red lights


Together again and standing
on top of the world

Van Halen
Assembly Hall
Champaign, IL
Sept. 21, 2004

Van Halen Van Halen

Story and Photos By Andy Argyrakis

Van Halen has reunited once again. Surprised? Probably not considering this has happened almost more than even diehard fans can count. Let's see, first there was David Lee Roth, but he left for a solo career filled with forgettable songs like "California Girls." Then came Sammy Hagar, who came from a much more affluent solo run ("I Can't Drive 55," "Heavy Metal") to lead the group through the commercially focused late 80s through mid-90s. Then all of a sudden without warning, Roth re-entered the picture at the MTV Music Awards and cut a few new tracks for a greatest hits collection. Where was Hagar? Well, back to flying alone, which Roth would be after just a few months reunited. Come the group's next full-length album, Diamond Dave was shelved and the somewhat random addition of Extreme's Gary Cherone stepped up to the microphone. The outing flopped, Hager was asked back, then dumped before new music was made. In a soap operatic turn of events, the Red Rocker hit the road with none other than Roth playing separate sets of Van Halen's catalogue.
Van Halen Well how did that lead to the latest comeback for a Hagar and Halen that's been selling out almost every show since in hit the road earlier this summer? Who the hell knows, but it's been met by a rapturous response by fans who've been waiting nearly a decade for a proper line up to hit the road. Throughout over two hours they were met with most of the hits anyone would need to hear, culled mostly from the brand new double disc retrospective "The Best of Both Worlds." And whether this is a band one loves or hates, credit is to at least be given to the guys for having a great time right along with those watching then rather than going through the motions.
"Jump" lit the first fuse of the night, propelling Hagar around the stage like a spasming jellybean slapping hands wildly, waving banners and flags that welcomed the return. He would continue to demonstrate such testosterone surges throughout a whirlwind of the last twenty-five years, the inspiring "Dreams," the bawdy "Runaround" and the breezy ballad "When It's Love." "Right Here" took the cake as the most meaningful moment of the show, flashing socially conscious messages of reform and public safety on the big screens behind them.
The musicianship of the remaining cast was both a blessing and a curse depending on what segment was being played out. On "Eruption," Eddie Van Halen was shrewd in his lightening bolt shredding speed, "Panama" benefited from Alex Van Halen's barreling backhand and "Top of the World" penetrated with Michael Anthony's sporty bass shudder. However, it was the several minute solos that everyone had to endure along the way that proved to be the most tedious, killing the momentum previously built up with the above anthems. Aside from some pretentious instrumental babbling, the other main drawback was a trio of new selections, all of which were atrocious for either silly lyrics or predictable arrangements. The blazing "Up For Breakfast" was filled with absurd sexual references, "It's About Time" was filled with paint by the numbers classic rock and "Learning to See" was a trite, mid-tempo framed sleeper. With that being said, the guys have room for improvement come their next trip to the studio, but at least for the majority of the concert performance, they gave the faithful plenty of excuses to "Dance the Night Away."

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