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David Lee Roth at a show prior to Rock USA.
Oshkosh didn’t seem to miss the Red Rocker on Saturday night as a David Lee Roth-led Van Halen hit the stage at Rock USA.
Van Halen served as the capstone of the four-day rock fest at Ford Festival Park, with the near classic lineup of Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Wolfgang Van Halen (who replaced original bassist Michael Anthony). Known for their influence in the late ’70s and ’80s, Van Halen reached superstardom with their Roth fronted album “1984” (released in 1983) with hits such as “Hot For Teacher,” “Panama” and “Jump,” which were all performed in the second half of the band’s Rock USA set.
The concert started with Roth shouting a rhetorical “Are you ready?” before the band broke into 1981’s “Unchained.”
Roth’s black sequined jacket sparkled off the lights, Eddie’s ponytail was still growing in, Alex donned slicked hair with shades and Wolfgang looked like a clean-cut young man.
“Running With the Devil” was the band’s second selection, followed by “She’s the Woman” from 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth.”
Roth hit his first minor costume change by song four, “Romeo Delight,” by adding a newsboy hat to his repertoire. Other costume changes throughout the show included a sailor hat, scarves, shades and different jackets; things one would expect from Roth. However, at one point, he was also (carefully) wielding a sword.
About half way through the set, Alex took on a three-minute drum solo that ended with Roth shouting, “Now that’s a (expletive) drum solo!” It wasn’t the only F-bomb of the night from Roth, but that also should’ve been expected.
Fans gather before Van Halen at Rock USA in Oshkosh Saturday night.
After Alex’s solo and Roth’s comment, the band kicked into “You Really Got Me,” which contained a musical breakdown that sounded like an impromptu jam session. While Eddie rocked on the guitar, Roth joked that he had never heard him play that way before, but that could’ve been a farce. The band came out of the extended breakdown with Roth singing the chorus a capella before encouraging the crowd to join in.
Back to back hits “Hot for Teacher” and “Beautiful Girls” prefaced about a ten minute Roth solo onstage where he told stories about his past and plucked an acoustic guitar before working his way into “Ice Cream Man.”
“Panama” was the band’s next choice, which had the most, and loudest, amount of crowd participation to that point, edging out “Hot for Teacher.”
Eddie then worked into a solo session of strumming and tapping (the crowd reacted more to the tapping) for about five minutes before busting into “Eruption.” The solo session lasted just under 10 minutes and at certain points, the tens of thousands in the crowd seemed near silent.
When the solo was finished, Roth walked back onstage in a yellow jacket and asked the crowd if they had time for one more song. The show ended with “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love,” which received the largest crowd response of the night.
Although “Aint’ Talkin’ Bout Love” was supposedly the last song, the band quickly followed up with their encore song “Jump.” In fact, it was so fast, it didn’t even feel like an encore. It just felt like part of the set.
Highlights of the show included both Alex and Eddie’s solos, while the crowd reacted most to “Hot for Teacher,” “Panama” and “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.”
Roth’s singing and banter was on all night and the Van Halens just never seem to miss. Both the sound and the music were solid. Camaraderie among the band also seemed well, especially Roth and Eddie, who interacted more than anybody else onstage. Of course Roth wasn’t kicking above his head or doing the splits like the old days, but his personality is still that of a 20-year-old. Musically, the band was tight, poised and frankly, just looked and acted like legends.
For photos, visit OshkoshHub.com
Rock USA set list:
2. Runnin’ With The Devil
3. She’s The Woman
4. Romeo Delight
6. Everybody Wants Some!!
7. Somebody Get Me A Doctor
8. China Town
9. Hear About It Later
10. Pretty Woman
11. Alex Van Halen drum solo
12. You Really Got Me
13. Dance The Night Away
14. I’ll Wait
15. Hot For Teacher
16. Beautiful Girls
17. David Lee Roth storytelling
18. Ice Cream Man
20. Eddie Van Halen guitar solo
21. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
22. Jump (encore)