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Van Halen: Running with the Devil in Kansas City

“That mistake was brought to you by Budweiser.” Were Dave’s words after working through ‘In a Simple Rhyme,’ off their 1980 album, “Women and Children First.” It’s true that David Lee Roth can’t sing like he did when he was in his 30’s, but when the sound mix drowns out his vocals, it’s somewhat understandable, and when you’re Diamond Dave, it is forgivable.

Alex, Eddie, Wolfgang, and David Lee Roth stopped in Kansas City on Wednesday night, during their 2015 tour. With blues artist, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and his band, opening the show, things heated up quickly, not just onstage, but offstage as well, in the 82 degree heat, and 80% humidity, at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre.

David wasn’t going to let the heat slow him down, and hit the stage with all the energy we’ve come to expect from him throughout the years. Wearing black slacks, with matching vest, and dress shirt, he must’ve been sweltering, and beads of sweat were on his forehead minutes into their opener, “Light up the Sky.”

Wolfgang quickly took to the drum riser, next to his uncle, holding his Frankenstein bass up high, and strumming those chords we all know lead into, “Running with the Devil.” Wolfgang took over for Michael Anthony in the band in 2006. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Michael had to say “If I was dead and they needed someone to play, that’s one thing” and I’m inclined to agree. That said, Wolfgang is a very talented musician, and nailed every note.

During “Romeo Delight,” the third song of their set, David broke into monologue, like he famously does during several of their hits, “Look at that moon. It’s the same moon that Cleopatra looked at.” He meandered on for a bit, much to the amusement of Eddie, “Oh, you think I’ve painted myself into a corner? But I hunt with the spirit of the moon, and of the Wolf!” Dave exclaimed pointing to Wolfgang, before bringing the song to an end.

Though there was minimal talking between songs, David left us with some ponderables, like “If you go to China, is there an Americatown?” asked during “Chinatown,” which also included some Kung Fu demonstrations, and impressive high kicks from David (something he would do throughout the night).

Though the years have worn on David’s voice a bit, Eddie’s guitar chops haven’t dulled at all. Effortlessly finger flicking through each iconic Van Halen bridge, and shredding each solo, he really showed his mettle during an 8 minute solo, that produced sounds few others have from  guitar. He covered melodies that would easily fit into any heavy metal song, before deftly switching to something reminiscent of a classical sonata, and back to metal, while being drowned in a sea of red lights.

Alex would demonstrate similar virtuosity throughout the night, never missing a beat, and never dropping a stick. Alex, too, showed his skills during his now famous drum solo, Drum Struck, where he played for a solid five minutes.

As the night drew to a close, Wolfgang, Alex, and Eddie, left the stage, to take a much needed break, while David sat down, acoustic guitar in hand and harmonica mount on his neck. In 2006, David released a bluegrass album called, ‘Strumming with the Devil’, and launched into his bluegrass rendition of ‘Ice Cream Man,’ which worked surprisingly well, before being joined onstage by the rest of the band for the final chorus.

Van Halen closed their set out with “Panama,” and if it wasn’t obvious before, it was painfully obvious how much David’s vocals were being drowned out by the rest of the mix, including the backing vocals. At the end, David shouted to the crowd, “We don’t need to leave the stage, do you guys want an encore?” and the band moved into “Jump.” After all these years, the synth into is still enough to get people energized, and David continued to move with the same frenetic pace he did through the preceding two hours. Unfortunately, he didn’t jump for us last night, but still threw in some head kicks for good measure.

Van Halen, like most classic bands, are beginning to show signs of aging, but the current tour shows that they have no intention of slowing down. With a set of 25 songs, almost all the classics are covered. And even other fans a little jaded over Michael Anthony’s departure were in attendance, having the time of their life. If Van Halen is rolling into your town, go and Dance the Night Away. I’ll Wait.