Despite a somewhat tepid response this past spring to their first ever live album with original frontman David Lee Roth, Van Halen forged ahead with a lengthy summer tour that kicked off over the fourth of July weekend and runs through October. Touching down at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield last Saturday night, one month into the jaunt, the aged Southern California party rock band are somehow garnering some of the best reviews in a four-decade career.
Much of it is due to the deft fretwork of band namesake Edward Van Halen, who arguably hasn’t been playing guitar this well since the late’70s/early’80s. Clearly buoyed by his son Wolfgang handling bass duties with rock solid brother Alex providing the backbone behind the drum kit, Eddie hasn’t looked this happy in quite a longtime — especially never knowing what that loose cannon Roth is going to do up there. But there his singer is, at 60 years old, throwing kicks a man half his age wouldn’t attempt, dropping into James Brown-style poses and providing a running, rambling and often hilarious narration of the proceedings at every opportunity.
Roth’s vocals have long been a point of consternation for fans, but he’s sounding pointedly better than both the 2007 reunion tour and 2012 outing to support stellar record A Different Kind of Truth. Mainly, the singer seems to be getting the hint to avoid stretching beyond his already limited range on demanding tracks like “China Town” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor.”
Speaking of the setlist, this lean operating machine of the Mighty VH is not content these days to just trot out the backyard barbecue hits like “Panama” and “Ice Cream Man.” Nope, they’re digging deep on never-before-played-live cuts like “Dirty Movies” and “Drop Dead Legs” along with rarely busted out favorites like “Feel Your Love Tonight” and “Light Up the Sky,” the latter which has made for a surprising but satisfying opener each night.
Here’s the full setlist: Light Up The Sky Runnin’ With The Devil Romeo Delight Everybody Wants Some!! Drop Dead Legs Feel Your Love Tonight Somebody Get Me A Doctor She’s The Woman China Town I’ll Wait Drum Solo Little Guitars Dance The Night Away Beautiful Girls Women In Love Hot For Teacher In A Simple Rhyme/Growth “Dirty Movies” Ice Cream Man Unchained Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love Guitar Solo You Really Got Me Panama Jump