David Lee Roth rips it up on the mic at last night's (Jan. 5) intimate gig at Café Wha? in New York. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Van Halen kicked off what promises to be a busy 2012 with a fiery, hit-laden show at Cafe Wha? in New York on Thursday night (Jan. 5). As the rock legends played to a collection of rock critics and headbanging celebs at the crammed, 250-capacity club, their new label, Interscope Records, was preparing to announce the dates of the band's extensive 2012 tour, as well as the title and release date of their first album with frontman David Lee Roth since 1984. "A Different Kind of Truth" will hit stores on Feb. 7.
Instead of focusing on new material at their club gig, however, Van Halen ripped through their classics at the sweaty club show, which Roth referred to as "unarguably one of the best gigs of the career." With guitarist Eddie Van Halen nailing every riff, his son Wolfgang Van Halen coolly handling the bass and Alex Van Halen pounding away on the kit, Roth led the uproarious crowd through sing-alongs of "You Really Got Me," "Panama," "Jump" and "Everybody Wants Some," among others.
"Last time I stood on a stage this low, we had to have the car back by midnight, man!" Roth told the crowd with a laugh. The singer, who split from the group in 1985 and was temporarily replaced by singers like Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone, shared stories about serving as an EMT in the Bronx and shouted out his 92-year-old Uncle Manny, the founder of Cafe Wha? who was in attendance last night.
"It took us 50 years to get this gig. It was easier getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame than getting this gig," said Roth. "This is a temple. This is a very special place. And I am more nervous about this gig than I would ever be at the Garden."
David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen. (Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Dennis Dennehy and Hillary Siskind from Interscope Geffen A&M were in attendance, as was Sheila Richman from Atlantic Records. Other notable attendees at the private event included "Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon, tennis champ John McEnroe, The Roots' Kirk Douglas and celebrity chef Sandra Lee, while rock scribes like Rolling Stone's David Fricke, Josh Baron from Relix, Steve Kandell from Spin and Sasha Frere-Jones from the New Yorker were all spotted.
Rock writer Chuck Klosterman, who recently released the novel "The Visible Man" and currently serves as a consulting editor at Grantland, told Billboard post-concert that Thursday night's show was the first time he's ever seen Van Halen live, and that the reunited foursome lived up to expectations.
"I thought it was pretty great," says Klosterman. "I liked Van Halen before I knew I liked music. When I was in first grade, my brother was a senior in high school, and he would drive me to school. And the albums he really liked were Meat Loaf's 'Bat Out of Hell,' the Blues Brothers soundtrack, and the first Van Halen album. I listened to Van Halen before I had any relationship to what it meant, so Van Halen was probably the first band I ever loved, that I still love now. And my relationship to them is probably the longest. And yet this is the first show."
Eddie Van Halen (Photo: Jason Lipshutz)
Roth struck a sentimental tone when during the intro to "Ice Cream Man," he spoke about the impact his uncle Manny had on him. The front man told a story about first stepping foot inside the club when he was 7-years-old and hearing a calypso steel drummer playing. "I carved my name on one of these banisters."
"But perhaps more importantly," Roth added. "That was the same year my uncle sat on this stage exactly as I stand here in front of you and said 'Hey I got a new poet, a new folk singer, his name's Bobby Zimmerman (later Bob Dylan). He needs a place to shack up. True story.'"
Manny Roth, who now lives in California, told Billboard he hadn't stepped foot inside the club he built, ran and later sold in 15-20 years. "David called my three or four days ago. He woke me up and said, 'Manny, you won't believe this but I came full circle. I'm headlining at the Cafe Wha? and I want you to come.' I'm not traveling much these days, but then my loved ones all convinced me I should come," he said.
Roth's review of his nephew's performance: "He was phenomenal. Dave is as good as it gets. He's like a son to me."
Eddie Van Halen's pedal board at Café Wha? last night (Jan. 5). (Photo: Marc Schneider)
Van Halen played one new song, the boisterous "She's The Woman," which will presumably appear on "A Different Kind of Truth." The album will be previewed by first single "Tattoo," which will be released this Tuesday (Jan. 10) alongside its accompanying music video. Van Halen will kick off their 2012 trek on Feb. 18 in Louisville, with tickets for the Live Nation-promoted arena tour go on sale on Jan. 14.
Here is the setlist from Van Halen's Cafe Wha? show:
1. "You Really Got Me"
2. "Runnin' with the Devil"
3. "Somebody Get Me a Doctor"
4. "Everybody Wants Some"
5. "She's the Woman"
6. "Dance the Night Away"
8. "Hot for Teacher"
9. "Ice Cream Man"
10. "Ain't Talkin Bout Love"
(Additional reporting by Marc Schneider)