ATLANTIC CITY — When I had initially heard the news that Kool & the Gang would be opening for Van Halen, I honestly didn’t have many expectations. The pairing was unconventional, to say the least. I mean, what are a bunch of funk musicians with a brassy horn section doing on the same tour as Diamond Dave? I balked at the idea. I laughed about it. But oh, how wrong I was …
Pictured right: Kool & the Gang was as cool as ever last Saturday night, March 24
Fast-forward to 7:30pm Saturday. The house is about halfway full, the rest of the crowd milling around Boardwalk Hall’s vast entryway purchasing their $12 beers and VH swag. An unassuming gentleman dressed like a motown throw-back from the ‘70s quietly strolls on stage and takes a seat behind a drum set. He adjusts the seat, stretches, and EXPLODES into the funkiest intro groove that’s rattled those walls in years. The crowd reacted in surprise and disbelief as the lights dimmed and the rest of the ‘Gang took the stage and proceeded to bring the house down. For the next hour, Boardwalk Hall had transformed into Studio 54. The place was alive and dancing, singing along to Jungle Boogie, bumping’ and grindin’ to Ladies Night and having spastic fits during Celebrate.
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.
Pictured left: David Lee Roth (left) and Eddie Van Halen
After a brief pause and a beer run, the audience had returned and the lights dimmed once again. The energy in the room grew to near-nuclear levels as Alex Van Halen took the stage and began the show with a thunderous drum solo. Then came that all-too-familiar banshee wail of Eddie’s guitar as he and his son Wolfgang ran onstage. As the noise of the band grew, so too did the screams from the audience until a voice screamed from somewhere backstage, “LET’S GO! LET’S GO!” and an odd blue-sequined dancing whirlwind came stampeding towards the front of the stage … none other than the one and only David Lee Roth in all his glory. Eddie immediately begins the iconic opening riff for “Unchained” and DLR leapt into the air and did a jump-kick like he wasn’t a day over 30.
For the next two and a half hours, the band shredded their way through a near-perfect setlist of all the old favorites with a couple of the new jams peppered in for good measure. Alex and Wolfie churned through the rhythms like a rocket powered freight-train while Eddie and Dave had a running competition to see who could hit higher notes, at one point even having a back-and-forth scat vs. guitar wail-off.
Three very notable thoughts crossed my mind during their set. One, Eddie looks healthier and more alive than he has since the mid-1980s. It’s a breath of fresh air to see him in good health again, and man oh man was he on fire. Two, the chemistry was palpable. Not once did I see any of them stop smiling from ear-to-ear. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a band happier to be playing for such an appreciative audience. It was downright infectious. And third, despite most of the band approaching the AARP age, they had more life in them than pop stars half their age. Diamond Dave doesn’t need auto-tuning and a backing track and he was dancing like someone was shooting at his feet. His song and dance routine put the 20-something pop princesses to shame. Take note, ladies. Autotune does not a good singer make, and dancing is not an excuse for a lack of talent. These guys have it in spades.
The show concluded with an encore of Jump, an explosion of confetti and Roth waving a comically oversized flag over the first four rows. When they took their bow, the boys all hugged, and you could feel how glad this tour is making them. Suddenly, Kool & the Gang made sense … this wasn’t a nostalgia bath or some goofy stunt. This tour is a party. It’s a celebration. And they wanted all of us to feel like we were invited to be their special guests. And you know what? It worked.
Dave said it best, “Yeah, we’re running’ a little bit hot tonight.”
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.
Roth: '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.'
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.
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.
By Jeff Schwachter THE CALENDAR MAY TELL YOU THAT IT'S closing in on fall, but at the Borgata, the outdoor concert season is just beginning to heat up. Following a recent performance by Yes at the casino's new outdoor concert venue -- dubbed Outdoors and Live -- the new kid on the Atlantic City block still has several major acts lined up in the coming weeks including Fleetwood Mac, Alicia Keys and this weekend's double shot of Van Halen on Friday night followed by the Allman Brothers -- with special guests, the Wailers -- on Saturday night. Both of the bands coming to town this weekend to perform under the stars are recharged, reinvigorated and ready to roll out the old jams. As for the warhorse band, the Allman Brothers, they're flying high after a recent lineup change -- so long Dickey Betts, hello Warren Haynes -- as well as two critically acclaimed recent releases, one a studio album entitled Hittin' the Note and the other, One Way Out, a two-disc live set. For Van Halen, the band's got lead singer Sammy Hagar back at the helm after an eight-year absence and has been hitting stadiums and arenas across the country...
By most accounts, Sammy Hagar's image is that of a wild man always up for a party. Known as the "Red Rocker," his hard rock hits, both as a solo artist and as lead singer with Montrose and Van Halen, convey his rock 'n' roll allegiance. Apparently, his fans appreciate a good party, too, as his 2004 reunion tour with Van Halen ranked as the sixth-largest grossing of the year, earning $54.3 million. Among Hagar's most recent CDs is The Essential Red Collection, released last August. It features 20 songs, all digitally remastered from original tapes, dating from 1973 to 1999. It contains all of Hagar's Top 40 hits and trademark tracks, plus "Call My Name" and "Thinking of You," two previously unreleased recordings from the 1970s. During that time, Hagar recorded with Montrose. He later gained success as a solo artist with his 1984 album VOA. In 1985, he surprised fans and critics alike by accepting an offer to join Van Halen. Hagar remained Van Halen's lead singer for the next decade. During that period, all Van Halen studio albums, 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance, shot straight to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and Live: Right...
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