Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Feb. 1, 2008
Van HalenAT&T Center, San Antonio, Jan. 24
Sincerity doesn't exactly define hard rock, but last Thursday night at San Antonio's rafters-topped AT&T Center, Van Halen unleashed the love. "We're in Texas!" exclaimed the Pasadena, Calif., quartet's original frontman, David Lee Roth, at the start of a two-hour blast back to 1978-1984. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen shook Roth's hand; walked back to the drum riser and clasped fingers with his older brother, Alex; then planted a big ol' smooch on the plump, acne-sieged cheek of his 16-year-old son, Wolfgang, forced fill-in for the group's original bassist Michael Anthony. "I'm the One," harmony-boosted electric vaudeville from Van Halen's seminal, hair-raising debut, then began the toppling of three-minute pop dominoes shot through Eddie's fission riffs: "Romeo Delight," second LP early trifecta "Somebody Get Me a Doctor," "Beautiful Girls," and "Dance the Night Away." Van Halen's Japanese sci-fi monster guitar on "Atomic Punk" rousted 1970s FM muscle rock like underground nuclear testing. Roth's eroded vocal range detracted not one horn held high from his revolving Vegas wardrobe, line of hats, and 1,000% delivery effort and equally high-watt grin. No one was happier about Roth's reunion with the Van Halens at the 20-year mark than Roth himself. His acoustic intro to "Ice Cream Man" recalled the suspiciously overcoiffed Southern Californian's teen hood – from which an entire scene sprang on L.A.'s notorious Sunset Strip – with endearing sentimentality. Three or four melodic blunders ("Little Guitars," set closer "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love") couldn't match the earnest delivery of "I'll Wait" or prize surprise of "Little Dreamer." Roth's huge red flag waving on sole encore "Jump" pledged 1984 with carefree nostalgia.