Van Halen @ The Coors Amphitheater, Chula Vista CA 08/17/04
Not freakin’ bad. I’ts difficult to say that it was an awesome show because I’ve been spoiled by seeing Rush and DT pull off 3 hour, stellar performances so many damn times. I was a big VH head in the 90’s when I was still a wee lad and hadn’t discovered progmetal (let alone DT) yet. But I knew this was a once in a lifetime event, especially given Eddie’s poor health. His cancer was made public a couple years prior and he was reportedly doing well, however a coworker of mine had a connection to the Van Halen camp, and he reported that Eddie was still very sick around this time. In hindsight, he may have referred to Eddie’s continued struggle with alcoholism.
My buddy Johnny Orange and I traveled from Lake Forest to Chula Vista after work. We skipped out of our shifts a little early so we could beat the South OC traffic. We passed our keyboard/pro audio manager and Johnny said “Hey Roland we’re going to see your countrymen,” referring to the Dutch VH brothers (our keyboard manager was Dutch). Johnny then did his Eddie Van Halen imitation, striking a pose and tapping on an imaginary guitar. We left work and had a good drive through Southern Cali, braving the check point near Camp Pendleton. We arrived in Chula Vista with little trouble. The stretch from greater SD to Chula Vista isn’t the most scenic drive. It’s barren and dry. I commented to Johnny that Chula Vista didn’t look so “chula.” On the way over we passed a latino family in a beat up old pick up truck. It was a faded powder blue with its share of dents and scratches. They had strapped all their worldly possessions onto the truck bed. It was like a tall cube, like a monolith with all their furniture and possessions towering upward, like a giant jigsaw or tetris puzzle, each item fitting perfectly with the other to form this makeshift tower. Everything they had was on that truck. I can only speculate that they were traveling to Mexico, maybe to never return. Johnny looked over and said sympathetically “man, that’s a poor family.” I wondered what ever happened to that family. I thought of our families, the beginnings of our families anyways. At that time Johnny and I were both living with our significant others. He was 26 and married, I was 24 and engaged. We were young aspiring musicians and music fans just trying to make it in uber expensive Orange County, while trying to have some fun in between.
We finally got to the venue and eagerly awaited a great show. The Coors Amphitheatre (now called the Cricket Wireless Amphitheater) is one of the best outdoor 10,000 seaters in Cali in my opinion, and that’s not counting the lawn area which can hold another 10,000 patrons. The venue is well maintained, the surrounding area is flat, open and kind of barren, but I’ll take that over a ghetto area of LA any day (no offense, LA Forum). We dodged some cute MILFs and found a nice spot on the lawn, which was PACKED. It wasn’t so when I got to see Rush at this same venue in July. Van Halen’s set was exactly the same as previous nights with the inclusion of “Panama” during the encore section. I initially thought “Panama” had been left off the set since the beginning of the tour. Anyways, I was excited as hell to hear it live.
The band was having a ton of fun onstage…very energetic and jumping around as if they were still in their 20’s. So their performance wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was very spirited. Sammy flubbed quite a few lines in various songs, mainly because Ed or Mike did something to crack him up. It was cool to see Mike share more vocal duties, trading off verse sections with Sammy on songs like “Why Can’t This Be Love” and “Dreams,” as well as taking lead vox on “Somebody Get Me a Doctor.” Sammy was especially talkative and mentioned that a lot of his family including his mom were in the crowd. He also joked that he could walk back to Mexico from from San Diego, given the border was right on the horizon. Other highlights for me included “Unchained,” a very welcomed blast from past. It was also great to hear “Dreams,” probably my favorite Hagar era track. Sammy and Mike traded off on the ‘higher and higher’ sections.
I was having a good time, but didn’t truly get into the show until the second half, with the final five songs leaving me more than satisfied. The new tracks off the ‘Best Of’ double CD were very forgettable, I’m sorry to say. They just weren’t that interesting. But It was very cool to hear “Humans Being” off the Twister Soundtrack. On record it’s a wicked song, but on stage it lacked some of the power and guitar fireworks found on CD. It’s too bad that it wasn’t as monstrous in a live setting. Didn’t expect to hear “Seventh Seal” off of Balance. It was a nice surprise, but for a first timer like me, it would have been cooler to hear “Don’t Tell Me” or “Can’t Stop Loving You.” The FUCK album was the first VH album I ever bought. But it was the Balance album and the Twister Soundtrack that got me heavily into VH, and more so the Hagar era than the Roth era. 1995 was a big year for me musically. I was into “earthy,” heavy yet melodic albums that year. I was listening to Balance, as well as Queensryche’s Promised Land and Mana’s Cuando Los Angeles Lloran. The production and tone of those 3 CDs sounded related in some strange way. And the color schemes of the artwork shared the same elements, all of which relied heavily on shades of brown, very Earthy once again. Icing on the cake was the drumming. The drums tracks on those CDs are very compelling. Frankly put, those were bitchin’ drum tracks. Those were my 3 top CDs that year. (Granted QR’s Promised Land was released the year before, I was still spinning it heavily in 95).
This would be the last Van Halen tour to feature both Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony. Some years later the VH brothers reunited with David Lee Roth for a “reunion” tour without Michael Anthony. That is not a reunion tour in my opinion. Michael Anthony was more than just the bass player in Van Halen. While Eddie’s guitar pyrotechnics and DLR’s singing gave the band its identity, Michael Anthony’s contributions were important and have always been criminally overlooked. He is one of the most distinctive backing vocalists in rock, that sweet high tenor is one of a kind. His voice helped define the sound of Van Halen just as much as Eddie’s guitar playing or Dave’s singing. Thanks Sammy and Mike for giving it one last go on this tour, band drama be damned. Later I read that the LA fans got to hear “Runnin’ With the Devil.” What the hell!?
Up For Breakfast
The Seventh Seal
Somebody Get Me A Doctor
It’s About Time
Top Of The World
Why Can’t This Be Love
Deeper Kinda Love
Learning To See
Best Of Both Worlds
Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
You Really Got Me
When It’s Love
The following pictures from this gig were taken by Kat Owens and Chris Dahlstron from the Red Rocker website.