Artist: David Lee Roth
Venue: Westbury Music Fair (Westbury, NY)
Date: June 1, 2003
It was almost twenty years ago that David Lee Roth left Van Halen at the height of their popularity. Diamond Dave went on to have immediate commercial success as a solo artist, but soon fell off the charts. He has continued to tour, including an ill-fated tour with another ex-Van Halen singer, Sammy Hagar, last year. Dave hit the road again this year to promote his new album. Would he rock the place, or would he come across as another aging rock star that can’t let go? You might be surprised at the answer.
The evening began upon our arrival at the Westbury Music Fair around 6:30, with the show starting at 7. If you’re not familiar with the venue, it is one of the most intimate out there. No seat is more than 60 feet from the circular stage, which actually rotates so everyone gets a good view. It’s the kind of place major acts play in the twilight of their careers, but it always draws a good crowd. On this night, the crowd was full of 40-somethings trying to relive their glory days. It didn’t work. My friend Shaun (17 years old) and myself (21) felt horribly out of place among the mid-life crisis crowd, but that feeling eased after a while. My knowledge of VH and Dave’s solo work wasn’t terribly strong, so I made sure to make plenty of Gary Cherone jokes to pass the time (remember this later).
The opening act was a singer called Annie Minogue, and she did pretty well. One of her songs was evidently on Dawson’s Creek this past year. Needless to say, this wasn’t the right crowd for her to be performing to. Still, she and her band put on a good show.
We were told there would be a 20-minute intermission at 7:40, which usually means more than 20. At 8:15 minutes into the intermission, the lights went down…and the techno music came on.
At this point, we were truly worried as to what we might see. Cheesy techno music… at a ROCK show?!? As we worried about Diamond Dave’s sanity, the band came down along with David Lee Roth. Dave looked every bit of 47 years old, with a receding hairline to boot. But, as we would see shortly, he could still rock.
The band tore into “Hot For Teacher”, eliminating any fears that Dave would avoid the Van Halen stuff. Diamond Dave proceeded to go through nearly every major VH hit – everything you could want was played. Classics like “Unchained”, “Runnin’ With The Devil”, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, and so many more were played with the intensity and integrity of the original recordings intact. The only notable hits missing were “Jamie’s Cryin'”, “I’ll Wait”, and “Dancing in the Streets”. What’s more is that they all sounded great. Dave’s band was impeccable – you could not assemble a band that sounded more like Van Halen outside of recruiting the Van Halens and Michael Anthony. They even played “Eruption”! Dave also played a number of his solo hits, including “California Girls” and “Just a Gigolo”. All throughout, Dave showed that he still has it, dazzling the crowd with his trademark kicks and twirls, and a stage presence you wouldn’t expect to see in someone pushing 50.
As the hits kept on coming, Dave kept up a hilarious banter with the audience, taking time during the breakdowns in each song to tell stories or make lewd comments to the more attractive females in the crowd. The ladies, of course, gave him exactly what he wanted. He also got some good shots in on Sammy Hagar, even one that incorporated the rotating stage – “When you step off the stage and look back a little later, everything looks different. That’s Sammy’s tenure with Van Halen in a nutshell.” And when one fan decided to jump onto the stage and run off immediately after, Dave quipped, “Hey, I think that was Gary Cherone!”
No true showman would leave without an encore, and David Lee Roth is, if nothing else, a true showman. So after they finished their “last song”, the band hopped back onstage for a rousing rendition of “Jump” (during which the stage rotated faster than usual), and every person in the building left happy.
A lot has been said about David Lee Roth, most of it bad. However, you just have to see him live to realize he’s still The Man. It was obvious that Dave was having a great time on stage, with the emphasis on giving the people what they want. In spite of his new album coming out soon, he only played one song off of it. He stuck to the hits, and it worked. Even at 47, Diamond Dave could teach a lesson to every frontman in music today.