Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Van Halen 2012

When Van Halen comes to Pittsburgh, it's more than just a concert. It's a rare event that, alongside stadium implosions and any day at Kennywood, allows for a fully immersive experience within true Yinzer culture. With that in mind, let's recap the Blast Furnace experience attending Van Halen 2012 this past weekend.

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:
Wearing a mesh belly shirt and performing constant air guitar, this was exactly the guy you'd hope to encounter at Van Halen. By the time we decided to move over to Consol, he had managed to end up on some guy's shoulders, taken the pit guard off of our friend's crutch and used it as a fake penis, and got yelled at by the bar tender for using the crutch to smack the ceiling fan.

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.


  1. I agree, this is something I really wanted to experience. Van Halen is a true Pittsburgh kind of band. I too loved walking into Shales to Van Halen blasting over the jukebox and it feeling like it was 1984 in there except everyone was in their 40's and 50's instead of teens and 20's - same hair and clothes. Were we at a Van Halen concert or just a typical day in Pittsburgh?

    As for the concert I was satisfied, DLR really got criticized for his singing from the 'DVE folk. Yeah, he can't hit those high notes anymore, but I was happy to see him. Eddie was awesome, he looked and sounded great. I was also suprised it was a sellout.

  2. Pills said...

    Just based on the review of the 'ambiance' of the concert I am more upset to have missed this one. I thought I could scoop up a ticket that day on a 3rd party site, but all were expensive. Sounds like a great time.

  3. Van Halen is one of the best bands that I really like. They provide quality concert experience unlike any other bands. They can deliver what their fan wants.

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