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Van Halen plays on Hollywood Blvd., David Lee Roth sustains nose wound

More than four decades after it formed, Van Halen plays first gig to a nationally televised audience.

Despite an early-set knock on the nose that required a bandage for lead singer David Lee Roth, Pasadena's greatest rock export Van Halen survived its nationally televised debut on Monday night -- and shut down Hollywood Boulevard in the process. 

You read that right. Almost 45 years after it formed and at least a few decades beyond its commercial peak, a Roth-fronted Van Halen finally performed on national TV. Returning to support its new live album, "Tokyo Dome Live in Concert," and a recently announced summer tour, the band tore through a handful of its classics as the musical guest on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Monday night.

They did so in grand, if predictable, fashion: by playing "Panama," "Running with the Devil," "Hot for Teacher," "Dance the Night Away" and more in front of the El Capitan Theatre to a raucous crowd of fans and tourists. 

"We waited 45 years for this," screamed Roth, a cheesy smile overwhelming his face.

Kimmel's show does this sort of thing on occasion, but Van Halen doesn't. Long an arena rock mainstay, the band earned its stripes on the Sunset Strip a few miles west. Now consisting of brothers Alex and Eddie and the latter's son Wolfgang on bass, Van Halen rose to great heights in the MTV era, when bands could hit the top through heavy rotation and hot videos. Live sets were for concerts, not TV cameras.

Fast forward some four decades, and it's a good thing this Kimmel set taped a few hours prior to broadcast. A couple minutes into the band's first song, "Panama,"  Roth cut his nose as he was spinning his microphone stand like a drum major. The band stopped. Explaining with typical good humor what had just happened, the singer retreated side-stage to tend to the wound.

Roth's blood loss, though, was our gain. While away, fans were treated to an improvised jam among the three Van Halens onstage. They riffed on "Panama," Eddie working his guitar with miraculous deftness, Alex and Wolfgang tugging at the rhythm. The diversion illustrated the depth of the trio's playing, and confirmed a hard rock unit that sounded as tight as ever. 

When Roth returned, he was wearing a prominent bandage across his nose. For continuity's sake, the band restarted "Panama" from the top and continued as though nothing had happened. Those in attendance knew otherwise, even if the edited version broadcast on Monday night made no mention of the mishap.

That's probably a good thing. Van Halen's been through much worse. (Van Hagar, anyone?) A little knock on the nose certainly wasn't going to scuttle them. As long as Roth is careful, the abrasion will likely be healed by the time the band takes to the road in July, and if not then than certainly by the time the tour's final 2015 show at the Hollywood Bowl rolls around on Oct. 2

Updated, 3:15 p.m.: Clarification added that this was the network TV debut of a Roth-fronted incarnation of Van Halen, which had performed on national television with Sammy Hagar as lead vocalist.

Looking for music tips? Follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit


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