Rock of aged - vintage Van Halen voiced

June 02, 2002

June 2, 2002

Review: Rock of aged - vintage Van Halen voiced

By Doug Pullen

CLARKSTON - Take two jilted lead singers - Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth -
stir in a catalog of enduring hard rock nuggets, about 16,000 ravenous,
liquored-up fans, guest appearances by homeboys Ted Nugent and Kid Rock,
some scantily clad "waitresses" and the specter of a dominating Red Wings
victory, and you've got one rock 'n' roll celebration.

That's what Friday's show by Van Halen alumni Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth
at DTE Energy Music Theatre was.

The former frontmen of what once was one of the greatest hard rock bands
brought their hits and their emotional baggage to the capacity crowd, the
second stop on their improbable tour and a welcome salve for a summer that
seemed like it was never going to get here.

The clumsily named "Song for Song: The Heavyweight Champs of Rock and Roll"
tour (lawyers put the kibosh on the more logical "Sam and Dave" tour, though
fans have dubbed it the "Sans Halen" tour) looks like a cynical money-grab,
and sure box-office hit, on paper.

It proved to be a celebratory money-grab and a hit Friday night, maybe even
a kick in the pants to the guys the fans really wanted to see - guitar
wizard Eddie Van Halen, his drummer brother Alex, nice-guy bassist Michael
Anthony and one or both of these singers.

VH diehards have to settle for this monthlong tour, which opened Wednesday
in Cleveland.

Their beloved, and bewildering, Van Halen has been on a seemingly unending
hiatus for three years. You just know the group will be back some day. But
who'll be out front singing and leading the charge?

If Friday's crowd response was any indication, Sammy is the overwhelming
favorite. Finally happy after his firing six years ago, Hagar has found
peace with his own band, the Waboritas, the resumption of a moderately
successful solo career, his Mexican nightclub (shamelessly plugged
throughout his 90-minute set) and his popular line of tequila (ditto).

But it was obvious Friday night that after playing clubs and theaters for
the last five years, Sammy clearly relished the buzz of playing for a big
crowd. Hagar, who performed much of the set in a Red Wings jersey tossed
onstage by a fan, happily reminisced about the band in an occasionally
X-rated 18-song set that blended solo and VH songs, emphasizing the line
"yesterday is dead and gone" during an emotionally charged version of the VH
hit "Right Now" that was the evening's high point.

It was a typically raucous outing for the self-styled Red Rocker, who was
introduced by Messrs. Rock and Nugent, who offered a Red Wings update.
Nugent returned for a ragged, rowdy encore of the Troggs' "Wild Thing," his
red, white and blue Les Paul horribly out of tune.

It's a good thing Hagar went on last (the rivals are alternating from night
to night), because Roth's performance had none of the emotion or
over-the-top explosiveness.

Though energetic, Roth's 90-minute set was downright embarassing at times.
Despite the twirling leg kicks and drum riser leaps of old, he's just not
Diamond Dave anymore. More like Cubic Zirconium Dave; or the next Ozzy
Osbourne. He's lost the voice, most of the swagger and, it seems, the

It's no secret that Roth's career has been all downhill since he left Van
Halen. Despite a half-dozen solo albums, his 19-song set consisted almost
entirely of Van Halen material, a third of which came from the first VH
album, the one that introduced the sexy, gabby, charming showman to the
world nearly a quarter century ago.

While Hagar had no problem updating VH songs like "Finish What Ya Started"
(letting guitarist Vic Johnson funk up the chicken-picking guitar part),
Roth and his young backing trio sounded more like an average Van Halen
tribute band than a guy trying to reclaim his legacy.