Letters for October 10, 2007
Greensboro rock city
…From Van Halen fans
Great article on Van Halen [“Rock monsters”, “Remembering when… sort of”, “My night with Alex”; Sept. 26, 2007; by Brian Clarey]!
This band got me and a lot of other people through those awkward teen years.
Matthew C. Mercer
I’m a specific brand of dork. A type with an interest in “weeklies,” a light obsession with ones of tertiary cities and an adamant fascination with my local ones. You can imagine, then, how the interest piqued when my palate grew from two to three when YES! Weekly came onto this semi-tropolis scene.
My interest was further piqued by this Brian Clarey character and in the following years my opinion vacillated. My eyebrows raised when I bumped into him in my bar ( I don’t own the joint, but you know what I mean) and he explained that he was reviewing it. I believe I met this information with a healthy blend of curiosity and skepticism.
Ratings plummeted when his review failed to give the well of my heart the proper Bukowski meets Berryman/Breslin meets Baudelaire treatment it so deserved… nay, demanded.
My equilibrium has yet to recover from the about-face I executed upon reading his review of the best bathrooms in bar-ville. What journalism! This wasn’t just potty-joke fodder – this was real, practical information that no one before had the guts to provide much less admit the need for. I’m also sure it rankled more than a few business owners, which any investigative journalism should.
Ah, but like so many things the glow quickly faded when he bounced my friend for attempting to take pictures up the skirts of the YES! Weekly girls at some YES! party. It was a political statement! My friend (a female) was throwing the sexism back in the face of the sexist! It was funny! What was the deal with the YES! girls anyway?
Sin and redemption is really the only theme, as far as I’m concerned and it was redeeming time when Clarey did a spread on the psychic who plies her trade on State Street. The subject matter was easy pickings for bad jokes, contrived scientific scoffing or (even worse) flaky defense. A well-written article found interest where interest truly lay with a great tone and some tasteful plucking of unsuspecting heartstrings.
The ball was in Clarey’s court (wait – shouldn’t the ball be in both parties’ court if there’s a competition going on? I mean, a man alone in a court with a ball is just practicing right? I digress…) and he hit it out of the park with the Van Halen article (to mix a metaphor?).
It may not quite be Mojo material but it’s rare that I’ve read a piece that so well intonated what makes us (some of us, at least) true-believers of rock and roll at an age before we start using our dumb ol’ brains to decide what we like and don’t like about rock. What a well-evoked sense of that time when a band could use the ridiculous ingredients of instrumental pyrotechnics, streamer dancing, high kicks and party-time seriousness to rise to the top of the charts. What perfectly captured tragic beauty of Diamond Dave’s bathos. All of it executed with devotion but not self-seriousness, humor but not mocking, the sad truths of time’s ravages but not nostalgia.
Clarey’s back in my good graces (with a little surplus to burn) and my faith in my weekly is bolstered.
I AM WITH YOU!!!
I was 15 years old when Van Halen split apart. I was an Army brat getting ready to move back overseas (to Rotterdam, the Netherlands), and I was in a funk because Van Halen was it for me in junior high.
Van Hagar was all right, if tradition meant nothing to you, but the BOYS ARE BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And I will be there Saturday night to rock with them!!!
Saw your “Rock Monsters” articles and invitation to write in, so here goes…
It’s two days after and my ears are still ringing – like the good old days. This was their second show of the tour and coliseum was packed out. They did only songs they originally recorded together (no Sammy). Some I’d never seen them perform, even during the three other times I saw them in the ’80s.
Dave Roth didn’t do a lot of jumping, scissor splits or running around, but he replaced that former GQ-serious puckered expression with an almost continuous ear-to-ear grin… like he was really glad to be there and was enjoying the moment along with the fans. The vocals and harmonies were pretty good, even without the high-pitched Michael Anthony. Eddie’s 16-year-old son Wolfgang replaced Anthony on bass and did fine. Some might, but I don’t miss Anthony’s wild bass “solos.” Alex now uses only acoustic drums and I think he’s better than he’s ever been.
Eddie played the sunburst Peavey for the first 10 or so numbers, then switched to his signature Stratocaster with the laser-line paint job… first a black-and-white one, then yellow and blue, and finally red and white, which matched his sneakers. Seeing him play the red-and-white one gave me goosebumps. Eddie still shows some energy with a few scissor splits, jumps and quick sprints across the stage. At one point during “And the Cradle will Rock,” he did a running knee-slide up to Wolfgang and did a couple of mock butt spanks while DLR retorted, “Have you seen Wolfie’s grades?”
A little curious to me was that Ed’s guitar was connected via a cable instead of wireless like it was for so many years. A stage hand had to run out and untangle it a couple of times. Ed stayed with the guitar, did not play any keyboards. I like to think he must have listened to the feedback, that fans do not go to a Van Halen concert to see him play the keyboard.
They played for about two hours, moving quickly from song to song, which made me afraid to go for a beer (or a pee) lest I miss something. There were no long intervals or introductions between songs, save for “Ice Cream Man,” where Roth told some story about the song title then played the acoustic intro.
As the song progressed, I anxiously awaited Ed’s takeover with electric lead, but to me it didn’t come off that well. I think the mixing was a little off and/or he was too far from the original riff for me. The only solos were Alex on drums and Eddie, which didn’t last as long as in past concerts. I was hoping for a little longer one from Ed. Lighting was good, but there were no fancy pyrotechnics or elevating platforms, but they didn’t need it. The energy of the music and the performers carried the show.
It was well worth the nine-hour drive to Greensboro and the $75 per ticket and if they ever come anywhere near here again, I’ll probably be there.
The brown M&M requirement is quite misunderstood. The band put that clause at the end of their contract to make sure that promoters/concert-hall and club owners read all of the band’s requirements for the stage equipment. I believe I read at some point in the past that they had trouble with some clubs not having a stage that could hold their equipment. By putting the brown M&M comment in the contract, if they found the M&M’s and there were brown ones in the bowl, they knew they had to really grill them about their stage setup before going out there for fear of the stage collapsing, or other issues.
I was there Saturday night, and it was great! (Even if Dave can’t do the splits.)
Just wanted to say we from the Roth Army all had a great time in meeting you and your friend at Fat Dog’s. We’re all looking forward to your next column featuring the [Roth] Army.
I wanted to give you a heads up that I saw the Van Halen show photo album on your website, and I started a new thread at the army letting everyone know. I advised everyone not to copy/paste those pics, as they’re not our property.
The ones that really caught my eye were the several ones during the break in “I’m the One”, when Dave and Ed both broke down and teared up. That was such an emotional moment, for all of us.
Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up on that. Thanks again….
Tony Ferrante (the one wearing the 1984 tour T-shirt)
…And fans of the local product
Your article on the Mantras was stellar [“The Mantras blow an intern’s mind”; Oct. 3, 2007; by Dave Roberts]! This band is an absolute mind-blower and deserves the credit that you have given. I don’t believe it could have been a better review. My favorite and most appreciated aspect of your article was your emphasis on their raging rock style as opposed to the stigma of just being a “jamband.” I got goosebumps reading it. These guys are special and are bound to conquer the world, one caged performance at a time.
On a sidenote: the sadly stifled bongos are Brent Vaughn and the pounding behind the drums is Justin Loew.
If you really are just an intern, I think you have an amazing career ahead of you in music journalism. There is something special about a reporter that can capture the environment of a show as you did here. Unbeatable!