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He wanted to be serious for a second, he told the Rose Garden crowd, and then he said how glad the band was to be there. Granted, it was at least 10 seconds, not just one; but it was probably the only serious moment from a band best known these days for its back history of internal drama as for its ferocious riffs and a cheekiness that made them hard not to like back in the day.
But if there was any inter-band tension to be had on Saturday, the band kept it in check, delivering instead Eddie Van Halen's fiery guitar skills, David Lee Roth's combination of yowling vocals and strutting exhibitionism and two hours of rock looking for a party. It's all too easy for a reunion tour to look sad or desperate or just plain old, but Van Halen avoided those traps handily.
The band members looked downright jubilant to be on an arena stage again, and they were prepared and polished. Van Halen, especially when playing with Roth, doesn't take itself seriously enough for that, and their show was solid. Sure, songs such as "Ice Cream Man" preceded by a Roth story about growing up in the 'burbs and chilling beer in an ice cream truck and "Jamie's Cryin'" draw from the band's heyday more than 20 years ago, but there was enough energy on stage to make clear the band isn't shuffling off the mortal coil just yet.
They won't get carded in a bar, but they're not ready for the senior discount at the buffet, either. Not every song from the band's back catalog worked. And why open with "You Really Got Me"?
Sure, Van Halen's played it before, but the song is far more associated with the Kinks. Starting with "Panama," instead of playing that song later in the night, could have stamped the show more strongly with the Van Halen identity. But realistically, Van Halen was never about intellectual probing or deep emotional engagement or personal transformation.