I was a little sleepy this morning after a rare weeknight out ... but boy was it worth it! Van Halen, one of my all-time favorite bands, was playing at Madison Square Garden. Between the infectious enthusiasm of singer David Lee Roth and the still-stellar guitar playing of Eddie Van Halen, they put on a surprisingly good show some 20 years after their heyday.
As a radio DJ in the '80s, I played a lot of old-school, pre-Sammy Hagar Van Halen and vividly remember seeing Roth flying through the air, attached to wires while singing their huge hit "Jump." "Jump" was the first encore song last night, well delivered and staged with colorful flags that for some reason really made sense. Other than that, the show was devoid of props and trickery. The perpetually-in-motion Roth ran all over the stage, handling the mic stand like some talented twirler at a high school football game.
Both Roth and Van Halen seemed like they were having the time of their lives -- both smiling like a couple of gleeful kids jamming in their parent's garage. And Eddie remains one of the best rock guitarists ever, bending and coaxing the guitar as if it were the love of his life ... which it most likely is.
Maybe it's the perspective that comes from their long eventful lives: the challenges of breakups, rehab and fame lost and found again. But these guys seemed to really appreciate the fact that they could still do what they love and that people would pay to see them. If this was all about a payday, you could've fooled me, because anyone who saw them perform "Panama" last night could still see and hear the passion in their performance.