Van Halen, Kool & the Gang rocked Denver's Pepsi Center on Thursday - Reverb

Van Halen, Kool & the Gang at the Pepsi Center, 5/2412 (photos and review)

“It’s like a time machine where nothing ever changes,” said original Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth about halfway through their set in front of a mostly enthusiastic crowd at the Pepsi Center on Thursday night. There was a hint of iciness in his tone, perhaps leading one to believe the recent rumors (of the band hating each other) that spread following the announcement of many cancelled dates for the remainder of their summer reunion tour.

During the Denver performance, which Kool & the Gang opened, you’d never really be able to tell for sure if those rumors were true. Throughout the evening, the rock group put on their best smiles, mugged with the crowd and each other and, like true pros, went on with the show.

The band ran through a setlist that matched nostalgic faves (“Everybody Wants Some!”, “Jump”, “Dance The Night Away”) with select tunes from their recently released “A Different Kind Of Truth”, some of which worked (the rocking “She’s The Woman”) and some which didn’t (the heinously awful “Tattoo” and dull “The Trouble With Never”).

A high point: the band (i.e. the Van Halen family) — drummer Alex, guitar god Eddie and his young son Wolfgang, who handled himself admirably as replacement for original four-stringer Michael Anthony on bass and high harmony vocals — played mercilessly tight. A master of his instrument, Eddie clearly still has his chops, and it was a thrill to witness his fretboard fireworks in person.

However, Roth was an embarrassment.

The once lionesque front man came off like a slightly creepy fourth wheel who’d forgotten to take his meds for the past several months. Throughout the set, Diamond Dave dropped words, changed melodies and even forgot lyrics to the simplest of songs (“Oh, Pretty Woman”). Thankfully, the crowd knew the songs well enough to really amp up the energy and do them justice by happily singing along (especially on “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “Hot For Teacher”).

In his defense, it didn’t help that Roth’s vocals were buried in a murky mix. And really, it could have been worse — it could have been Sammy Hagar up there singing.

Setlist:

“Unchained”

“Runnin With The Devil”

“She’s the Woman”

“Romeo Delight”

“Tattoo”

“Everybody Wants Some!”

“Somebody Get Me A Doctor”

“China Town”

“Hear About It Later”

“Oh, Pretty Woman”

“You Really Got Me”

“The Trouble With Never”

“Dance The Night Away”

“I’ll Wait”

“And The Cradle Will Rock …”

“Hot For Teacher”

“Women In Love”

“Beautiful Girls”

“Ice Cream Man”

“Panama”

“Ain’t Talkin Bout Love”

“Jump”

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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. The worst crime he ever did was play some rock ‘n’ roll.

John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.

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  • Matz

    WOW what a nightmare David Lee Roth is,  Thank god the have canclled the future shows. this quote from above sums it up!However, Roth was an embarrassment.
    The once lionesque front man came off like a slightly creepy fourth wheel who’d forgotten to take his meds for the past several months. Throughout the set, Diamond Dave dropped words, changed melodies and even forgot lyrics to the simplest of songs (“Oh, Pretty Woman”).

    If you have tickest sell them ASAP.

    On a positive note, Cool and the gang was awesome!!

    • Panama

      Yup, I described it to coworkers as the new dictionary definition for “hot mess.”

    • Drdavedds

      Totally disagree.  That’s what you get with Roth…dropped lyrics all the time.  I remember the first time I saw The mighty Van Halen in late 70’s at McNichols………Roth was awful………slurred, dropped lyrics, long pauses.  At least he’s sober now. DLR has never been meticulous when it comes to staying on point.  Isn’t amazing though how perfect Eddie and Wolfie were with the harmonies?  They hit them all!   Especially on “I Don’t Want To Hear About It”  Roth isn’t a nightmare….he’s just Diamond Dave.

