The very idea of this tour actually happening is straight out of the “never in a million years” file, but against all odds the egos and the animosity have been well enough set aside for both David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar — the embittered and terminated ex-Van Halen singers — to go out on the road together and, with their own bands, crank out the old VH hits from their personal glory days. For better or worse, they just don’t put on rock shows like this anymore.
Hagar, the likable former Montrose singer who left a successful solo career to join Van Halen after Roth was axed by brothers Eddie and Alex, surrounded himself with onstage bleachers full of his screaming fans, and he slung back plenty of tequila-based, blue-colored drinks during his 80-minute show, which featured VH hits circa 1986-95, as well as a couple of his own older tracks.
Roth, the flamboyant singer who led the Pasadena band during its 1978-85 creative heyday, strutted proudly around the Universal stage, his trademark long blonde hair (well, most of it) and karate kicks still included. Of course, the first two or three Van Halen albums endure as hands-down the best the band has ever made, so it was Diamond Dave’s closing set that drew the loudest reaction from the sold-out house.
But Sammy — who actually sold more Van Halen albums than Roth — is no slouch, and his opening turn was chock full of popular AOR regulars. He opened with a string of solo tracks, including “Three Lock Box,” “Heavy Metal” and “Red,” then he and his Waboritas band were joined by Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, who toasted Sammy with a blue drink and then played bass on VH Mach-II songs such as “Runaround,” “5150” and “Why Can’t This Be Love.”
“Poundcake” was a solid rocker, however the video footage behind the band showing “Girls Gone Wild”-style clips, was beyond tasteless.
Many local David Lee Roth fans are still trying to shake the unsettling sight of his ill-fated House of Blues show a few years back, wherein a shaky, semi-retired Roth was but a shell of his former cocksure self. But this tour seems to have put a charge back into him, and he was as animated as ever on Monday. What’s more, his voice sounded surprisingly strong on great VH tracks like “Everybody Wants Some,” “Hot For Teacher,” and “Dance the Night Away.”
The first Van Halen album deservedly received extra set-list attention, with seven of that classic album’s eleven tracks (“Running With the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love”) included in his 85-minute production, allowing also for such lesser-known tracks as “I’m the One” and “Little Dreamer” to be heard. DLR even played (quite well) the acoustic guitar intro to “Ice Cream Man.”
The first leg of this tour wraps Saturday in Washington at the Gorge; the next U.S. leg commences July 27 in Oklahoma City and runs through at least early September, including an Aug. 10 date in Atlantic City, N.J.