Hagar Thrills; Roth's Out of Style

June 03, 2002


June 3, 2002

Frontmen sizzle and fizzle.

Everyman Hagar still thrills; Roth's flash out of style

By Brad Cawn
There's good news for disgruntled former Van Halen frontmen everywhere: If
David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar can make amends, there's hope for the happily
washed-up rock star in all of us.

An interesting marriage of convenience was on display Saturday: an odd
couple with no love lost between them, who yet needed each other to fill out
an amphitheater the size of the Tweeter Center. They also needed Eddie Van
Halen's songs to make it work. He was quite the phantom menace this evening
-- the subject of veiled insults from both vocalists, his touch was all over
the separate set lists. And despite the ambivalence of the stars, guitarists
Brian Young and Victor Johnson both faithfully reproduced every lick and
riff from the VH canon.

Roth, who guided Van Halen through its early breakthroughs, looked
particularly ancient this evening, seeming none too dissimilar from Ricardo
Montalban's titular figure in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

Roth flubbed his lines and karate kicked the air, totally oblivious to fact
that what was once considered "flamboyant" is now meek and corny by even the
most lenient standards. Time has passed him by.

But no matter: Roth is so beyond relevance that even he knows it, hence a
set culled entirely of pre-1984 Halen except for his own "Yankee Rose." His
ever-thinning voice was buried deep in the mix and his band raced through 20
numbers at a NASCAR-like speed. Roth showed flashes of the old energy in the
opening for "Hot for Teacher," then sleepwalked through most of the
blitzkrieg set ("Mean Street," "I'm the One"), finally waking up for a taut
version of "Atomic Punk" before going limp again as he closed with "Jump."

Hagar, on the other hand, hasn't changed a bit; it might as well be 1982 for
the journeyman rocker. It's become part of his charm, this innocent
impermeability: he's still the regular guy who just wants to rock. There's
never been anything flashy here, which is why, as vanilla as he is, he's
still around.

He's probably performed Saturday's 17 song set a thousand times, a
predictably automatic mix of his early solo hits ("I Can't Drive 55"), Van
Halen chestnuts ("5150," "Dreams") and his latter-day numbers ("Mas
Tequila") done so affably that his charm sells the songs. Joined by Halen
bassist Michael Anthony, his four-piece band played it easy and simple:
flying through "Top of the World," giving "Little White Lies" a bluesy
flavor and playing "Poundcake" to a backdrop of "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

His set begged the question: why quibble over the value of heavy-metal
nostalgia when it sounds so gosh darn pleasant?