      • Tony

        @drdavedds
        You are so right on. I too saw Van Halen back in the late 70’s and DLR was the same then.
        I love that the live show is different from the recording. Roth should
        Practice pitch & tone before performing live. Just saying.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MOSHH6UULQIMJ362HVSRT5SYHE NoD

      The band was great, Roth does his famous forget the words an act he has pulled since 1978 this is not new its part of the show.

      No need to sell your tickets as EVH is absolutely ON FIRE on this tour and is playing as well as I have ever seen him play seen VH about 15 times now going back to 1980, the band is also super tight Alex is playing great and Wolfie is very accomplished and the apple did not fall far from the tree with him.

      Roth’s voice is the weak link in this show, that said it was an extremely entertaining show and well worth seeing.

      • pepsicenterblows

        The mix ruined the whole show for me 180 dollar tickets for the worst sounding show i have ever heard period. Thanks a lot pepsi center!

    • jk

      Matz, you are so right.  Roth was a train wreck.  I was embarrassed for him but disgusted at the same time.  Kool and the Gang were great.  I would have been extremely pissed off had it not been for their great show.  I loved Van Halen in the 80s and 90s but I wouldn’t see them again.  Although Eddie Van Halen and the band were great.  They played almost too loud.  To drown out Roth, I guess.

  • AVHF

    Your review is dead on!! If it weren’t for the unbelievably talented guitar work of Eddie Van Halen and the vocals from the others, we would have demanded a refund! Roth is a joke and looked like a clown. He was so off tempo and come on, how do you forget the words to Jump? Seriously, it was sad to watch and the fact that he talked about his 1980’s conquests during an on stage rant is just pathetic if not creepy! I think everyone would be better off diggin up their old cassette tapes and playing on a car stero if they need to be nostalgic about VH!!! 

  • Belaszegety

    “Murky Mix”? The first half of Van Halen’s set featured the worst live audio mix I have ever heard! Many bands have succeeded in making The Can sound good. VH needs to fire their audio engineer. The high end, including the vocal harmonies, could not escape from the primordial ooze of heavy bottom end sludge. Truly awful.

    • Tony

      Totally agree with you. The sound man was so out of
      Touch it was painful. I’m not even sure DLR could even
      Hear the monitors or his ear piece. Did you notice DLR
      Constantly messing with his earpiece. The sound man was horrible.

  • jem

    My buddy and I commented they put no effort into the stage setup, it looked like something from a  high school band.  There was no effort at all,  at $150 bucks a ticket , we were robbed.

    • PowderBud

      Wo!  I wasn’t aware the ticket prices got that high.  I’d guess TicketMaster’s fee was 40% also, but I wouldn’t have bought a ticket if it were $50 and I have nearly every VH disc with DLR on vocals.  I’d also be very ticked off that I had to listen to the crowd sing the songs rather than the band, especially at that price!

  • Lobo04

    Sammy Hagar wouldn’t have been worse, he would have been an improvement.  David Lee Roth is, and always has been, a complete joke. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MOSHH6UULQIMJ362HVSRT5SYHE NoD

      I disagree, Van Hagar would not be worth seeing, I for one do not like Sammy’s VH catalog of songs they are not as good as the original 6 pack of albums with Roth.

      Plus Sammy did the 2004 reunion tour and that my friends was a true disaster with very weak ticket sales and poor performances. I have seen Van Hagar 1986, 1988, 1991, 2004 just a completely different band IMHO, in their prime original VH was much better live and on record with Roth.

      Its time to face facts VH after this tour need to retire. I would love to see EVH do a G3 type tour that would be well worth 150 bucks.

  • Ted

    When the crowd knows your songs better than you do, it’s time to hang it up. Eddie and Alex still seem to have a lot of gas left in the tank but after last night I am convinced they need a new singer if they want to keep this band going. 

