Ease the seat back, Diamond Dave and the boys (along with Kool & The Gang!) bring grand reunion tour to Boardwalk Hall.
When Van Halen was in its prime more than 30 years ago, the hedonistic party rocking band epitomized good times.
It was no surprise that Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn’s character of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame hired Van Halen to play a party.
Van Halen was many things during its heyday. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen expanded the sonic lexicon with his tapping and hammering skills.
The band always had a rock-solid rhythm section and perhaps the perfect frontman in David Lee Roth, who was provocative, energetic and (always) hilarious.
(“Have you seen Junior’s grades?”)
Van Halen, which will perform Saturday, March 24, at Historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, was surprising during its salad days and that hasn’t changed. Who would ever guess that the brothers Van Halen, Eddie and drummer Alex Van Halen, Roth and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on bass, could continue to charm and rock audiences in a similar manner nearly 40 years after forming in Los Angeles.
The venerable reunited band, which is touring behind A Different Kind of Truth, its first album with Roth in 28 years, still has the goods. The disc is as solid as the group. The band’s recent performance in Philadelphia included the hits and plenty of energy.
Eddie Van Halen is still an inspired player even after being lionized as one of the greatest guitarists ever. His brother and son are locked in as the rhythm section. And then there is Roth, who remains a charismatic raconteur. It’s not the same as when he was doing splits after jumping off the drum riser back in 1981. But he can still move in an elegant manner and crack one-liners.
It’s amazing that Van Halen has pulled off the reunion. It’s not an easy task, especially since there was considerable bad blood between Roth and the Van Halens.
Back in 1998 when Eddie and Alex chose to hire forgettable Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone to front the band, Eddie waxed about the group’s inevitable Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
“You can have Dave [Roth] and Sammy [Hagar] sing backup at the Hall of Fame behind Gary,” he said in reference to the band’s former lead singers. Well, that didn’t happen. It didn’t help that neither Roth nor the Van Halens showed up when the band was inducted. But the bad blood is like water under the bridge. It appears that the seminal act, which reunited in 2007, is cool with one another. However, you never know when the good vibes will dissipate.
Now is the time to catch Van Halen. With this band, the future is always uncertain. However, it’s fun to go back and enjoy the group’s rich past.
The band continues to stand out since most of its canon is inspired by party vibes and that’s an exception in this angst-without-a-clue era.
“Beautiful Girls,” “Everybody Wants Some,” “Hot For Teacher” and “Panama” are fun-loving songs that have rocked many a party over the past several decades.
It’s always been easy to escape with Van Halen, a band that loves to toast the good life, but the band’s talent and dedication are beyond question.
Roth, who is regarded as one of rock’s great party boys, put the time in to hone his craft.
“I studied music,” Roth tells this writer. “It helped that I grew up loving it, but I examined it closely. The problem today is that kids don’t study and they should. They should study the Beach Boys for harmonies. They should study ZZ Top up until 1983 for guitar work. There’s a lot they should study. But a lot of young recording artists don’t study; they just do it on their own. That’s not right. That’s like picking up an intricate Nikon camera and just firing away. You need to know the instrument. You need to know how to make music.”
That’s something Van Halen has always had a handle on. The members of the band have each put in their time with music and it has shown since the group emerged out of the Los Angeles scene during the mid-’70s.
“It’s obvious how much I love music,” Roth says. “It’s my passion.”
Considering the band’s rocky history, it’ll be interesting to see if the current VH run is long-term. Just due to the band’s hits, rock status and party-boy shenanigans, VH will always be able to play arenas. The group can call its shots and it appears that the Van Halens and Roth are getting along. That’s good news for fans, many of whom have expressed their preference for Roth over his replacement Sammy Hagar, who has had two stints with the band.
“I always thought I had a great chemistry with the guys in [Van Halen] Roth says. “I don’t think anybody else has that.”
