Concert season is warming up
March is dry for concerts, but starting in April we'll have a regular run of at least one concert a month until August. Coming up in two weeks is Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree fame on his solo tour supporting his second album. He'll be playing the HOB Dallas and the only real negative is that it's on a Monday night, which along with Tuesday night are the least desirable concert nights. I like to combine concerts with a long weekend and those two nights are the least ideal.
The next week (Thursday, yes!) it's Opeth/Mastodon/Ghost for some metal mayhem at the Palladium. Aeyong will be skipping that one, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't enjoy it that much. A couple weeks after that it's Roger Waters performing "The Wall" in it's entirety (and apparently nothing else) in Austin. I had skipped the last few Roger Waters tours because I've always held out hope I could see David Gilmour and he has always been my preferred member of the band. But I came to realize that if I don't see Roger Waters now, I'll most likely never have seen any member of Pink Floyd live in my life, and that's a huge void in my concert going history. Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Queen are probably the 3 biggest omissions that I wish I could rectify, but it isn't likely to ever happen. If Queen tours with Paul Rodgers (or even Adam Lambert) I'll go see them, because I love Brian May and Roger Taylor and Paul Rodgers is awesome (actually saw him twice with Jimmy Page in the Firm) and I can tolerate other singers if the band founders find them suitable.
Case in point would be Yes with Benoit David (although I'm not sure if he got fired now). We have seen the more recent lineup with Steve Howe, Chris Squire, Alan White, Oliver Wakeman, and Benoit David and I think they did a fantastic job. I think the "Fly from Here" album is the best thing Yes (the more classical-ish, non Trevor Rabin lineup) have done since ABWH. I love the Trevor Rabin Yes as well, it's just a different band with him in it. Trevor is such a strong musical force, that the magnetic poles in Yes shift when he's in the band, more than with Steve (and I love Steve and consider him a primary influence).
Roger Waters is in early May, and then about 6-7 weeks later is potentially the highlight (for me, anyway) of the summer with Van Halen at AA center in Dallas for the "A Different Kind of Truth" tour. A new album, with David Lee Roth. A really good, no great VH album, with David Lee Roth. Let that sink in. Have you bought it? Listened to it? No, I mean, LISTENED to it? If not, go do that and come back. Take a couple weeks of heavy rotation. Preferably on a good home stereo if you have one of those. No, not those crap logitechs next to your monitor. I mean a home stereo. Not the $199 HTIB that you got on black friday 7 years ago at WalMart. Ok, if necessary, go make some money, buy a respectable home theater speaker system (or go old school stereo if you want, that's perfectly acceptable, and you get style points from the audiophiles if it's a good set of speakers) and then listen to the cd or make sure you're listening to a lossless or high resolution audio format. Lather, rinse, repeat.
WARNING - MINI VH ALBUM REVIEW FOLLOWS THEN CONCERT DISCUSSION RESUMES LATER
This new Van Halen album is easily the best thing they've done since 1984. Sure, it would be different than the SH (or even Gary Cherone if you include him) era because of DLR and Wolfie, but it's not the novelty of having DLR back. I honestly considered DLR peripheral to most of the VH stuff I really loved, because it was always about 80% Eddie, 10% Alex, and 10% of the other two for me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Michael Anthony sings great backing vocals and is a "decent" bassist (staying out of Eddie's way is his best skill), and DLR is the ultimate showman. Yada, Yada, Yada. I just always felt like VH could have been a Zeppelin equivalent (in importance, not as a successor to their sound) for me if EVH had a vocalist/lyricist and bassist that were in the same league as him. Imagine if Eddie had musicians as talented as John Paul Jones and Robert Plant or Freddie Mercury in Van Halen. Think of all the great music and imagine if you had someone like Roger Waters writing lyrics for it. See?
But all criticisms aside, DLR has truly gained some wisdom and honed his craft as a lyricist and singer since we last saw him and the VH boys. It's amazing because he's still the same vaudevillian/showman that he has always been, but he's gotten really good at it and his lyrics are so much beyond what they were in the past. Funny, irreverent, insightful, obscure, random. These are just some of the qualities to his new lyric writing. "Swapmeet Sally, Trampstamp Tat, Mousewife to Momshell in the time it took to get that new tattoo, tattoo, tattoo". I don't care what anyone says, those are perfect VH lyrics. It reminds me of Alice Cooper and some other great cerebrally funny lyricists through the years.
DLR manages to reference current popular culture (social media, music, mid life crises, etc) and mix it with classic Vh tropes (sex, drugs, and RnFR baby) while ensuring that it fits the feel of the music perfectly. This album actually makes me feel like the perfect VH lineup was always there, but in DLR and wolfie's (more about him soon) case, it just needed to mature (literally in Wolfie's case, he was an infant in their heyday).
On the subject of Wolfgang, or Ed Jr. (probably either is appropriate) he has really developed as a musician. We first saw him during the VH 2004 tour where he came out during EVH's solo (it was a running gag, EVH stops playing and the solo continues on the PA. A few seconds later, out comes a mini-Ed playing a Frankenstrat and it's Wolfgang, sounding like his Dad). Fast forward to 2011 and he's been the bass player since 2007 (maybe much earlier, not sure how long he's been playing bass). This dude has chops. He's a chip off the old block and now Eddie finally has a bass player that can keep up with him. It's actually changed the dynamics in the band quite a bit now, and I even think Eddie is approaching his tone differently (wah, anyone?) because of Wolfgang. More on VH later. Suffice to say, the new album is what the VH diehards have been hoping for all these years. All the people whining about the exclusion of Michael Anthony are seriously lacking in musical taste. And I think Michael's a respectable bassist and great backup singer. Wolfie's better, much better. And now it's the new and improved Van Halen. With 25% more Van Halen than ever before (see what I did there?). I don't know if any other living Van Halen's are musical (their Dad was, but I think he's probably passed on by now) but it would be interesting to see if they could pull off a VH quadfecta just for laughs.
BACK TO CONCERT CALENDAR DISCUSSION
VH in mid June followed by Boston in early July. Tom Scholz is essentially the only original member of the band now as far as I know, but that's fine with me, since Tom Scholz is Boston to me. Brad Delp is definitely out since he committed suicide several years ago. I haven't really kept up with them, but Boston and Scholz's guitar tone were defining sounds for me early in my guitar fandom. Don't Look Back was one of the earlier albums I purchased and really got into, replaying it on my turntable over and over. I know I definitely air guitared my ass off to that album. And, as established by Whitehead/Russell in Principia Mathematica, Air Guitar Worthy=Concert Worthy. It's in the appendix, look it up.
Closing out the presumably sweltering summer in August will be Iron Maiden back at the Smirnoff, I mean Superpages, I mean, whatever the hell they're calling it now shed. Iron Maiden is supposedly going to feature a big chunk of the set list from the "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" tour, so that should be cool. I was a bit letdown by the last set list in 2010, but I'm going to make sure I'm more familiar this time around. I have always been a Number of the Beast through Somewhere in Time era fan, but there are some other great Iron Maiden albums in there as well.
And hopefully concert season will be closed out by Rush in the early fall for their Clockwork Angels tour. All in all, it's going to be a good concert season.