  • Denverskier

    Are people stupid or what ????? Van Halen was okay but nothing special….all been done before ….Who was the idiot that put Kool and the Morons on the bill????!!!!!!! Rrock doesnt go with that garbage. Its pathetic…when the baby boomers aged most turned to “easy listening” crap and now during slow news days its funny to see these reviews and the INVENTED Music terms………rap is crap!!!! But its just the Big Corporate trying to appeal to the most with a boring product…. Once long ago pop music meant something now Michael Jackson child molester is king of PLOP!!!!! Long ago in a galaxy far away Rock meant actually different types of music with a hard edge like Santana bfore they sold out and You heard entire albums that you could listen too…Now its lets go on tour cause we’re broke and to do that we gotta bring out an album…One good hit played over and over till you puke when you hear it and the other tracks are horrid. And the “pop” nowadays….. how many times can we go up and down the scales…wow we can sing 20 octaves…arent we cool…And how about Lady GAGA GOO GOO what kind of moronic name is that…Linda Rondstadt can still blow her away….as well as Bonnie Raitt…Plus they can write a great song……But then people bought pet rocks soooo hurrah for stupid people… Hey lets go out and dance to records wow isnt that great???!!!! Or we can listen to VJs (another made up title to make them feel self important) and wow isnt it great people get off on the records being played with the grooves between songs….. Some people call it music but then they’re stupid

    • Billy

       you are the biggest moron on the planet.  Just reading that aloud gave me the biggest laugh I’ve have in weeks. Laughing AT you mind you, not will you.  This is a van halen review, not a change for you to show how much shit you have for brains when it comes to music.

    • LuvzPugz

      Negative much? 

    • Hellokittyuncle

      Den, you forgot to add: … AND GET OFF MY LAWN!!!

    • Siamsize

      Sticks and stones mebbes break Daveena’s Bones but his voice has never helped him either!  Lolololol!!!!!!   Mighta wells jump outta de window

  • Drdavedds

    Nothing to do with the show and everything to do with the traffic afterward.  The city of Denver HAS to wake up and make some adjustments for late night concert traffic.  One southbound lane with 15,000 people leaving Pepsi Center @ 11:00 pm is ridiculous!  Took an hour and half to get from Pepsi Center to Hampden after the show!  Then the rest of the way to Pueblo.  Ridiculous!!!!!!!!

  • Kendall

    Sometimes witnessing a total cash grab can be fun.  This was not one of those times.  Surely there is a better way to give the guys a rest than a dog show…  

  • PowderBud

    Wow, I’d always wondered how “critics” get such a title and moreso – jobs.  Michael Behrenhausen only magnifies my confusion on that question.  I thought this was about Van Halen last night, not last decade.  Why do you need to bag on Hagar in this?  Did he call you up and give you a hard time or something?  I’m tired of this choosing sides crap all the time.  I like VH songs & albums with Roth and I like them with Hagar.  Since you’re so starved for actual credibility that you felt compelled to fuel a rediculous fire of which vocalist deserves the most credit, I’ll throw a little fuel myself.  At least Hagar can sing and act like he’s matured in the past 20 years.  DLR has become a caricature of himself and has never come close to his once commanding vocals.  In short, he’s a joke anymore and there’s a reason that this will be the 2nd time this lineup has had to cancel a significant portion of their tour.  Hagar’s current band is not VH, and never tries to be so I’m not going to indulge you with that comparison though I’d guess you’re drooling at the chance to do so.  I almost took VH with Roth seriously on this latest attempt to recapture a bit of their glory days, but then they hired Kook & The Gang as the opening act.  My dad or a 5 year old might be interested in that gooey pop stuff, but I am not and the opposing demographics of their fan base is the size of the Grand Canyon.  I didn’t buy a ticket to this VH show because I’ve heard enough to know their done…again.  There’s a reason they aren’t selling and it’s because they’re no longer very good to enough people to sell those tickets.  With TM astronomical fees on top of the ticket price, this was designed as a screw job of the fan base from the word go.  Your review even before the Hagar slam, was far less than riveting so I’m glad I missed it.  From what I’ve heard from people attending the show in other cities, and the lackluster reviews, this tour should have been killed after the first night.  It’s sad because I think Eddie and Alex are great musicians.  Unfortunately their personalities and substance issues get in the way of them becoming the Led Zeppelin of current times.  That day has long passed now and their grasping at the past is becoming embarrassing, if not already there.

