Van Halen / Kool & The Gang (Indianapolis_2.22.12)

I WISH I was this close…

In 2007, my wife & I got to see the revamped Van Halen in Cincinnati. The Van Halen’s had brought Diamond David Lee Roth back out on tour and had promised to put on a great show. At the time, I was beside myself with excitement and HAD to get a good seat. We sat in the first row off the floor directly in front of the stage and the audio mix was HORRIBLE. I couldn’t hear ANYTHING Dave was singing and I was disappointed that the audio quality wasn’t better. So I blamed the arena and that was that.

MY view for $30

This year, Van Halen is BACK out on tour, promoting their first new album since “1984” to feature DLR on vocals, and I wasn’t rushing out to buy a ticket. I wasn’t impressed with the first single (“Tattoo”) and I listened to some of the other tracks online and I wasn’t blown away. But I happened to be in Indianapolis for Van Halen’s 3rd show out on the road for this tour so I decided to buy a cheap ticket and see what was up. Plus…I have never seen Kool & The Gang live so I figured if anything I get to see them in a better venue and see a band I haven’t seen already.

Since they came out first, let me tell you about Kool & The Gang. Not knowing much of the history of the band, I CAN tell you that I didn’t know what to expect. Seriously…I didn’t know the band still existed so to have them pop up fronting Van Halen is kind of weird. Needless to say, they haven’t lost their touch. This 11 piece R&B band has been together so long that they could probably play these tunes in their sleep and they’d sound great doing it. They did an abbreviated set list of some of their classics, including “Jungle Boogie,” “Ladies Night,” “Get Down On It” and ended with the classic “Celebration.” I loved the saxophone in the band and they’ve added a rapper to make a couple songs a little more modern. Even with a sparse crowd, it seemed like they were gonna make the most of the larger venue and they had as much fun as they could considering the audience was more rocker than they were funky.

My friends’ view for over $100. 10th row ain’t so bad!

Up next was Van Halen and I have to be perfectly honest…I now know it wasn’t the venue. David Lee Roth wears a headset mic on stage and I honestly could barely hear him half the time. I don’t know if it’s because his vocal range has become so much more limited in his old age or if they’re simply showcasing the band’s guitar work (which IS remarkable), but when I can’t understand a word of “Chains”…there’s something wrong. So between the sheer volume of the guitars and DLR’s out of tune vocals, there’s IS something to be desired in the mix. It’s also an issue when there are certain aspects of songs that are completely disregarded (when they leave off the “Class Dismissed!” from “Hot For Teacher?” That’s just wrong!) and there wasn’t much to the stage show with only a huge video screen flashing photos (and not even OLD photos) of the band periodically mixed with live cameras. There wasn’t a lot of flash until the end and even THAT was recycled from the 2007 tour.

As for the set list, you know all the songs. Well…most of them. They also included several songs from their new album which, quite frankly, MIGHT be decent songs but they were SO LOUD all I could hear was the occasional “Chinatown!” or “Tattoo!” refrain and I eventually figured out that one song was actually the only track on the album I would endorse, “The Trouble With Never.” Needless to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the new tracks but either way…they deserve the benefit of the doubt and if you like Van Halen, maybe you’ll like these newer songs (if DLR remembers the lyrics. He actually forgot them at one point during “Romeo Delight” but he made light of it and it actually was one of the high points of the show!).

So…would I recommend seeing Van Halen? Absolutely…if you’ve never seen them before. Just make sure you bring ear plugs. But it’s worth the $30 cheap seats ticket price to see Eddie play the guitar, watch Wolfgang come into his own as Michael Anthony’s replacement, watch Alex bang the drums and watch DLR do half round kicks (hey…he IS pushing 60) and dance around with as much energy as any performer out there today. Seriously…the guy LOVES to entertain and despite the fact that he can come across as a little corny at times, it’s hard to repress how much the guy loves singing and dancing with this buddies. So go see Van Halen & Kool & The Gang…if you’ve never seen them before. But if you were lucky enough to see them back in their heyday? Don’t bother. As it is, this is one loud Las Vegas show that is STILL working out the kinks…since 2007.

Awesome guitar licks by a rock god! (Photo courtesy of Wayne Luna)

The Set Lists…

Kool & The Gang

Fresh
Tonight
Emergency
Misled
Too Hot
Hollywood Swingin’
Jungle Boogie
Ladies’ Night
Get Down On It
Celebrate

Van Halen

You Really Got Me
Runnin’ With the Devil
She’s The Woman
Romeo Delight
Tattoo
Everybody Wants Some!!!
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
China Town
Hear About It Later
Oh, Pretty Woman
*Alex Drum Solo*
Unchained
The Trouble with Never
Dance The Night Away
I’ll Wait
Hot For Teacher
Women In Love
Girl Gone Bad
Beautiful Girls
Ice Cream Man
Panama
*AWESOME Guitar Solo*
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Jump

The Big Finale!

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