As Van Halen’s ever flamboyant lead singer, David Lee Roth sat alone—center stage at a sold out concert at the legendary Hollywood Bowl—he shared touching memories about the band’s career, their beginnings playing local Hollywood Clubs and High School gigs in the San Gabriel Valley. Armed with a set list of over 20 Van Halen classics that spanned the true Van Halen/David Lee Roth eras, Van Halen was home.
It was touching, personal, honest, making the crowd feel that each and every person in attendance was personally invited into Diamond Dave’s living room for story time and drinks. These are the moments that make a Van Halen show special; this is why—40 years after their beginnings—Van Halen still stands the test of time.
It’s hard to expect a band to sound anything like it did 40 years ago, but vintage Van Halen was certainly present in “Light Up The Sky,“ “Feel Your Love Tonight” and “Somebody Get Me A Doctor.” Roth’s voice, which has been criticized since the tour started, was at its finest at some of the song's highest notes and was spot on during 1984’s “Drop Dead Legs” and “I’ll Wait.” There aren’t too many 60 year olds that can entertain night after night and still belt out “Women In Love”—that’s an accomplishment.
Van Halen played more than two hours of deep cuts and fan favorites that blended classic rock ‘n roll with eccentric showmanship. This eclectic set was a labor of love created by 24-year-old Wolfgang Van Halen, prodigy son of Edward Van Halen. The ousting of original bass player Michael Anthony is still up for discussion, but there is no argument that young Wolfgang has brought new energy, enthusiasm and life back to the band.
The Van Halen of 2015 has adapted to the realities of being middle-aged musicians. Rather than relying on mind blowing athletic feats, explosive pyro or extravagant stage design, the band has chosen to do what they do best: play music like only Van Halen can. Despite the 18,000 fans at this show, Van Halen still has the ability to make a huge concert venue feel like a small backyard party. The Hollywood Bowl crowd stood on their feet and cheered their loudest when the band simply stood center stage and played their hearts out.
Text and photos by Kevin Estrada
*Disclaimer: The words expressed in photo blog reviews do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Music Connection Magazine.