    • Matt

      I totally agree with you!! This so called critic was not a critic, it was his opinion, and the Hagar slam has no merit to be mentioned in the concert review. And yes, I’m a VH fan of both singers. And yes I have seen VH concert here in Chicago on 4/1. DLR forgot his own words to his own songs and complained about the “blowers” being on!! The band itself was terrific!!

  • Rick

    I was not at the show but I am a big Van Halen fan.  From what I have seen in news clips and read in interviews David Lee Roth is still a kook.  He’s not a rock singer anymore.  He should be singing in a lounge at the Marriott.  The three main members of the band are well past their prime and should think about putting Van Halen to bed.  They were the best American band at one time. 

  • Pognoot

    Diamond Dave is a bit of a spaz.. a great showman and a decent singer when he wants to be. Agreed, he drops lines and strays from the melodies waaay too often.  I don’t think he’s forgetting words per se; I just think it’s his style to bark out words and phrases behind or ahead of the beat instead of singing the songs the way they should go. 

    We live in an age of American Idol, Voice, and X-Factor where, in order to get ahead, singers must sing the songs correctly and in perfect tune.   Diamond Dave does not do this, I think it greatly hurts his performance overall.

    The sound engineer compensated by buring him in the mix with the backups carrying the lead. Good call.. Wolf and Eddie sang perfectly all night long.  They were great.

  • Ladyhawk

    The show stunk.  It is true, DLR has become an old, creepy caracature of himself.  And, the ticket prices (and fees) were ridiculous.  We bought tickets the day after they went on sale.  We drove down to the Pepsi Center and bought our tickets to avoid the ridiculous fees.  We asked the cashier to show us the best tickets in the $79.50 price range.  It was Section 338 (nose bleed seats).  We assumed the concert was about to sell out, so we bought the tickets.  I watched online periodically over the last several months and, as the date for the show got closer, much better seats became available for the same or lower (49.50) price.  WTF?  There were people sitting adjacent to the stage (1st level) who paid half what we did for our seats in the top, extremely hot upper level where the sound was totally distorted.  $160 down the toilet.     

    • LuvzPugz

      The sound was distorted on the floor as well, maybe it was better to be up there, maybe not as loud.  Seriously, this was one of the worse concerts I have been to, ever!  When DLR wasn’t singing, and there was only music was probably the only saving grace.

  • http://twitter.com/75kl ck

    Dave just helped them put out one of the better albums in their career and you idiots want the tubby bozo of rock,Sammy Hagar back? Dave is actually singing pretty good on this tour.
    I hear a sound problem on some shows not a vocal problem.

    As for American idol;the less said the better.Don’t think anyone will care much about Kelly Clarkson and all the rest of them in 20 years.You can sing note perfect all you want.
    Most of the great Rock singers from Plant  on never did.
    Plenty of off notes on Zep records.Anybody care?Nope.
    It’s a great show, if you don’t like it go see Chickenfoot: they can’t even fill 3000 seaters.

  • Pognoot

    As for the mediocre sound system, I don’t know what is going on these days with rock bands having weak sound. I saw Rush last year at Red Rocks and it has all harsh mids and highs with absolutely no bottom end.  When I waked by the stage, I saw why:  2 double 18 sub enclosures per side trying to fill an outdoor ampitheater that holds 9000?  No subs flown either.

    From where I was at Van Halen, same sort of thing. Loud, harsh, and top heavy with no bass. It paled in comparison to the incredible sound I heard at Roger Waters.  In fact, that may have been the best sounding concert I’ve ever been to at the Can.   

    Roger does sound and visuals right.

  • Anonymous

    Met a pro bass player not to long ago.  He claimed that he played backstage for Wolfgang when the band plays live and tours.  Wolfgang fakes it.  No reason to doubt the guy who told me.

