There was no amount of banter, bad jokes, costume changes, or iconic rock songs that could save anyone with the last name Van Halen from lead singer David Lee Roth last night at Ak-Chin Pavilion. From the opening notes of "Light Up the Sky" the flamboyant frontman never stood a chance vocally, and it really made you wonder why the Van Halen brothers would tarnish the band's legacy by allowing Roth to embarrass them night after night. Guitar hero Eddie Van Halen could do nothing more than smile all night. Roth was unable to do his signature screams and squeals or keep rhythm during "Running With The Devil," and it was only two songs into the show fans knew it was going to be a long night. The lack of production and energy from the band didn't help either during the 23-song set as the show dragged on. Roth's attempts at humor in between songs disrupted the tempo of the show on many occasions. At one point he referenced his favorite rock star moves performed by Bon Jovi and Bono from U2 and told the crowd, "I've never met a Van Halen crowd that wasn't three steps ahead of my punch lines."
During the mighty "Unchained" Roth spend most of the song sitting on a chair on the drum riser struggling to get through one of the heaviest tracks of the night, luckily the father-son duo of Eddie and Wolfgang handled most of the chorus vocal duties. It was hard to tell if David Lee Roth knew how bad he was all night or if he is just delusional, because no matter how off he was he looked like he was having the time of his life all night long. At one point the singer applied whiskey to the sides of his face like cologne. It should be noted that Roth's lackluster performance wasn't due to the amount of alcohol he may have consumed; he was never really a stellar singer even in the band's glory days. (Editor's note: If you haven't listened to the studio version of "Running With the Devil" that isolates Roth's vocals, do yourself a favor and do so now.) But last night he wasn't executing the material in any fashion that merited a fan coming out to see the show. That said, Roth is in fantastic shape and tried everything he could do distract the crowd from his singing including the splits, and the man can twirl a mic stand like nobody's business.
During a cover of "Ice Cream Man" Roth looked over at heavier-set bassist Wolfgang Van Halen and said "It looks like you like ice cream."
Even during his guitar solo (which ended with a slamming version of "Eruption)" Eddie looked like he just wanted to get through the show, and that was the only time throughout the evening that Roth couldn't ruin the moment.
Fans had a tough time singing along to the songs because Roth was so off rhythm from the band. There wasn't much movement in the stands, and you could practically see the regret seep slowly onto people's faces as the night progressed. This wasn't an isolated incident; when the band reunited with Roth in 2012 the results were similar. That's what really makes you wonder why they'd take the circus back out on the road for a second time.
The wheels are falling off, guys. Maybe it's time to give it another go with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony if you really want the money that badly.
Last Night: Van Halen at Ak-Chin Pavilion.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The Crowd: It was a classic rock crowd, as expected.
Personal Bias: We probably had three copies of Van Halen's debut record in my house when I was a kid. I was really excited to see this show.
Overheard: "That was the worst concert I've ever been to."
Random Notebook Dump: Fans who had great seats decided to record the video projector with their phones during Eddie's guitar solo instead of watching it right in front of them.