Van Halen’s Exclusive New York Show Proves David Lee Roth Kicks Van Hagar’s Ass

What I learned at the band's invite-only show at Cafe Wha? last night. PLUS: Video

In case you’re not up on your rock-gods-of-the-’80s pop culture news, a David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen played an intimate club gig at New York City’s Cafe Wha? last night for an exclusive invite-only show for 250 of their dearest friends and VIPs. And me. Here, six observations:

I hope they’re paying David Lee Roth well. I’ve seen Van Halen fronted by Sammy Hagar. And I’ve seen Van Halen fronted by David Lee Roth. Not in the David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen heyday that was the early ’80s, mind you, since I wasn’t even 10 years old when “Jump” came out, but on a David Lee Roth-fronted Van Halen reunion tour in the late 2000s. And I am here to tell you that if you think Van Hagar is the better of the two lineups, you’re mistaken. And let’s not even talk about Gary Cherone. Last night at Cafe Wha?, it was David Lee Roth’s high-energy party. He owned it. You put any other singer up there, and the songs just aren’t as good. Of course, I do miss this tune. Sammy Hagar should stick to pimping his tequila.

Everyone hates fog machines … even David Lee Roth. Listen sound guys, lighting guys, whoever you wonky guys are who sit somewhere in the back of the room, hitting a button to release those noxious gases into the air, we get it. Fog looks cool. Really cool. But it’s also incredibly annoying to the crowd and, apparently, the performers. Last night, David Lee Roth had to tell you two times to cut it the $%[email protected] out with the fog, and I’m pretty sure that’s what Eddie Van Halen was pissed about at one point early in the show. His lungs have already been through a lot. It’s Van Halen. It’s David Lee Roth. In a club that holds 250 people. You don’t need to try to make it cooler with your stupid-ass fog.

Backing tracks are the work of Satan. Though Diamond Dave and crew (that crew these days being Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, and spawn-of-Eddie-and-Valerie Bertinelli Alex Van Halen) tore through most of their greatest hits catalog (and I do mean tore through … apparently the club only had permits for the big trucks outside and the police barricades and presence until 9 p.m., and the show didn’t start until after 8), Roth did take some time out to chat with the crowd about Lady Gaga and also do his silly shtick like performing “Stairway to Heaven” as if performed by Jim Morrison, which was pretty priceless. (See below for video of that.) Then, the triumphant Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer chords that open the biggest rock song of the mid-1980s rang out. I am, of course, talking about “Jump.” Only problem was: There was no synth in sight. The entire synth track was pre-recorded, and that sucks. It sucks like Bon Jovi reading his lyrics off teleprompters sucks.

New Yorkers are far more civilized than Philadelphians. Two hundred and fifty people jam-packed into a tiny room. Open bar. (Yes, there was a top-shelf open bar, in case I forgot to mention that). Rock and roll. And yet, not a fight, push or unkind word was said, from what I could tell. You get a group of drunk people like that together in Philadelphia, and someone is going to get his ass kicked. But in New York, everyone just shuts up and has a good time. Oh, and their pizza is better, too.

Put down your cell phones, people. I once dated a girl who didn’t believe in photographs. She had some line about how she wanted to remember things as they were in her mind, not as they appeared on some piece of film. That’s just stupid. That said, when you’ve got Van Halen in front of you for 45 minutes, you should be paying attention to the band, not your Hipstamatic. There were 250 people there last night. And about 245 of them spent more than half of the time fiddling with their phones. Lame.

What’s with the half-slice of pizza in my coat pocket? Really, I have no idea.


David Lee Roth and Van Halen Perform Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven from Victor Fiorillo on Vimeo.