    • Angie Magor

       Ya, I am standing right next to him playing the drums for Alex… Do you believe everything you hear??

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZEF6AS6HISAKDTQVM5ZN3PHBUI Craig S

    Been watching rock concerts for 25 years, this is the first time I’ve ever said these words: too LOUD.  When I could actually hear what was going on in the band, I generally liked it.  But unless I knew the lyrics already I just had no idea what he was singing.  He reminded me of William Shatner, always singing ahead or behind the rhythm.  EVH was great, made the night worthwhile.  Agree with the person who mentioned the lame stage setup.  Maybe I’m spoiled after seeing The Wall a few weeks back, but last night was as boring as, well, a plain plywood riser (well swiffered for some reason).

  • Dizzyhorse

    You’ve got to be kidding me! Sammy Hagar will always be better than Dave! Especially live! He’s ALSO the best thing that ever happened to Van Halen!

    • Guest

      Bahahahahahaha!!!!

  • jb4820

    I have viewed the you tube videos from the Denver and other concerts on this tour and Dave has been doing about what I would expect from a 57 year old.    Go see any other band out there try and replicate the vocals to their songs live from 30 years ago and you get the same result.   This is show more than anything is about having fun and a few beers with friends and reliving the past.    If you don’t like it (or are a closest Van Hagar fan) then don’t go to the show.   Dave does sound worse as the tour goes on though and my guess is that is the real reason for them postponing what was the 2nd leg of the N.America tour.   I saw them in 2007-08 and his voice held up then but not seem like it will this tour.   My guess is that they will take the time to figure out what is wrong with his voice and then find a way to augment it live going forward like so many other bands do today.    At least they tried to do it old school and are finishing out the first leg of the tour……

  • Kukes

    David Lee Roth, your comment about the girl you slept with in the 80’s that “counted” even tho’ she only had one arm, had a poor lapse in judgement, which is the only reason she slept with you.
    Your band mates rocked it, but you showed absolutely no class. You belong on the cover of Time magazine….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_CI7KAKH2WBU7PKRQFH7CZIX67Y pb03

    Kool & the Gang did a pretty good job. I didn’t know they sang “Get Down on It.”  Ladies Night was pretty neat to hear.  Ah.. Van Halen. Well considering we were originally seated in the 300 section and then bumped to floor level just by sheer luck, I guess the show wasn’t all bad.  I rocked out big time hearing “Panama”  and my friend couldn’t wait for “Jump” at the end.  But as most of the reviews have gone so far, pretty sad about David Lee Roth. It’s probably best the band either retires or finds a lead singer who can do the song justice. Another point to make, which I know is mute, but can we please turn down the decibles just a few. I know this was a big venue, but the acoustics could have carried themselves just far enough if the volume was turned down a bit.  However, then more people would have noticed Roth being off key and the lyrics much more.

    The show was cool and all, but I would have rather paid to see Journey. At least they found a lead singer who can do their catalog justice and can handle the rigors of Touring. No offense, but neither DLR or Steve Perry can do what they did back in their haydays anymore.

  • Sammy Haggar

    Bring back Sammy.  It’s no longer a question of Sammy or Dave.  Diamond Dave is dead as we knew him.

    The Van Halen family was awesome.  They (and we) deserve a much better vocalist.

  • BB

    Are you kidding me?  Sammy Hagar and Van Halen had a huge songbook!  Sammy is older than Roth and can not only bounce around the stage, but recall the words to even Roth’s songs and sing them with ease!  I guess this reporter is not a Chickenfoot/Hagar fan.  Too bad! 

    That’s the problem with this tour too.  They won’t sing any of the songs that Hagar participated in.  You’re missing so many great songs if you see Roth.  Time for that man to hang up his saddle.

    Furthermore only Hagar and Anthony showed up for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction.  Those guys are all class and talent!

