Rock has become a highly bastardised genre. Combined with all kinds of music like Grunge, Industrial, Metal, and Punk, it has mutated into something new and different. Further, the social trends that forged Rock have also changed leading to the new genres listed above. Rock was about over-indulgence: sex, money, and violence. The violence part currently seems to be dominating in today's angst-ridden groups, but not with Van Halen.
In a show that epitomised what a Rock concert should be, Van Halen blew "the top off" at the Rochester War Memorial in NY. While one should be fair to bassist Michael Anthony, drummer Alex Van Halen, and vocalist Sammy Hagar, and say that they did a good job, it was Eddie Van Halen's amazing guitar work that was responsible for the crowd of approximately ten thousand sounding like twenty.
The most annoying part in their latest release, Balance, is Hagar's vocals. His performance during the concert wasn't anything moving either, especially considering a lot of the songs they performed were from Balance: The Seventh Seal, Can't Stop Lovin' You, Big Fat Money (?), Amsterdam, Aftershock, and Don't Tell Me (What Love Can Do). He, to me, is a screamer without emotion (unlike Ian Gillan). But he is a charismatic frontman for the band, perhaps almost as good as his predecessor, David Lee Roth, and managed to keep the crowd roaring with his antics. These included donning T-shirts, hats, and bras owned by the audience, draping up in banners made by the crowd, recognising fans who followed the band around, asking girls to take their bras off, and even spouting cliches about the Oklahama City bombing. Hagar did have his vocal and guitar moments, however, with a solo performance of Eagles Fly, which I thought was quite moving.
Alex Van Halen's drumming was tight, and the drum solo was well done. Apparently he's a big fan of peanuts.
I thought the bass solo was really cool. Friends of mine who play bass have often made fun of Michael Anthony's style of bass playing, but I was quite impressed with the simple musicality of his solo. It's a pity it lasted only a couple of minutes.
Eddie Van Halen was a bit more sloppy than I'd have expected him to be, but words cannot even begin to describe his manual dexterity, his technical prowess, and his ability to improvise. All this while playing as casually as reading a newspaper. I sometimes have thought of him as one of the greatest guitarists in the world (second only to Ritchie Blackmore) and sometimes I have had my reservations, but this show buried all such doubts. The guitar solo he played was magnificient. It consisted of a medley of Spanish Fly, Cathedral, 316, and Eruption. This probably was the highlight of the concert for me---a great mix of the old and the new, and all GREAT! EVH's guitar work was also evident in older songs like Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love, Why Can't this be Love, and the cover of the Kinks' You Really Got Me. Unfortunately, there were notable absences from older albums which would've showcased EVH's guitar playing even more, particularly Women and Children First (my favourite VH album).
Collective Soul opened. They played a collection of songs that included stuff from their new album, "simply titled Collective Soul," and their old album, Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid. They were an appropriate opener for VH, but by the end of the show, they were a distant memory. Their set included the popular radio hit Shine.
Other songs VH played included Run Around, Top of the World, When it's Love, Finish What Ya Started, and the popular Right Now. For the last song, they went back to 1984 with Panama. Van Halen has always delivered fine product and if you go to see them, you'll get exactly what you paid for---a real Rock concert.