banter during the show. Of course we did find Mr. Roth giving us the origins of the song “Ice Cream Man” and how it began with his friend Stan who drove an Ice Cream truck. He strummed his guitar as he kept at the tale saying how on weekends Stan would bring the truck home and they would load it with beer for the parties that they often had. He mentioned how they would get their friend Kenny and how it seemed like everyone has a friend Kenny in their life. Kenny who lived in the basement, over the garage, or in the garage there just always seemed to be one that people hung out with. Needless to say the people I was talking to during song breaks all got a kick out of this part with me sitting right there. However, Dave was not talking about me and that’s that but nonetheless I like to think that he is right about that. This number has always been one of my favorite tunes from the band and it wasn’t surprising to find the first album being performed almost in its entirety tonight. They would only sacrifice “Feel Your Love Tonight” from the record and while I am unsure if they did it during any other shows on the tour it was not presented to us tonight in New York City. To be honest the set list was absolutely killer and while each fan here tonight was probably hoping for a track that didn’t get played there was no way on Earth to find any fault with what was delivered. The songs would not be left to the mid-tempo tunes like “Dance The Night Away” and “So This Is Love” but also find the more blistering tracks like “Romeo Delight” making their appearance. We got a thundering drum solo from Alex Van Halen who reminded us about his being one of the best drummers in the business still in terms of technique and delivery and this was followed by “Unchained” where during the end break young Wolfie told Dave to “give him a break” while the audiences roared approval. It was a nice touch and it worked in terms of giving the audience something to scream loud about. As someone who views Van Halen as one of their own top bands it was very hard for me to find any fault in the set list even though I had wanted one or two more that would have been nice additions. I felt that “Light Up The Sky” or “Top Jimmy” would have been nice but they would not be here. As the night started to draw to its inevitable close the moment everyone in the arena had been waiting for and that was the Eddie Van Halen guitar solo. Whether you were a real deal musician or you just strapped on an air guitar every now and again there is no question about this man being the dude who redefined the way the instrument would be perceived in modern music. His accomplishments on those early recordings are nothing short of extraordinary and with them he laid out how the genre was going to progress for decades. Tonight Edward’s solo was incredible and just as on the money as you would want it to be. I had read some reviews were sound issues were encountered a few times along the way but nothing like that was happening tonight.

The main portion of the show would end with the smash “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love” and through it all the audience was screaming their lungs out with fists raised into the air when it was called for. The encores would be the “1984” keyboard piece and the blockbuster hit “Jump”. They thanked everyone for coming and the smiles were still on everyone’s faces in the band and more importantly the sold out crowd. New York City had been successfully been invaded by the forces of Rock & Roll once again and just like Dave said in the interviews of the past, the people left with their feet hardly touching the ground. This was an amazing experience for everyone in attendance and the following day I could hardly speak since I had no voice. Of course I did find the ability to do so in order to rave about the show. It’s been mentioned in the interviews around these events that a continuation of the tour will happen in early 2008 and that they are planning another studio album. What I would like to see is a full live DVD of these shows along with a CD and some of that archive footage that we have known existed for quite some time. If KISS can find success with their series of “KISSology” DVD’s then why cant Van Halen give us the same. See you next time guys that’s for sure. Clearly this was my concert of the year and that’s no joke.

Editor’s Note: I wasn’t really on any official duty for this show and was attending as a die hard fan, but I still knew that I would be bringing my thoughts and perceptions about it to the readers just the same. I didn’t have my camera tonight and wondered if a little one could have been brought it to snare some of the action but I didn’t do that and then found myself surrounded by people who were not as hesitant as I was with little Canon’s and Kodak’s. I am sure there are enough images online from professionals like Mark Weiss or Neil Zlozower to keep us happy, so click on the band website to see in full color the images from evening’s like this one.

Set List:
1. You Really Got Me
2. I’m the One
3. Runnin’ With the Devil
4. Romeo Delight
5. Somebody Get Me a Doctor
6. Beautiful Girls
7. Dance the Night Away
8. Atomic Punk
9. Everybody Wants Some
10. So This Is Love?
11. Mean Street
12. Pretty Woman
13. Alex Van Halen Drum Solo
14. Unchained
15. I’ll Wait
16. And the Cradle Will Rock
17. Hot for Teacher
18. Little Dreamer
19. Little Guitars
20. Jamie’s Cryin’
21. Ice Cream Man
22. Panama
23. Edward Van Halen Guitar Solo
24. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
25. 1984 – encore
26. Jump – encore

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