August 6th and 7th Ė VH Concert Experience Review
My wife and I went to the Van Halen concerts at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on both Friday night August 6th and Saturday night August 7th. What follows is a write up of that experience. I bought someoneís 4 Star tickets on Friday night at the last second and decided to go. I finally couldnít stand the idea of VH playing in my town and not being there. I was sure I would hear on Saturday night how I should have been there Friday night because the band was so awesome. As it turned out I do think Friday was the better show, even if it wasnít the better experience for us. We had 5 Star tickets for Saturday night!!!
If you had to pick a place to have a concert where you need to seat 12,000 the Mandalay Bay Event Center is one of the best places. The acoustics are about as good as it gets for a big building like this. It sounded awesome during ďsound checkĒ. I go to lots of concerts in Las Vegas and they are usually at the House of Blues or the Hard Rock, which I really like. I avoid the large stadium shows for all the obvious reasons. I have not been to one in many years, but to see Van Halen you have to do what you have to do!
I am not sure why they have a package called ď4 StarĒ. I donít know what you get other than paying $60 more for your ticket. There is a useless (to me) laminate and they walk around and hand out a few T-Shirts. We did get one of those. We were in the 21st row on the outside aisle (I thought they said first 20!). Since the floor is flat and everyone stands you canít see very well unless you are tall, which neither my wife nor I are. I ended up watching 75% of the concert on the very cool and high quality screen above them. We learned during the 5 Star tour the next night that it is new technology at work. Had we just been a couple rows up on the side it would have been much better as far as the view. I have made another note never to get floor tickets again if it isnít up front!
The energy of the concert was great both nights. Las Vegas concerts are almost always like that due to the party atmosphere. The band seemed genuinely up for the show Friday night. Both nights were sold out shows. None of us can turn back the clock, but they did an admirable job trying. It was just a lot of fun. Ed played a regular Sunburst quilt all night, except for an EVH art Guitar on Up for Breakfast. This was the same both nights. They did alter the order of their set list the next night and changed one or two songs, although at the moment I am drawing a blank on which ones they were. Ed looked surprisingly good from 21 rows back and moved really well. It certainly brought you back.
I thought the band was better Friday night, but I enjoyed my Saturday night experience much better due to being front row center and the whole 5 Star experience. I am not sure how much of my hearing I lost this weekend, but my ears are still ringing. And I had earplugs last night! It was loud! We had two of the best 10 seats in the house. The five star package was very worth it for us. It was a lot of waiting around, which isnít my specialty (just ask my wife!), but I was ready for that. The highlight, as everyone who has done the 5 Star package will tell you is the sound check. The sound was just awesome. It was much better than the actual concert with the stadium full of people. They played Runnin with the Devil as the only song outside their set list. That was my favorite for the whole weekend. Michael sang it. We could have stayed there all night. I think they did all or part of 4 songs. Sammy didnít participate in the sound check.
The backstage / arena tour was interesting just to see what goes into a show like this. I had been backstage at an AC/DC concert at the Pond in Anaheim many years ago in a more relaxed setting (just got to hang out) and so I had some sense of it, but this was really something. You can see why they have to charge a lot for the tickets. It is expensive to put something like this on. Van Halen goes all out with their stage show.
The IloveAccess people were great. Some idiot kid (I say kid Ė he was probably 22) was stealing the Van Halen signs on the arena tour, which tell the crew where things are. What a moron! They should have thrown him out. I am not sure if they got them back because he wasnít admitting to it even though he was seen. He later almost got thrown out by security during the concert for shoving an usher who was trying to tell a girl in his party to quit pushing towards the stage (from the 2nd to the 1st row) through the chairs. He was a first class idiot, but there are always plenty of those to go around at an event like this.
As the show got close to starting on Saturday night, two girls dressed liked they worked at the Crazy Horse came down and tried to get the attention of people on stage. Apparently, they knew that for filming purposes and possibly for the pleasure of the band, they will let a couple nice looking young girls up front. This one girl (the better looking of the two) after pleading and being said no to several times, manages to get up front (they gave her the official front row wrist band). Her friend who wasnít as good looking got shut out. The girl up front, who had no trouble saying adios to her friend, spent the rest of the night trying to get on camera and pleaded with security to get on the stage. She did get Michael Anthony to hand her something that she quickly stuck in her pocket. Probably just a guitar pick!
I hate to be a critic because I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but I am sure there are people who want the details on Edís playing and the show. He played better Friday night. I didnít like the solos either night and Saturday night was a bit painful. He even said at one point ďIím still just fuckin aroundĒ. It was pretty sloppy through most of the solo on Saturday. He could have pissed on his guitar for a new sound though and the crowd would have loved it. He could do no wrong! Ed seemed to give the entire concert his all both nights, although I thought the whole band moved around better on Friday night and it was an all around better show. Still I am not complaining. It was an excellent show and Ed is still the king! He also had his son there Friday night. Wolfgang played on Friday night but not Saturday night. Ed certainly loves his son, as it should be! And did I mention sound check was great? It was. Great experience.
Sammy was at his best during his own solos / songs. He is a good guitar player in his own right. His vocals were best suited for his own stuff. I would have loved to listen to him just stand out there on his own and play and sing longer. He was great. I am sorry to have to say this, but he does a lousy job with the DLR era songs. Sometimes it looks like he isn't even trying to sing them right. Although it can be hard to sing when Ed is off playing something odd or changing the tempo, which he did from time to time. The thing with people throwing stuff on stage constantly for Sammy to sign or wear while the show is going on, to me takes away from the show. It is like he isn't paying attention half the time to trying to sing well. But I guess people love it. I have a hard time with all the people (over 20) that want to touch these guys or who will dive on the floor for a guitar pick and are pushing like crazy just to try and touch them. There was a total idiot with a VH striped cast on his arm (kid about 21) that was up and down the front row trying to touch these guys. Either that or he was grabbing the stripper chick. She seemed like a better choice than Sammy to me! You gotta have some dignity! Eddie clearly doesn't want to touch the fans. I had heard he doesn't like crowds and that he is uncomfortable with it. You could see that. In any event, they have Michael Anthony carrying more of the vocal load on the DLR songs and he does a better job. I was a huge Montrose fan when I was a kid and I like Sammy Haggar, but he isn't the best singer. Sometimes he sounds really good and sometimes he doesn't! He is a great entertainer though. The best vocals of the weekend were the lead singer from Shinedown doing an awesome version of Lynard Skynard's "Simple Man".
For me, the Saturday night experience was the best I could have hoped for. I donít need to go to anymore VH concerts this year. I wonít be able to top it. The ultimate experience though would be to get to play Eddies rig at sound check in that empty arena. All that power and that big sound! I imagine it is the same rush the guys who fly the military fighters must feel! Now if I could just get my ears to stop ringing!