When news broke Sunday, August 23, that Van Halen had canceled their show at Hershey Park in Hershey, PA, fans must have been thinking to themselves “not again.” The official kick off to the second leg of Van Halen’s massive North American tour had been canceled due to singer, David Lee Roth, having the flu. With doctors orders canceling the show at Hershey Park, fans took to social media to express their concerns about the rest of the upcoming shows. To the delight of everyone who was planning on going to any of the shows afterwards, Van Halen said the tour would be going on as planned and no other shows would be canceled. With that great news from the band, fans at Darien Lake prepared to welcome Van Halen for their new official start to the second half of their tour.
On Tuesday August 25, fans lined up early in front of the gates at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center with much excitement. While some fans waited in line on the chilly August day, others took to the park to help ease the excitement. Throughout the park, families could be seen wearing their favorite Van Halen memorabilia such as shirts and shoes. Concert goers inside the theme park seemed to cover many generations. Walking through the theme park, there were young children ready to see guitar icon, Eddie Van Halen, take the stage for what would probably be their first time. Teenagers were all around the park in their own groups sporting their classic VH shirts. Most of all, the parents who grew up listening to classic Van Halen albums such as Van Halen, Van Halen II, 1984, etc. were ready to see Van Halen for what would probably be their last time at Darien Lake.
The show started out just prior to 7:30 with the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band. Most of the crowd seemed to be well aware of who Kenny Wayne Shepherd was. This blues guitar icon certainly came to impress and show off his guitar skills. Teaching himself guitar from the early age of 7, Kenny Wayne Shepherd could definitely give Eddie a run for his money. Backing up Kenny, was an all-star lineup of musicians who have played with some of the best in the world. Vocals duties for the band were handled by Noah Hunt, who had an outstanding voice to say the least. Bass player Tony Franklin was introduced to the crowd as a guy who had played with a band called, The Firm. For those who aren’t aware, The Firm consisted of Paul Rodgers of Bad Company and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. If that wasn’t enough, the drummer for the Kenny Wayne Shepherd band, Chris Layton, played with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Finishing off the lineup was keyboard player Riley Osborun, who had played alongside Willie Nelson. Together, these guys put on an incredible opening show. The set was ended with a stellar cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child,” that left the crowd standing on their feet cheering.
After Kenny Wayne Shepherd exited the stage, every seat that was once empty inside had a new face standing in front of it. By this time of the night, everyone knew they were finally going to see Van Halen and there would be no cancellations. Alex Van Halen kicked off the show standing up at his drum kit welcoming fans, while his brother Eddie and Eddie’s son Wolfgang started the night off with “Light Up The Sky” from Van Halen II. Within seconds later, singer David Lee Roth came out on stage with all smiles.
Playing 23 songs from 7 different albums, Van Halen surely had enough to please everyone. From the new material, all the way back to the very beginning, Van Halen made sure to hit the songs everyone was there to hear. Fans got to hear classics such as “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Everybody Wants Some,” “Dance The Night Away” and more. Alex Van Halen handled the drum kit better than any other 62-year-old probably could. Eddie’s son Wolfgang, who now handles bass duties, was simply amazing. Some people may think that Wolfgang doesn’t deserve to be in Van Halen just because of his dad, but he certainly proved it at Darien Lake. To go along with his excellent playing, Wolfgang handles the harmony backup vocals with ease. There’s no denying that Wolf, who’s only 24-years-old, has incredible amounts of musical talent. For those who don’t know Wolfgang is also the bass player for Mark Tremonti’s solo band when he’s not busy playing alongside dad.
Throughout the show, Eddie Van Halen showed why he’s considered one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Watching Eddie play songs from as far back as 1978 with no trouble at all left people mesmerized. Most of the time as bands age, the live show lacks what it once had. Guitar players get sloppy over time and improvise parts of songs they can’t play live anymore. This wasn’t the case for EVH. Eddie cruised through the entire setlist making it look easy. When it was time for Eddie to take the stage for his solo, he chose to toss in some licks from other Van Halen songs before playing “Eruption”. Most guitar solos can get boring quickly, but Eddie Van Halen is one guitar player that will never bore a crowd.
David Lee Roth, who was battling the flu, showed no signs of being ill on Tuesday night. DLR who’s been back with Van Halen since 2007 now, put on an unforgettable performance. While smiling all night and having fun on stage, David made sure the crowd was having just as much fun as him. There aren’t many performers who are as comfortable as Roth is on stage. For instance, not many performers can forget lyrics to a song like Roth can and still go with the flow. Many times throughout the set, David Lee Roth would admit he forgot a line and just laugh it off while giving Eddie and Wolf a head nod who would bail him out. Typically a crowd would be disappointed with such a vocal performance, but the overall show makes up for the mistakes. Many reviews online talk about how DLR lacks the vocal ability now, just like many other singers from his era. It’s true that Roth struggles at times, but Eddie and Wolfgang save the day. Together, the 3 of them take care of business and put on one hell of a performance no one could ever forget.
As expected, Van Halen ended the night with “Panama” and “Jump” leaving the crowd feeling like they just went back in time. Luckily for fans at Darien Lake, they didn’t have the same fate fans at Hershey Park had on Sunday. Van Halen continues their tour of North America throughout the month of September and has its final stop at the Hollywood Bowl, in Hollywood, California on Friday, October 2nd. Fans interested in catching Van Halen again before the tour ends can find all the dates and ticket information here.
Setlist: Light Up The Sky, Runnin’ With The Devil, Romeo Delight, Everybody Wants Some, Drop Dead Legs, Feel Your Love Tonight, Somebody Get Me A Doctor, She’s The Woman, Chinatown, I’ll Wait, Drum Solo, Little Guitars, Dance The Night Away, Beautiful Girls, Women In Love, Hot For Teacher, In A Simple Rhyme (Growth), Dirty Movies, Ice Cream Man, Unchained, Ain’t Talkin About Love, Guitar Solo, You Really Got Me, Panama, Jump