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Van Halen 2007

First, the good news: David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen got through the entire stretch of their first show together in 22 years last night without killing each other.

Now the better news: At last night's opening salvo of a national tour at the Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, N.C., the two performed with a vintage measure of joy and verve, showing neither the vitriol that long ago fractured them, nor the problems that have plagued them as individuals in the time between - including, most recently, a spell in rehab for Eddie.

Joining the duo in this eons-in-themaking comeback were drummer Alex Van Halen and Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass, subbing for Michael Anthony.

The latter snub prevented the tour from pulling off a full revival of the original gang of four.

But the pitched spirit and chops displayed this night evoked more than enough of the band's '80s heyday to please any true fan.

From the first power chords of "You Really Got Me," the band hit a hard groove that didn't let up for the next two hours.

Eddie's guitar runs showed again the God-like speed, agility and wit of old, even if he still shows no interest, or ability, to connect this to anything approaching an adult emotion.

We're still talking frat house stuff here, even from men moving into their 50s.

Same goes for Roth, who remains the same eagerly corny ham as ever. His outfits looked like they came straight from Siegfried and Roy's back closet.

Still, he came through where it counted. He didn't cower from hitting the high, screechy notes. And his trademark bellow rang through loud and clear.

The group played 25 songs, batted out in brisk succession, and all from the pre-Sammy Hagar era (1978 to '84).

It often stressed a mangier and rawer style than what came later, and while that kind of thing can sound sloggy in an arena, last night the sound remained bracingly crisp throughout.

The rhythm section - another big question mark of the night - pulled its weight.

Young Wolfgang kept the bottom in line with his bass lines.

Alex Van Halen's double bass drums again made the perfect two-fisted mirror to brother Eddie's bravura riffs and leads.

More than 25 years since he first pioneered his two-hands-on-the-fretboard approach, Eddie remains a technical wonder.

Again, last night his leads did loop-do-loops around the melodies, and peeled into wheelies in the choruses.

It may seem unseemly for a man of his age to retain a tone that's all leer, but Roth's camp character helps lend a leavening dose of self-awareness to the character.

Dave and Eddie seemed cordial. They even hugged at one point. But they connected in the music more than in any gestures, and that was for the best.

The repertoire showed the range of their material proudly - from pop like "Dance the Night Away" and "Janie's Crying" to more obscure pound fests like "Atomic Punk" and "Romeo's Delight."

The top hits, played at the end, like "Panama" or "Jump" may be over-played on radio. But after so many years performed by either a listing version of Van Halen or a weak solo David Lee Roth, it was great to finally welcome back the real thing in such fine form.

Review: Rolling Stone Magazine
by Mark Kemp


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