There isn’t much you can say about rock gods Van Halen that hasn’t been said before. For 41 years the band has maintained their relevancy, even with some bumps in the road along the way. On Saturday night in Mansfield, MA however the legendary rockers were firing on all cylinders. If there’s any animosity between frontman David Lee Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen, they left it in the green room on this night. The pair frequently exchanged smiles, high fives, and other interactions throughout the night, at least appearing to be the best of friends.
David Lee Roth’s voice has taken its lumps in the media on this tour, but on this night he delivered a more than respectable performance. Perhaps he’d never win one of those reality show vocal competitions, but Roth has what most singers today lack; showmanship. Throughout the two hour set he did much more than sing, he danced, he swaggered, he changed outfits, he entertained. At times Van Halen’s live shows are like an advanced magic act with Roth serving as the slight of hand while Eddie Van Halen – the magician – performs his magic.
Eddie Van Halen is considered by some to be the greatest guitar player to have ever lived. Watching him play live, it would be hard to argue that he doesn’t at least belong in the conversation. Van Halen did it all throughout the 25 song set, including a 10+ minute solo that left nearly 14,000 people completely awestruck.
The setlist was blended well with hits for new-comers and deep cuts for the loyal Van Halen fans who’ve been coming out for years. Tracks like the set opening “Light Up the Sky,” the age old “In A Simple Rhyme” which the band played back in their club days, and “Drop Dead Legs” a popular track from the album “1984” that never got a chance to have a life in Van Halen sets in the 1980’s. Of course the hits were there as well, “Running With the Devil,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Panama” just to name a few. It was the show that was equally entertaining for those attending their first Van Halen show as those attending their 50th.
The band is rounded out by Eddie’s brother and founding member Alex Van Halen on drums, and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass, who took over bass playing duties in 2006 when Sammy Hagar won custody of Michael Anthony in his divorce with band. The other members of the Van Halen family have the respectable chops to keep the show on track, and most importantly keep Eddie in the right frame of mind to put on the best show possible. Eddie Van Halen is easily the most talented musician in the band, but together the group know how to keep an audience fully entertained and on Saturday night in Mansfield, MA that’s exactly what they did.