- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2007

David Lee Roth can thank his lucky Netherlanders. Last night at Verizon Center, Mr. Roth was back as the triumphantly cheesy lead singer of 80s hard-rock superstars Van Halen. Before his rapprochement with brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen, however, Mr. Roth was less than just a gigolo; he was a human wax figure willing to croon with anyone whod ask from bluegrass pickers to the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra. Then came this falls semi-reunion tour, on which original bassist Michael Anthony has been unceremoniously discarded to make room for Eddies 16-year-old son by Valerie Bertanelli, Wolfgang Van Halen. Newbie nepotism aside, its hard to knock these fiftysomething bubble-metalists. They debuted in 1978, a year when punk rock was scorching the earth of mainstream rock. Van Halen figured a third-way: They eschewed the self-importance but held onto the bombast. Things have changed little since then. Seemingly, that is: Van Halen circa 2007 would have you believe that the band went on hiatus in 1984, and that the singer Sammy Hagar never existed. The show opened with the chordal crunch of the Kinks cover You Really Got Me, and the band would eventually tear its way through fully eight tracks from its eponymous debut hits like Runnin with the Devil, Aint Talkin Bout Love, Jamies Cryin and less-frequently-flogged cuts like Atomic Punk. Lots more Roth-era faves followed: Beautiful Girls, Dance the Night Away, Hot for Teacher, Panama and, finally, the synth-driven slab Jump. For its two-hour set, the band quite purposefully stuck to a pre-Hagar script. Wearing a succession of spangly waistcoasts unbuttoned for six-pack-ab exposure Mr. Roth, 53, looked like a Vegas bullfighter and acted every bit like the unapologetic crotch-rock star. At one point, as he stalked an elliptical pit in front of the stage, he even placed a fans cell phone in his pants. If Mr. Roths unchecked ego was an insurmountable obstacle for Eddie and Alex, who more than 10 years ago came within a platinum-hairs breadth from burying the hatchet with the singer, one could never have guessed it last night, judging from all the grins and back-pats and microphone-saliva swapping. Eddie, 52, emerged shirtless and in baggy camouflage pants. Post-rehab and post-cancer, the legendary guitarist looked fit and ferocious as he wound his way through many of his classic riffs and trademark, two-hand-tapping instrumental theatrics. After trading bluesy phrases, in the call-and-response style of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, Mr. Roth and co. quoted the Who classic Magic Bus with a twist: You can have it, Mr. Roth sang, adding, you can have a little extra for free tonight. At a time when affectless shoegazing indie-rock is the order of the day, Van Halen is nothing if not an anachronistic throwback. Not that anyone in last nights capacity audience seemed to mind, of course. Nor did anyone seem to protest the absence of Mr. Anthony; young Wolfgang handled not only the latters basslines but his high harmonies as well much to his fathers proud delight. Van Halen is now three-quarters a family affair. And David Lee Roth is, once again, very much his own equation.



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