David Lee Roth joins Van Halen live, and it's still hardcore like '84.
by Dan Snierson in Entertainment Weekly
efore we get to what happened during Van Halen's first concert with David Lee Roth since 1984 -- and, oh, lots did! -- here's what didn't happen. Diamond Dave didn't break out the assless chaps. Eddie Van Halen didn't trip over his whammy bar. His bassist son, Wolfgang, didn't wet himself. The band didn't even break up on stage. Actually, something more startling did go down: Van Halen took an encouraging step toward reclaiming their hard-rock throne (neh-neh, Axl!) -- or at least their good name. Not bad for a few fifthysomethings and a 16-year-old.
How would VH kick off this 40-date tour that once-mulleted, now-graying fans have prayed for since high school detention? (They trekked here from all over the country, fearing the band might implode before reaching a venue near them.) Roth waved a giant red flag -- holy omen? -- and then VH blazed through their multiplatinum catalog of catchy-as-an-STD rockers ("Panama," "Unchained,' "Beautiful Girls") as if there was much to prove. Which, of course, there was. After the bitter '85 split with Roth, myriad botched reunions, and lead-singer musical chairs with Sammy Hagar (successful) and Gary Cherone (suckcessful) -- plus the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame no-show and the dumping of original bassist Michael Anthony for Wolfgang -- the band had transmogrified into Spi&numl;al Fi&numl;ger Tap. Yet on this night, the Halen turned rather mighty again. Without the aid of pyro, Midway through "I'm the One," the first of several cool surprises, they stopped cold and soaked in the whoo!'s for a solid minute. "It took us 20 years to get this f---in' far!" bellowed a touched Roth, who left any tensions with Eddie behind, or backstage. The duo were all smiles and high fives. (Cue Naked Gun scene in which dog embraces mailman, Muslim hugs Jew.)
Among the sites and sounds: a tight-abbed Roth in Vegas-y matador jackets, his well-worn voice sounding unusually fresh'n'focused. Despite perching a top hat on his crotch, he radiated as much giddiness as horniness -- grateful for redemption. Ditto for Shreddie. After spotty work on 2004's reunion tour with Hagar, the newly rehabbed guitar wizard stunned with mean riffs, otherworldly squeals, and blistering fretwork, anchored by drummer brother Alex Van Halen's thunderstickery. (Still, their indulgent solo showcases begat a few urinal breaks.) And up there with his decades-old mentors, Wolfie resembled a contest winner, but calmly issued sturdy grooves and vocals. Anthony's conviviality and sublime harmonies were missed, yes, but not mourned.
What to make of this? Is it one-time wonderful? A triumph of middle-aged will? A future of CDs, tours, breakups, and makeups? We've got devil horns on one hand, fingers crossed on the other. A-
Wild and crazy? More like shy but savvy. In his new memoir,
by Jeff Giles in Entertainment Weekly
Born Standing Up
he history of Western culture is full of artists who bled, starved, or courted madness for their work and their audience. But come on: How many of those phonies stuck an arrow through their head for us? Steve Martin's Born Standing Up is a spare, unexpectedly resonant remembrance of things past, the things in question being balloon animals and bunny ears, as well as the awkwardness Martin felt with his sullen father and the profound silliness he himself unleashed on stage. The book is unexpected not because fans have forgotten the sunburst that was Martin's stand-up but because you'd be forgiven for wondering if he has. It's been decades since he began reinventing himself as a wry, quietly powerful novelist, a snowy-haired movie dad, and a real, as opposed to ironic, sophisticate. "I ignored my stand-up career for twenty-five years," he writes, "but now, having finished this memoir, I view this time with surprising warmth. One can have, it turns out, an affection for the war years."
Martin's prose is unusually meditative for a guy who once insisted that the ozone layer had to be saved because it was shielding us from another, more distant layer -- of farts. Off stage, he always tended toward the non-wild and not-so-crazy. By 15, Martin was doing magic acts for Cub Scouts and making notes: "Leave out unessasary [sic] jokes... relax, don't shake... charge money?" At 20, he performed for a week at a club in San Francisco, where a sign in the kitchen read "Anyone giving money to Janis Joplin before her last set is fired!" It was here that his act became not comedy but "a parody of comedy." Every desperate thing he'd done just to fill a 25-minute set -- balloons, banjo playing, nose-glasses -- suddenly cohered.
Describing the road to his colossal fame, Martin drops tidbits about being intimidated by Linda Ronstadt ("Steve, do you often date girls and not try to sleep with them?") and passing Elvis backstage in Vegas ("Son, you have an ob-leek sense of humor"). He talks about anxiety attacks and his father's death. But this is not some star's tell-all. Martin's one true subject is the evolution of his comedy -- the transcendent moments when he realized, say, that punchlines were the enemy, that a white suit could be seen better in a concert hall. Born is a smart, gentlemanly, modest book. That it comes from a man who's spent his life lampooning arrogance makes it all the more winning. In 2001, while hosting the Oscars, Martin had a one-liner that deserves to be remembered as one of the great skewerings of celebrity vanity. "Please hold your applause," he said. "Until it's for me." Fair enough. Here it comes: A
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