Fighting through all that Mother Nature threw at us (four inches of snow followed by a 20 degree rise in temperature and seven inches of rain; floods and street closures everywhere you turned), a coliseum of old farts managed to show up to pack the house for the Van Halen concert last night in Seattle. They did not disappoint.
David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen showed up onstage with significantly shorter tresses than when I saw them last, (GASP!) 20 years ago, but both sported six-pack abs and smiles a mile wide. Indeed, Eddie didn't even bother donning a shirt for the show, instead wearing his trademark white cargo pants (not parachute pants anymore, folks, this ISN'T the 80s anymore) and red sneakers. His age showed in the grey in his goatee and his gnarled hands, but his mastery of the electric guitar has not suffered with age. Say what you will about the bands of the 1980s, Eddie Van Halen is still the best electric guitarist around. He has the ability to make that thing talk and scream and sing and blow us out of our seats.
David Lee Roth, ever the showman, changed outfits again and again, throwing scarves and hats out into the audience directly in front of the stage. Bubba and I remarked on how those first dozen rows have changed in the last two decades. Originally, they were full of scantily clad teenage girls, hair teased to the spotlights, spike-heeled black boots lifting them almost to the level of the stage, screaming and swooning and offering all sorts of frightening things to the band members. Last night there were a few women reliving those days (most of them unwisely, I might add), but the vast majority of patrons in those rows were 30- and 40-something guys with receding hairlines wearing jeans and t-shirts and jumping up and down with their arms outstretched. I imagine they were the Microsoft geeks who could afford $500.00 per seat.
Alex Van Halen, safely ensconced in his fortress of drums, doesn't appear to have changed at all. He still sports his curly, shaggy long locks and headband and plays the drums like a madman. His drum solo, essentially unchanged from the one we heard 20 years ago, was so fun to watch as he grimaced and pounded away and smiled like a kid on his birthday.
The best part of the evening, though, was the presence of Eddie's son, Wolfgang (Wolfie) playing the bass guitar. At 16 years old, he is a welcome addition to the group. There were a few really cool moments ('campy', Bubba says) where he and his father stood side-by-side playing dueling guitars and grinning at each other like idiots. I found myself grinning along with them. When Eddie reached out and ruffled his son's shaggy hair in this very touching father-like way I ate it up. This kid is a good guitar player and it is clear that he is relishing every minute of his inclusion in this incredible band started by his father and his uncle. The times where he wandered onto the catwalk or stepped up to the front of the stage tentatively were probably frightening for him, but it helped the show seem more spontaneous and not choreographed.
Bubba and I had a terrific time and, although I felt old as I streamed along with the crowd of aging rockers, I appreciated the fact that we can still enjoy the music and the band without feeling like we're missing something. I like that the band members are acting their ages and not trying to seem as though we are all still teenagers. Well, except for Wolfie, that is.