Concert Review

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Van Halen live! The best and worst moments. EW.com checked out the band's reunion-tour stop in New Jersey -- here are the highlights

Van Halen | 'WHEN IT'S LOVE' Hagar and Van Halen reunited, and it looked so good
Image credit: Van Halen: Bazel Tiyde / Retna Ltd
'WHEN IT'S LOVE' Hagar and Van Halen reunited, and it looked so good

Van Halen live! The best and worst moments

Sammy Hagar ought to send Gary Cherone some flowers -- or at least a bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila. It took former Extreme frontman Cherone's brief, hapless turn as Van Halen's lead singer -- which produced 1998's odious ''Van Halen III'' -- to make the prospect of Van Hagar appetizing again. Hence the largely middle-aged masses' rapturous reception of the reunited pop-metal titans at their June 22 stop at East Rutherford, N.J.'s Continental Airlines Arena. Some highlights:

MOST ASTONISHING MUSICIANSHIP
Eddie Van Halen's technique-heavy guitar solos -- which use all 10 fingers and, seemingly, a few toes -- are as out of style as big hair and leg warmers. But he remains one of the most astonishing rock guitarists ever -- capable of conventionally virtuosic, note-heavy runs (like the solo in concert opener ''Jump'' and the squealing, alien noises in ''Runaround'') that put Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave's Tom Morello to shame. He's also one of the few players who can make an unaccompanied 10-minute guitar solo (played spine-shatteringly loud, through 12 separate amplifiers) seem too short.

BEST USE OF A POWER TOOL
Eddie held an electric drill to his guitar strings for the opening of the heavy-riffing romp ''Poundcake,'' creating a uniquely cool whirring effect that some canny young band (or hip-producer) would be smart to rip off. Lil' Jon, are you listening?

BEST FAN RAPPORT
Hagar's melodic shriek was once one of hard rock's best -- it's what Jack Black wishes he sounded like in Tenacious D. His vocal power has faded, leaving him to struggle with high notes even on David Lee Roth-originated tunes such as ''Jump'' (although his version of ''Panama'' was dead-on). But Hagar -- in a clownish all-yellow outfit -- showed an admirable connection with the fans. Every item thrust onto the stage found its way onto his body -- he donned a baseball hat, a sports jersey, and a T-shirt, and then wrapped a fan's banner around his waist like a skirt. Too bad no one threw women's underwear.

BEST HIDDEN VOCALIST
Bassist Michael Anthony's pure, Beach Boys-style harmonies have always been key to Van Halen, especially on early power-pop-ish tracks like ''Jamie's Crying.'' At the New Jersey show, the mullet-sporting Anthony -- his high notes intact -- even briefly took over lead vocals on songs including ''Somebody Get Me a Doctor.''

BEST TIME FOR A BATHROOM BREAK
Eddie, Anthony, and drummer Alex Van Halen all made good use of their unaccompanied solos (a dinosaur-rock cliché that may be hip again -- blink-182 drummer Travis Barker takes such a solo on the band's current tour). But Hagar used his solo opportunity to play two heartfelt but excruciatingly maudlin ballads -- including ''Eagles Fly,'' which he described as a song about being born. But even childbirth can't be that painful.

WORST NEW SONG
The band played several new tracks featured on its upcoming greatest-hits collection, and most weren't bad -- the fun, bluesy ''Up for Breakfast'' was better than much of the band's '90s material. But the final new song of the night, ''Learning to See,'' was a power ballad that took way too long to get to the ''power'' part. ''That SUCKED!'' one astute fan yelled.

MOST UNLIKELY CAMARADERIE
Eddie and Sammy -- who by all accounts detested each other until recently -- seemed downright chummy. Sammy even teased Eddie about his bizarre new hairdo -- a Flea-like topknot -- and Eddie didn't kick him out of the band. Yet.

What do you think of Van Halen's reunion?

Originally posted Jun 23, 2004
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