On Memorial Day Weekend 1983, Van Halen performed their largest and most legendary concert of their career—the 1983 U.S. Festival. On Saturday, July 11, 2015, Van Halen triumphantly returned for the first time in 32 years to once again rock that historical land, Glen Helen Regional Park in San Bernardino, CA.
With a show just over two hours and armed with what could quite possibly be the band’s greatest set list of all time, David Lee Roth, Edward Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Wolfgang Van Halen returned to the Southland to take care of business.
Jaws dropped as the show exploded with “Light Up The Sky,” a song the band has not performed since 1979. In fact, thanks to Wolfgang Van Halen, the entire evening was sprinkled with deep cuts that were either brought back from the dead or songs that had never been performed in the bands 41-year career such as 1981's Fair Warning track “Dirty Movies” and “Drop Dead Legs" off of the 1984 LP.
The magic continued as the band plowed through rarities such as “In A Simple Rhyme” and “Women In Love,” which fans have not heard live since 1980. The show was well-rounded and included numbers from each and every Roth era album: “Feel Your Love Tonight” from their 1978 debut LP; “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” off 1979’s Van Halen II; “Romeo Delight" off 1980’s Women And Children First LP; “Unchained” from Fair Warning; “Little Guitars” from 1982’s Diver Down; “I’ll Wait” from 1984; and “Chinatown” from the bands latest 2012 studio venture, A Different Kind Of Truth.
The band, Roth in particular, has received quite a bit of slack since their recent television performances. Let’s face it, the band (except for Wolfgang) are not in their 20’s anymore. Does Roth have the vocal strength and stamina he had back in the day? Of course not. Does the band have the fury on stage that made them the biggest rock band in the world back in the day? Absolutely not. Can the band still play some of the greatest hard rock songs that were ever written? You better believe it.
It looked like old times on stage—lots of smiles, fist bumps and old stories about the club days on Sunset Blvd. Roth’s vocals were stronger and more in line with the rest of the band than they have been in recent years—not perfect, but much better. Musically the band was on fire, although a few of the tempos seemed a bit on the slow side (“Dance The Night Away” is one that comes to mind). Although I would love to see the classic Van Halen lineup return with Michael Anthony, I must say that Wolfgang has really stepped it up and has become quite a monster on the bass. His youthfulness seems to be what is really pushing the band on stage. Whatever the secret is, it’s working—the band has not sounded better in over a decade. This is the tour that should have been recorded for their first Live album.
The last decade has been a whole new era for Van Halen: the departure of original bassist Anthony, the addition of Edward Van Halen’s 24-year-old son Wolfgang, original frontman Roth is back (as he should be), recording a studio album, getting back to touring and releasing their first true Live album. A lot has changed, but luckily for us, the band still has that same ol’ f’d up attitude that fans have come to love. That is what makes Van Halen great.
Text and photos by Kevin Estrada
*Disclaimer: The words expressed in photo blog reviews do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Music Connection Magazine.