  • Jaime_rios

    dave sang parts of a couple songs great – a couple lines at least – i think he can still sing if he wants too – but he’s always been into that broadway show type thing and tries being artsy – i would have preferred he sing more too though – i still loved the show either way – never had the pleasure of seeing them with dave – got into them when they had just got with sammy when i was 12  – so it was exciting to just see them up there – and though the sound was kind of jumbled (weird compared to what i’ve seen in the past) – eddie and alex still played awesome – absolutely tore things up – and wolfie seems destined to become a great as well

  • Nojtims

    How do you write a review of this concert and not mention:
    1) Dave dissing his crew afer 7 of them spent 25 minutes to build and polish his weird slick floor
    2) The cheesiest screen effect ever — the DLR slo-mo kick

  • BB

    In fact…I’ll just enjoy the 2008 show that I saw.  That was good enough for me.  RIP to the original VH.  Sammy can still kill it!  Beautiful Girls was fantastic in 2008!

  • Slinky

    i went last night and the woman walked out after the 3rd song and i fought thru the whole show. Kool and the gang rocked sounded great nice tight in the groove nice job guys real nice…………..Van Halen the band were on it but the sound guy needs to be replaced the sound was way to over the top bleeding sound but that didn’t matter Roth was on crack. OMG i wasen’t looking for 1984 roth but i was looking for someone who i thought would know the words to the GD song. Man what are you thinking. And the best part was watching the rodies guys make up the stage for 45 mins and spend 30 mins cleanning roths little dance floor he had and then 20 mins into the set he make a comment about how they fucked up the dance floor…Really man come on now……..190.00 bucks down the drain but i was happy with kool and the gang give them my money………

  • Tonguefun34

    Wow, give Diamond Dave a bit of respect, he is a legend and very eccentric.  He is not going to hit all the notes and his rants are part of who he is.  Thirty years have passed and he is a different guy and so what if he can’t hit the high notes most these guys from the 70s can’t.  I have seen Van Hagar many times but was lucky to see the DLR Van Halen last night.  I had great seats (5th row) and there was a tremendous amount of energy.  People just need to relax and realize it is about the spectacle of seeing at least 3/4 of the band and enjoy the amazing music these guys have created over the years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rmschwanz Robert Michael Schwanz

    from david lee roths own mouth they the band is just taking a break from the tour  thats it so all the rumors are false  until you know the facts  keep yours shut !

  • RUSHGRL

    I was row 5 on the floor and the sound was MUDDY!  It took a while for me to figure out what song they were singing. As for Dave yelling at the roadie he’s been doing that gig since almost the beginning of the tour.  Yeah, there were some rough moments with his voice, but it was never phenomenal to begin with.  He’s a great front-man and compliments the band in that respect. Eddy’s guitar playing is spot-on. I’ve met the band and hung out backstage and I can tell you with certainty that Wolfgang plays his own guitar, no one is behind the scenes playing for him (don’t believe everything you hear!!!)
    The band looked like they were having a great time, they played a bunch of hits and besides the few blurbs from Dave and the muddy mix I thought it was a good show. 
    Thanks so much to the idiots in the row who got into a fist fight at the end causing me to jump out of the way and miss the boys waving their goodbyes and exiting the stage!  If you’re gonna drink like a fish stay home and listen to a CD!

    • Mscub4ever

      i was in row 2 on Wolfie’s side. i’ve never been so close to the stage. In front of me, two bimbos show up jiggling for Wolfie and he loses his place more than a few times. DLR was awful. VH boys were terrific. Saw VH in 08. Couldn’t see Alex at all but that show was much better even though my view was obstructed.

  • give Sammy a break

    I really liked your review but I thought it was a cheap shot that you took against Sammy Hagar.  Just because David sucked, what else is new, is no reason to call out Sammy.  I saw both singers in their prime on the 1984 tour and on the 5150 tour and Sammy blew David away.  David is a broadway schtickman who memorizes his performance for evey show.  He says the same stories and jokes every night.  Sammy is a spontaneous rocker who gives the audience a fresh performance from the heart every night.  Stop picking on Sammy, just because David was the originator does not mean that Sammy is not the better performer.