Van Halen kicks Vancouver’s ass before new singer Sammy Hagar channels Hugh Hefner backstage



By Steve Newton

Things started off pretty bad at Van Halen’s B.C. Place concert last Thursday (October 23). But they got progressively better as the night wore on. And by the end of the show there were no complaints at all.

The reason for the poor start was the reincarnation of Vancouver’s Bachman Turner Overdrive. Now I liked those guys as much as anybody in the Not Fragile days, but that was before they became laughable and boring shadows of their former selves. Terrible versions of “Four Wheel Drrve” and “Hey You” weren’t helped any by lousy sound, but it really sounded like Randy Bachman had forgotten how to use his limited vocal abilities. He can stil play some pretty neat lead guitar, like on the new song “Bad News Travels Fast”, but that’s about it.

Next up were Tom Cochrane and Red Rider, who also ran into technical difficulties early on. You could barely make out Cochrane’s vocals on the opener, “Power”, but after a couple more songs the bugs were worked out and the sound was more than adequate–much better than the normal Pacific Coliseum show.

The Red Rider band sounded tight and inspired, particularly on songs like “White Hot” and “Can’t Turn Back”. It was rather disappointing that only two songs from the band’s latest album were included in the seven-song set, but “The Untouchable One” and “Boy Inside the Man” still had people clapping along. They ended with “Lunatic Fringe”, but there were no big cheers for an encore. Most of the 20,000-odd fans–many clad in “Van Halen Kicks Ass” t-shirts–were more concerned with the main event.

Van Halen is one band that believes totally in the “big is best” philosophy. They had a massive stage set up, and the most lights I’ve ever seen since Michael “Where is He Now?” Jackson played the stadium. The band kicked right into their now famous version of the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” and never looked back.

Sammy Hagar must have worn an inch off his sneakers, running back and forth along gangplanks set high above the stage. He would hang precariously off the rigging and swing around like a skinny blonde Tarzan while singing songs from his own solo albums like “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and “I Can’t Drive 55”.

At one point a bearded Eddie Van Halen sat down at the edge of the stage, lit a cigarette, and played a few licks of “Classical Gas” before heading off into a raucous blues jam. Alex Van Halen’s drum kit–with no less than four bass drums–was a light show in itself. And bassist Michael Anthony would either chase after Eddie or just stand still, laying down the bottom end and smiling with a look that said, “Gee, this ain’t a bad way to make a buck!”

In the dressing room after the show, Anthony was the doting father, playing with the pacifier in his wee infant’s mouth. Eddie Van Halen, he of the vice-like handshake, was roaming around, TV-star wife Valerie Bertinelli hot on his heels. And lounging around in a bright red dressing gown, chatting up a gaggle of backstage bombshells, was Sammy Hagar. It looks like he’s filling Diamond Dave’s old spot in more ways than one.


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