Van Halen's first studio album with David Lee Roth since 1984 is called A Different Kind of Truth and it's due February 7. The band was supposed to announce that, and a North American tour, at an intimate show last night in New York. They didn't do that, but SPIN still managed to have a good time.
1. The fact that it even occurred. Not just that the band that defined arena rock and its attendant excesses were holding court at the incredulous-sounding Cafe Wha?, a faded 250-seat jazz club in Greenwich Village -- although, certainly this, too -- but that this dream reunion of famously contentious blowhards survived the obvious cash-in arena tour and progressed into something friskier and, odd as it sounds, personal.
2. David Lee Roth, the greatest frontman in rock n'roll history -- come and get me -- on a stage barely the width of one of his mid-air splits, dressed like a child trying to dress like a train conductor (Carhartt overalls, hat, neck bandanna), and somehow looking both more and less dignified than if he'd just come out shirtless in leather assless pants.
3. Open bar!
4. Dave's opening monologue, which segued from Lady Gaga and Mayor Bloomberg on New Year's Eve to his time living on the Lower East Side and working as an EMT up in the Bronx, and working Southern California clubs in the band's early days, was charming, but so discursive, you could almost see Eddie trying to remember Sammy Hagar's e-mail address. (Pssst: Try email@example.com.) "The last time we played a stage this low, we had to have the car home by midnight."
5. Forced by logistics to play a non-ridiculous-sized drum kit, Alex Van Halen improvised, playing the cowbell part of "Dance the Night Away" on the heating pipe over his head. More heating pipe!
6. Wolfgang Van Halen, age 20, son of Eddie and bassist in place of Michael Anthony, appeared to be wearing a wedding ring, which tells you everything you need to know about the kind of groupies VH are pulling these days.
7. Dave's impression of Jim Morrison singing "Stairway to Heaven" during the break in "Panama": A giant world tour is great, but why not just give in and do the Vegas residency already?
8. Being told to move over a couple inches to your left because you're leaning on Eddie Van Halen's rack of guitars.
9. Emo moment: Dave strapping on an acoustic guitar and pointing out his 92-year-old uncle Manny, owner of Cafe Wha? and reminiscing about hanging around the club when he was seven. "It took me 50 years to get this gig. It was easier to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." And then they went into "Ice Cream Man" and everyone was all, "Whoa!"
10. Hearing Dave say to Alex, off-mic, "This is inarguably one of the better gigs, right?"
11. Yes, there's actually a proper Van Halen album coming in a month called A Different Kind of Truth and no, that didn't get mentioned onstage, which is odd for a media event ostensibly orchestrated to promote this very thing. The only "new" song performed was not the just-announced single "Tattoo," but "She's the Woman," and here's a great version of it...from 1976.
12. Watching Eddie Van Halen blow his nose.
13. Michael Anthony's absence continues to keep this from really feeling like Van Halen. But begrudging credit goes to Wolfie for actually attempting to replicate the trademark background vocals -- as crucial to Van Halen as finger-tapping and double-entendres -- and looking like he was genuinely having fun, as opposed to skulking around arena catwalks in a hoodie like he did a few years ago. Good for you, kid, my dad sold shoes for a living. Spit whiskey and jump up and down on a Jack Daniels bass and maybe we'll be getting somewhere.
14. And about those harmonies: Dave admitting that the band was more nervous about playing his uncle's club than Madison Square Garden because there's "nowhere to hide and...no fake vocals" seems like pretty damning evidence for conspiracy theorists who thought Wolfie's Mike impression was a little too convincing during the 2007 tour.
15. But! Maybe he spoke too soon, 'cause the pre-recorded keyboards for "Jump" fried the speakers so badly that the last two songs on the setlist, "Beautiful Girls" and "Unchained," had to be scratched. Fuck you, "Jump." Then they were led through the crowd, ideally to a waiting cadre of midgets and cocaine and midgets stuffed with cocaine but probably just a couple of town cars.
So yes, they didn't actually announce the new album or tour dates at the show, but you can find them on the next page.
February 18 - Louisville, KY @ KFC Yum! Center
February 20 - Detroit, MI @ The Palace of Auburn Hills
February 22 - Indianapolis, IN @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse
February 24 - Chicago, IL @ United Center
February 28 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
March 1 - New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
March 3 - Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
March 5 - Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
March 9 - Buffalo, NY @ First Niagara Center
March 11 - Boston, MA @ TD Garden
March 15 - Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
March 17 - Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre
March 21 - Ottawa, ON @ Scotiabank Place
March 24 - Atlantic City, NJ @ Boardwalk Hall
March 28 - Washington, DC @ Verizon Center
March 30 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Consol Energy Center
April 1 - Rosemont, IL @ Allstate Arena
April 10 - Fort Lauderdale, FL @ BankAtlantic Center
4/12 - Tampa, FL @ St. Pete Times Forum
April 14 - Orlando, FL @ Amway Arena
April 16 - Jacksonville, FL @ Jacksonville Arena
April 19 - Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
April 21 - Greensboro, NC @ Greensboro Coliseum
April 25 - Charlotte, NC @ Time Warner Cable Arena
April 27 - Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
May 1 - Tulsa, OK @ BOK Center
May 5 - Tacoma, WA @ Tacoma Dome
May 7 - Vancouver, BC @ Rogers Arena
May 9 - Calgary, AB @ Scotiabank Saddledome
May 11 - Edmonton, AB @ Rexall Place
May 17 - Winnipeg, MB @ MTS Centre
May 19 - St. Paul, MN @ Xcel Energy Center
May 22 - Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
May 24 - Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
May 27 - Las Vegas, NV @ MGM Grand Garden Arena
June 1 - Los Angeles, CA @ STAPLES Center
June 3 - Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
June 5 - San Jose, CA @ HP Pavilion
June 12 - Anaheim, CA @ Honda Center
June 14 - San Diego, CA @ Viejas Arena
June 16 - Phoenix, AZ @ US Airways Center
June 20 - Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
June 22 - San Antonio, TX @ AT&T Center
June 24 - Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
June 26 - New Orleans, LA @ New Orleans Arena