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Van Halen At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, March 1st, 2012

 Van Halen are an immaculate conception: the bastard child of Jimmy Page and Groucho Marx. And they were immaculate on stage, they did no more and no less than every single thing they had to do.

At Madison Square Garden, on a Thursday night David called the best show of the tour while dedicating it to a fan who was seeing them for the 400th time(!) a drummer, bassist, guitarist and singer stormed the threadbare stage and played straight up hard rock for two hours No explosions, no keyboards, no special effects. Instead. an HD TV screens that let you see every move, state of the art sound, and a setlist to die for. That was it. That was all they needed.

I was never a big VH fan -Dave was a loud mouth, Eddie was nailing Valerie Bertinelli, and who gave a fuck about the other two. And then Guns N Roses,stole their crown, and once Dave was replaced by the execrable Hagar and then by the worse Cherone., who gave a shit? Dave discovered that indeed, no, Virginia, there is no life after Van Halen and Eddie lost Valerie and became so unhinged he shoulda renamed himself Axl Van Halen.

All of that is true but reunited and pushing a terrific new album, the band barreled through one hit after another turning the Arena into a sweaty rock and roll club. Interspersed by Dave's consistently self-amused commentary on the action and Eddie's short, fluid, guitar solos. They managed to cover just about all of the Dave era fan faves and still have time for a drum solo.

Eddie is the whitest of guitarist on the planet, even when he plays the blues he deals with sonic distortion to the exception of any governing 12 bar jump shots whatsoever. He seems to play blues by transference, it sounds like it should be so it must be so. Dave can't hit the high notes any more and blew a lyric or two (with an "I can't remember the fucking words") but the chemistry was as great as ever.

Van Halen are a rhythmic snooze. The drummer is good but only in the way he holds the bottom of the songs, since the songs aren't made for dancing he only has to deal with 2/2 time. The bassist is OK but not much more is needed -Kool And the Gang opened and the difference between the two, despite the overlap in prime years, couldn't be starker. Wolfgang Van Halen should sit down and watch Kool. He would learn something. And while my FB buddy Kevin Perri was quite right when he questioned whether the backup vocals were on backing tape, the interplay between Eddie and Wolfgang, was really sweet and kinda moving.

But what Thursday night was about was one of our greatest living guitarists and a natural born ham blasting MSG to smithereens. 21 songs, every single one a gem. Personal best? Maybe "Hot For Teacher" with Dave adlibbing like crazy before performing his third of maybe five leg kicks.

The years have treated the duo well and indeed Van Halen are as great as they've ever been. The greatest heavy metal band in the world? A little like being the nicest Nazi but yeah, sure. They are an immaculate conception reconceived.

Grade: A

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