The scene is set at Shale's Cafe on 5th, just across the street from Consol. The bar is packed, the bartendering service is lousy, and most people are paying $3 for Coors Light instead of taking advantage of $2 Duquesnes and PBRs. Van Halen classics are playing loud (with the occasional Kool and the Gang hit mixed in) and the buzz is building. In addition to a girl wearing a VH-branded racing jumpsuit, a guy in a Pittsburgh Polish T, and a table of very guidoish-looking types, there was this guy:
As for the show itself, it was mostly what you'd hope for. We were entering the area just as Kool and the Gang were wrapping up their set, so our timing was pretty impeccable. Van Halen rocked loud and hard through a set of mostly just their hits, with a few songs from their new album thrown in for good measure. Nothing from the Van Hagar era.
I'd venture to guess that if you were going to see Van Halen for the first time in the post-Hagar era, now was as good as any time to do it. Eddie Van Halen is apparently still on the wagon and the reviews say this tour is more polished than their previous reunion tour in 2007.
The show may have been the loudest concert I've ever experienced. I think that's typically a badge of honor for both the band and the fans, though I think I prefer the volume down just a notch if it means I can hear the guitar just a little bit clearer. After all, seeing Eddie play live is the real attraction. For audience members such as myself, who appreciate Van Halen, but aren't the biggest fans in the world, we mostly wanted to be able to say we've seen one of the greatest guitar players of all time perform live. And in that regard, the show did not disappoint.
Highlights for me mostly revolved around the guitar moments: an opening of Unchained followed by Runnin' With the Devil, well-known hits You Really Got Me and Hot for Teacher, and the culminating moment, EVH's Eruption guitar solo into Ain't Talkin' Bout Love and Jump. Eruption alone was worth the price of admission.
Lowlights included a 10 minute interlude in which David Lee Roth strummed acoustinc guitar and narrated home video of himself training his dogs (really) and just the overall feeling that the show is very tightly scripted, best highlighted by the quick run off at the end and immediate raising of the lights to let you know that there would be no encore.
All in all, seeing Van Halen live in town is something every self-respecting, rock-n-roll loving Pittsburgher should take the opportunity to do the next chance they get. And don't forget to wear you concert tee and denim jacket.
For a more nuanced, musically-appreciative look at the concert, make sure you check out Scott Mervis's review in the PG.