Gone were any visible traces of the divisions that drove Roth away from and out of the band all those years ago, and if the singer’s nonstop smiling and wild-eyed mugging often appeared more mannered than genuine, his interplay with guitarist Eddie Van Halen, who seemed to be enjoying himself as much as any member of the audience, came off as warm and jovial, even brotherly. Only the absence of founding bassist Michael Anthony, who departed in the mid-2000s and who has been replaced in musicality if not in spirit by Eddie’s son
Opening with "Unchained," from the band's 1981 album "Fair Warning," the group quickly dispensed with the idea that the audience was in store for a typical reunion show, with all its attendant celebrations of past glories and starkly present reminders of fading abilities and eroding relevance. Sure, Roth's roundhouse kicks don't reach as high as they once did, and his flowing mane of blond hair has long since been replaced by a short, preppy 'do. And yes, he can no longer drop into a split without calling attention to the fact that he's not too old to drop into a split, but last night, Roth lived up to his Diamond Dave moniker, glittering in matching black leather pants, vest and jacket, worn over a sparkling blue shirt that would make half the performers in Las Vegas blush. Although his style and demeanor have been widely imitated, Roth has always followed his own blueprint, a hard-rock frontman whose belt is crafted with as much Borsht as vinyl, and a sex god who isn't afraid to appear mortal. He remains the genre's preeminent ham, and only late in the show, when he interrupted Alex Van Halen's drum intro to "Hot for the Teacher" to deliver an expletive-laden tirade against the stage crew for failing to properly control the temperature of the overhead "blowers," did he allow any cracks to appear in his facade. It was an awkward, uncomfortable moment, the low point of the show, and it took the band two songs -- the deep cuts "Outta Love Again" and "Women in Love" -- before Roth was able to regain his composure and lead the Van Halens through a rollicking version of the classic sing-along "Beautiful Girls."
Of course, Roth’s star is inextricably linked to that of Eddie Van Halen, the inventive, phenomenally gifted guitarist who has his own legions of acolytes and imitators. But even during songs as familiar as “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Panama,” “Hot for Teacher” and the group’s cover of
The show ended, to no one's surprise, with "Jump," a trifle of a song from "1984" that also may have been the original lineup's biggest hit. The song's trademark keyboard riff was piped in from somewhere off-stage, but that didn't seem to matter much. As the band struck its final note, and as Roth sang his last lyric of the night, the front half of the arena was blanketed with a hail of red and white confetti, shot forth from two large cannons near the front of the stage. It rained down in thick clumps, with Roth standing on the edge of the stage and manically waving a red-and-white checkered flag. The show was over. The race with the past had been won.