Van Halen at Cafe Wha?

A few years ago, a friend took me to see Van Halen at Madison Square Garden. It was a special gig: after a couple of decades, and years of rumors, the band had reunited with its original singer, “Diamond” David Lee Roth.

The beers at the Garden are size XL. They’re also watery, domestic swill that, paradoxically, practically beg you to drink too many of them. We did. My friend — who makes more money each year in private equity than I’ll see in my life — ended the concert shirtless, running laps around the mezzanine, exhorting anyone who wasn’t already headbanging with Slayerian vigor to “F%&*ING ROCK.” After the show, things really went downhill.

By the time my friend’s pregnant wife physically dragged him out of the Odeon at about 3am, I had indulged more vices in that single evening than I had in the previous dozen years combined. (And that’s no boast — it was straight up pathetic and mortifying, the stuff we stooped to.) It’s surely no coincidence that I subsequently developed an interest in various forms of Christian monasticism.

Last week, SS mentioned that he might be going to see the DLR-led ‘Halen at Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. My feelings were bittersweet. The Garden holds just under 20,000 people. Cafe Wha?, where Hendrix and Dylan both started back in the 60s, holds just over 200. Here was a chance to see one of the great arena rock dinosaurs in an impossibly intimate setting.

On the other hand, I enjoy being married, and doubt I have enough spousal goodwill in the bank to cover a second VH-enabled debauch. I decided against begging to tag along.

Luckily for us all, Steve and our comrade Brian Turner made the gig, and filed this report:

Tiny tile floor joint basement and it was loud as hell through a PA the size of air conditioners. They opened with You Really Got Me and Runnin With the Devil, only played one new song from the forthcoming. DLR ranted endlessly between songs, talking about cupcakes, the Lower East Side, needing to meet Lady Gaga and imitated Jim Morrison singing Led Zeppelin during Panama, and said “start the Jump Tape” at the beginning of “Jump”. The PA cut out during Jump. Wolfgang came walking over talking to people while DLR rambled forever. Ice Cream Man was like American Pie. Everyone around us kept asking who we were in the biz.

The setlist (encore precluded by aforementioned PA fritz):



— CL