Details From The Van Halen Dress Rehearsal: They Didn’t Fight!

There’s still plenty of time for Diamond Dave to remind the Van Halens that his mouth’s gonna be tough to bare for the near three months of touring planned, but it’s looking like the VH family + Lee Roth jaunt through the US and Canada is a step closer to happening. A poster to Van Halen’s Yahoo! list reports details of a dress rehearsal hit sometime this past week. Apparently it was a friends and VIP only show at an undisclosed arena (poster was sworn to secrecy), Lee Roth annotating the performance with descriptions of TK elements and having at least one hissy fit. Read on for the stage ‘n’ lights setup, setlist, and the tightness of David’s flared, leather pants.

The attendee’s description was fairly comprehensive, so here’s a reprint of the highlights. Via Blabbermouth:

On Saturday night a friend of mine got me in to see a VAN HALEN rehearsal in Los Angeles. (I’ve been sworn to secrecy on certain aspects of this story, including location. Someone else may fill in the details, but it won’t be me.)

“We arrived to an empty arena (except for the VH staff) containing VH’s full stage setup. No one from the band had arrived yet.

“The stage has a runway which snakes out into the audience in a giant ‘S’ shape, which mirrors the lighting rig above it. The ‘S’ continues behind and above the stage so a band member can walk to the very top and be standing above Ed’s [Van Halen] rig. There’s a giant video screen the width of the entire stage, but neither the screen nor the stage lights were tested tonight; only the house lights were used. (It didn’t matter in the slightest.)

Dave addressed the crowd and treated us as if we were guests in his arena sized house. He thanked us for coming and talked about how excited he was to be here and what a ‘privilege and honor’ it was to play with his ‘bruthas from another mutha.’ (And yes, that’s a quote.) He then went on to great lengths to explain what we would be seeing tonight: that it was a rehearsal where they would be stopping and starting, testing things out, etc. (And he did this all very eloquently with many one-liners, as only Dave does.) Right before the band began, he explained, ‘Okay as soon as you hear the first note, that’s when the curtain comes up.’ He did that throughout the show; stopping to tell us what we would be seeing if this were the actual concert. The constant commentary and casual asides reminded me of that story I’ve heard where at a concert he wanted to turn the P.A. around so that ‘everyone could be backstage.’ That’s how this show felt. As if we were being let it on the secret.

“The show started with ‘You Really Got Me’. Dave was standing on the high part of the ‘S’ stage above Alex waving a giant red flag as the show began. Then he threw the flag down, and for the first time in over 22 years, David Lee Roth sang on stage with Eddie Van Halen.

“I’d say there were only about 40-50 guests there that night who were lucky enough to get in. Most of us sat in the ‘fve-star’ section inside the loop of the ‘S’ runway, but there wasn’t even enough of us to fill it up. And there was a silly L.A. attitude amongst the crowd of ‘Oh-I’m-so-hip- I-don’t-need- to-sit-in- the-front-row’ thing going on, as if this event was an every day occurrence. (After the first song, I couldn’t stay away, and moved from the fifth row to right up front, just off center towards Ed’s side.) The stage setup has at least 8 speakers just for the people in the first few rows, so you don’t have to worry about hearing only the echoey remnants of the main P.A. You’ll get the full mix nice and loud. But Holy God, bring earplugs.

“Wolfgang did a fine job, even providing decent sounding backup vocals. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about him, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Michael Anthony was missed. While Wolf competently filled the position, he doesn’t have the same sound, either in his playing or in his voice, as Michael. It’s such a shame that silly personal conflicts can’t be resolved so that people can finally see the classic lineup again. I do have to say though, it’s obvious how much Ed loves playing with Wolfgang. He would be all smiles when he walked over to Wolfie and after one song, stepped up to the P.A. and said, ‘Great job, Wolf. Great.’

“Over the next hour and a half or so the band played classic after classic that VH haven’t done in years. The Sammy Hagar era is dead now, as far as I can tell. (Although when warming up, Eddie ran the VH-stripped drill across his guitar as if he was was starting ‘Poundcake’, but no more than that.) I was surprised by some of the gems they brought out. I’ll post the songs I remember at the end of the article, but the order will be completely wrong except for the first song and the encore.

“The great thrill of the show was seeing Dave and Ed interact. If there’s any animosity between them, it didn’t show at all. Both were constantly smiling, and Dave often did the schtick where he holds his mic to Ed’s guitar during a solo while he looks at the crowd, open mouthed in astonishment.

“That’s not to say that Dave didn’t get pissed, however. He was standing out by the far tail of the ‘S’ runway when, in the middle of a song, he yelled at the soundboard crew with intense anger, ‘TURN THE FUCKING VOCALS UP! Don’t make me ask you again!’ I turned to Ed to see his reaction, thinking he would be pissed at Dave’s behavior, but incredibly, Ed just smiled even wider. As Dave walked past him returning to the stage, they did a mini-hi-five, low and behind each other’s back. I don’t know what it meant. I’m guessing it’s one of those things that only makes sense to two people who have known each other for decades.

“I never got to see Dave sing with VAN HALEN live. I got into the band in 1984 when I was 12 and didn’t see them until the ‘OU812′ tour. I’ve seen Dave solo multiple times, but am always wonderfully caught off guard by his stage antics. He really is the clown prince of rock ‘n’ roll, and I say that with as much affection as I can. There’s not a moment that goes by where he’s not trying to entertain you, whether it be with silly facial expressions, dance moves, jokes, props or stories. He is the former 5-year-old kid who ran up to every new adult and wanted to show them everything he owned and all the things he could do and wouldn’t stop talking until his parents told him it was bed time. And that attitude has never quite gone away.”

So far, so good! 0 shows down, 32 to go. Obviously not an impartial observer, this dress-rehearsal attendee, but said poster was objective (and honest about Michael Anthony withdrawal) enough to make us more than curious. If you’re feeling it, check here for tour dates and ticket availability (Philly, Midwestern states, Montréal, Glensdale, now’s the time to buy). Check the Hagar-free setlist (not in order)…

“You Really Got Me”
“Romeo Delight”
“Somebody Get Me A Doctor”
“I’m The One”
“Mean Street”
“Pretty Woman”
“Dance The Night Away”
“Ice Cream Man”
“Beautiful Girls”
[Guitar Solo]
“So This Is Love?”
“And The Cradle Will Rock”
“Everybody Wants Some”
“I’ll Wait”
“Runnin’ With The Devil”
“Little Guitars”
“Jamie’s Cryin'”
“Atomic Punk”
“Feel Your Love Tonight”
“Little Dreamer”
“Hot For Teacher”
“Ain’t Talkin’ About Love”