VAN HALEN - Review: Air Canada Center, July 3 Page 2
by Martin Popoff

And now to the master of ceremonies: Sir Edward Van Halen. This man was inspiring. Despite years of smoking, drinking, cancer, divorce and isolation, the guy looked 20-years-old. In baggy pink pants, red-and-white-striped sneakers and shirtless, Eddie jumped up and down continuously, grinning from ear to ear, talking into his mike, performing back-ups, on his knees, flying through the air, all the while balancing expertly between rhythm guitar, texturizing, shredding, musically soloing, painting with sound... this was power trio rock by consummate pros, Van Halen sitting up there with Hendrix, Rush and ZZ Top in terms of shooting spark interplay between pro players.

The setlist was a little heavy on Van Hagar, as is to be expected, but we did get semi-obscurities 'Unchained' and 'Somebody Get Me A Doctor' from the Diamond years, Balance track 'The Seventh Seal', plus the two (messy, confusing) new songs, as well as the Best Of-only 'Humans Being'. Sammy went solo acoustic for 'Eagles Fly' and 'Deeper Kind Of Love'. It's nice when a singer can further legitimize himself with some guitar playing, and it's logical that his solo stroke was about songs (lighter-foisting ballads at that), given Hagar's role in writing soft-hearted hits singles for Van Halen and to a lesser extent, himself.

My only disappointment was the Spartan stage set, which consisted of a spiffy logo painted on a logo-shaped stage, with pits for a handful of fans on each side, these tickets auctioned for charity to the highest bidders. Other than that, three video screens, average lights, and no pyro or other extras of any type. As conclusion though, I'd say this was about one thing: watching Eddie put on one long, edgy, potentially chaotic, narrowly unsafe display, with most of it framed and framing recognizable classic rock hits, which you can choose to visit as diversion if you wished. Although damn, it was hard to keep from focusing on the event as anything but an opportunity to mind-meld with Eddie in all his different moods and modes, an intellectual exercise made all the easier by the amazing screen-wide close-ups of the man's bony hands in action.