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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Tunes From ITunes_February 2012

Actually she’s good. I mean…very, VERY good…

Hello there. It’s been a while. Sorry about that but the end of 2011 found very little music to rave about but now we’re well into February and I figured it was time to find some music to get you through these cold winter months! Here are just a few tunes you should (or shouldn’t) go download…RIGHT NOW!

Frankie Rose – “Know Me” (alternative)
Dreamy vocals and a familiar 80’s retro backbeat makes this a familiar sounding song which comes as no surprise since Rose is in the Dum Dum Girls (which had a new album last year off the Sub Pop label). It’s a slice of alt-pop heaven and is available this week (2.7.12) on ITunes!

Red Wanting Blue – “Playlist” (rock)
This band hails from Athens, OH…home of Ohio University, which is where this “critic” attended college! Although somewhat repetitive lyrically, I love the hook and it reminds me of the late 90’s guitar bands. Think Collective Soul with a hint more blues.

The Fray – “1961” (pop)
Not as much piano on this track (which is nice) and this song ALSO sounds kind of 90’s-ish. Not a complete changeup for this band but the chorus soars and I like that it’s subtle but not a slow ballad.

Chevelle – “Revenge” (alt-metal)
Sounding a LOT like Tool, this Chicago-based band reaches for the stars on this track a pulls it off. Soaring guitars and vocalist Pete Loeffler channels his best Maynard James Keenan to pull this out of a pile of wannabe’s and makes it their own.

Johan Reinhold – “Shoot Me Down” (alternative)
I dig this track. It’s kind of mellow and fits my mood right now. And there’s a remix of it that is kind of eerie that I also like a lot.

Jesse Thomas – Fire (acoustic)
Jesse has a cool, raspy voice and this song soothes my soul. Very nice and FREE on ITunes this week!

Bruno Mars – “The Other Side” (pop)
After seeing him perform on the Grammy’s, I decided I wanted to know more about him than just his hits and I found this track. With appearances by Cee Lo Green and B.o.B., this one is probably gonna be a hit sometime!

deadmau5 – “Raise Your Weapon” (dance/electronica)
Okay…so I saw deadmau5 on the Grammy’s and wanted to see  what the guy with the Mickey Mouse head was all about and downloaded his most popular track. I get it. It’s really DISCO with a lot of beeps and whistles! Nice…

Mikey Wax – “Counting On You” (pop)
My wife found this one. Dunno how SHE heard it before me but this guy is on par with Pete Yorn (who is a favorite of mine). First class track if you like radio ready pop music!

Van Halen – “The Trouble With Never” (rock)
Oh how I WANTED to like the new album but unfortunately…I don’t. And the first single is HORRIBLE. But with that being said, there are a couple tracks worth salvaging in this mess and this is my favorite! Old school DLR doing it the way I remember it! Wish they all were so good…

Tim McGraw – “Felt Good On My Lips” (country)
Let’s face it…most of McGraw’s music starts to all sound the same after awhile and this one is fairly typical but I like the summer-time feel it has and I imagine it will be a big hit.

FM Attack – “A Million Miles Away” (synth pop)
Somewhere since the last time I posted I went through a synth pop faze and started downloading some 80’s retro tracks like this one. FM Attack, Tesla Boy, etc and this one is my favorite of the bunch!

LMFAO – “I’m In Miami Trick” (dance)
Actually, the title is “I’m In Miami Bitch” but I can’t really play THAT in my car when taking the kids to school. Actually…I can’t play the edited version EITHER! LOL! But this is a party anthem much like every other song these guys put out and it’s better than “Sexy And I Know It.”

Sleigh Bells – “Comeback Kids” (alternative)
EVERYONE loves the Sleigh Bells! Oh what joyous noise they make! And this first track off their upcoming new album is every bit worth the attention. Can’t wait to hear what else they have in store for us…

Jay Park – “I Love You” (pop)
Yes…he’s Japanese and yes…he SINGS in Japanese. But ya know what…the language barrier is broken on this track because this is just as worthy of your attention as just about anything on the radio these days! Go check it out and tell me the lyrics really matter…

ALBUMS YOU NEED TO BUY:

Okay…I know it’s February and no one wants to go out in the cold so stay in, log onto ITunes and buy these next few albums ’cause they’re worth EVERY penny! LOVE them!!!!

Snow Patrol – “Fallen Empires” (rock)
Just carrying on what they’ve been doing since 1994 but with U2 out of commission for awhile, Snow Patrol becomes the next in line for deserving a large arena tour. Their anthemic songs with the soaring choruses and the guitars and the drums…well…I just LOVE it! This one features many great tracks including “This Isn’t Everything You Are,” “Fallen Empires,” and “Called Out In The Dark.”

Graffiti6 – “Colours” (R&B pop) 
Where did this band come from?  Sounding a little like Gnarls Barkley, I love their pop sensibility and many of the tracks on here are radio worthy! Love “Colours,” “Annie You Save Me,” “Never Look Back,” and “Free.”

Mark Lanegan Band – “Blues Funeral” (rock)
The former frontman for the 90’s alt-rock band Screaming Trees returns with a blistering blues-tinged album that has so many great tracks. Love the darkness of it and Lanegan’s vocals are from the depths of hell. He is the modern day Man In Black and he nails it out of the park with this superb album! Download “Riot In My House,” “Ode To Sad Disco,” “The Gravedigger’s Song,”  & “Harborview Hospital” if you’re picky.

Lana Del Rey – “Born To Die” (60’s Retro Pop?)
I knew nothing about the viral song “Video Games” that Del Rey released online back in 2011 and honestly, with her being a “throwback” type singer, I didn’t really give her a second thought when her album was released a couple weeks ago. But then I caught wind of her performance on SNL and how bad it was and HAD to see for myself. Needless to say…I didn’t think her performance was that bad and so…off to ITunes I went and ya know what…I’ve bought into her schtick! In the 90’s, I went through a Julee Cruise/Mazzy Star phase and so…this was kind of in that realm only with more pop influences. I gotta tell you…this might be a surprise album on my favorites of 2012 when it’s all said and done. LOTS of likable  songs on here but if I HAD to choose, I would go with “Blue Jeans,” “Off To The Races,” “Radio,” and “National Anthem.” Buuuuut I also like “Million Dollar Man” and “”This Is What Makes Us Girls.” Oh yeah…and then there’s “Video Games.” Ahh…to hell with it…just buy the whole damn thing. It’s worth it.