Show In Review: Van Halen - Fifty Shades of Dave

It's David Lee Roth's world, and we all live in it. Or at least it was Thursday night in Concord.

The stage was set, literally, for Van Halen to take over Concord Pavilion on a rare chilly California day in July. As the stagehands set up a makeshift tap floor mid-stage sprinkled with sand, there was a stir in the crowd. No one could hold back their excitement of seeing the band's original front man return.

As the members started to emerge from the shadows and Eddie Van Halen began to play the first riffs of "Light Up the Sky", the crowd started to roar. As soon as Roth took his spot center stage, with a grin from ear to ear, they went ballistic.

It was only a matter of time before Roth began to take over the stage. What he lacked in vocal ability, he made up for in dance moves and showmanship. With scarf in hand, he twirled his way through the beginning of the set, seamlessly moving through songs including chart-topper “Running with the Devil” and “Feel Your Love Tonight” off their debut self-titled record. One thing was quickly evident: no stage would ever be big enough for the charismatic rock star.

For those who favored musicianship over performance, Eddie never failed to disappoint. The rain couldn’t dampen his spirits as he took over the spotlight and played “Little Guitars” as part of his guitar solo, making it look easy. Without the distraction of Roth’s stage dominance, the crowd could focus on his undeniable talent. You were hard-pressed to find any remnants of the man who struggled with substance abuse nearly a decade ago.

For a band that has had their share of off-stage drama, it didn’t show. Dave and Eddie shared several moments that left little questions that their internal feuds had subsided. There was no time for fans to sit down, as they powered through hit after hit, including “Beautiful Girls”, “Hot for Teacher”, and “You Really Got Me”. There was something for everyone as they included songs from all four of their first albums, some even the most diehard of fans may never have seen live. Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, played bass and contributed backup vocals, proving to be a passable replacement for Michael Anthony.

Just when you thought Roth would take a breath, he’d prove you wrong. Between songs he’d entice laughs with several one-liners that could make the most liberal person cringe. “I'm gonna pretend I'm loaded and you're gonna pretend you're Bill Cosby,” he snarled at one point. “I’d shake your hand but I got Victoria’s Secret all over it.” This was just another facet to Roth, or “fifty shades of Dave” as he put it. The sparkle in his eyes rivaled those on his sequined jacket.

The show only slowed down once for Roth to strip it down for fan-favorite "Ice Cream Man". Playing the acoustic guitar and harmonica in tandem while perched on a stool, the crowd sang along in harmony. He couldn't make it through the whole song though before returning to his comfort zone: spinning the microphone stand and shimmying his way across the stage.

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There was no way they couldn’t round out the show without taking us to another place. And “Panama” was the destination. Even the youngest fans in attendance couldn’t refrain from singing along to the well-known chorus. Deciding to keep the night moving instead of stopping for an encore, they closed the evening with one of their biggest hits, “Jump”. For a crowd that had already spent the night on their feet, it was an easy request.

As Roth said in the middle of "Dance the Night Away", it's not who you love, it's who wants to love you again. And there was no doubt, as the show came to a close, that fans would love him over and over again.

Photos and words by Alexandra Irving