Good (and cartoonish) old-fashioned fun in rock is in short supply these days, but Roth, who personally suggested that fellow 1970s and ’80s hit-makers and party-starters Kool & The Gang open for Van Halen on the current tour (see sidebar) has plenty of it.
“I hope it comes back someday,” Roth says. “That’s the kind of music I get. What’s wrong with having a good time? Life is too short. You got to make room for some rock music.”
Interview with Kool & The Gang’s Robert “Kool” Bell
From the East Side of Youngstown, Ohio, but raised in New Jersey, Robert “Kool” Bell has been involved with music since his early days in the Jersey City band the Jazziacs, which he founded with his brother Ronald in 1964. “We and Atlantic City go way back,” says Bell, 61, during a phone call from Montreal, Canada, where Kool & The Gang opened its 10th show for Van Halen on the seminal ’70s/’80s bands’ current 50-date tour. “Atlantic City has always been great for us ... [ever since the] Wonder Garden days. [It was] probably in the late ’60s into the ’70s when we played the Wonder Garden. We were the Jazziacs Soul Town Band when we played the Wonder Garden. We played Club Harlem, too.” After the jazz-based band morphed into Kool & The Gang in 1968, Bell and company took years to reach their peak. After a decade of several R&B and pop hits (“Higher Plane,” Jungle Boogie,” “Spirit of the Boogie,” and “Open Seasame,” the latter from from the Grammy-winning soundtrack to 1977’s Saturday Night Fever) the group added a pair of vocalists, including former New Jersey lounge singer J.T. Taylor, which helped the group to reach an entirely new level of success. What followed was a string of mega-selliong albums and video-era hits, many of which have never left the musicsphere. From the funk-drenched “Get Down on It” and the anthemic “Celebrate” and “Ladies Night,” to later hits such as “Cherish,” “Joanna” and “Fresh,” Kool & The Gang’s repertoire grew into a wedding and Bar Mitzvah DJ check list. How many times has Bell been at a formal event and heard “Celebration” either via the DJ or played by the band? “Several times,” Bell says with a laugh. “The ones that you go to they got to at least play ‘Celebration.’ ... I just sit back and enjoy.” David Lee Roth gambled that Kool & The Gang would be an ideal opening act for the band’s current reunion tour. “When we were rehearsing in L.A. before the tour, [Roth told me] that [Van Halen’s] fan base is 60-percent ladies, and we have the song ‘Ladies Night.’ ‘You guys were the pop-funk group of the ’80s, and we were the rock party band of the ’80s,’ he said. ‘Kool, it makes sense to me.’ And I said, ‘David, it does to me too, so let’s go party.’” — Jeff Schwachter
Weiss’ work has been the subject of books and photo galleries, and, owing to his friendship with Boogie Nights owner Dave Pena, some of his work from the 1970s and ’80s will be on display when Boogie Nights opens.
The Gang of Outlaws Tour, which also features Gretchen Wilson and 3 Doors Down, comes to the Taj May 26.
When the Gang left the stage, the audience was still in smiling disbelief. People around me were remarking that, ‘if the show ended now, it would be a good night! We still have Van Halen to look forward to!’ And boy were they right.
This weekend's party is bringing you The Hot Tub Fringe Stage, a sick metal playlist we've compiled for your enjoyment — and some gnarly pictures of some of the greatest heavy metal hairstyles throughout the ages.
Kool and the Gang will be opening for the legendary hard rockers, which also includes Eddie Van Halen, his son Wolfgang replacing Michael Anthony on bass, and Alex Van Halen on drums.
"I have a fixation with the color red. When I get into a red room I feel different, I act different, it gives me comfort. I have about 65 red guitars..."
What's happening at Atlantic City casino lounges, nightclubs and dance clubs each week
Bell on opening up for Van Halen, new music and video projects, his mid-'60s band the Jazziacs, which played Atlantic City's jazz clubs at the time, and his legendary Godfather.
Laughing with George Lopez
Fight Night at Boardwalk Hall
Rush to the Taj