Editor’s note: Rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen died Tuesday at age 65 after a battle with throat cancer. Below is a review of a Van Halen show at the Carrier Dome, staged Oct. 15, 1988.
While the Syracuse University football team was silencing the hometown fans in Penn State’s Beaver Stadium, the heavy metal rock group Van Halen was back here in Orange country, bouncing decibels off the roof of the Carrier Dome.
Volume and speed seemed to be the game plan for guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen and his self-titled band. With the guitarist and vocalist Sammy Hagar out front, the group offered more than two hours of hard charging rock ‘n’ roll to an appreciative audience of 20,000 — far from capacity.
It was evident that Saturday’s show would be a loud one, even by today’s rock standards, when opening act Private Lives could be heard clear across the SU quad.
From the opening notes of Van Halen’s “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired),” the guitarist dominated the show. Van Halen has mastered a number of guitar techniques — subtlety and understatement are not among them, however — and his inventive solos were the saving grace of many of Saturday’s tunes. Some of his best work came on the melodic intro to “Summer Nights” and the distorted harmonics of the group’s first single, from 1978, “Runnin’ With the Devil.”
Other Van Halen favorites covered Saturday include the cover of the Kinks “You Really Got Me,” “Panama,” “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “5150.”
Many tunes from the new “OU812” album were also presented, most notably the current single “Finish What Ya Started” and “Mine All Mine.” The latter, says Hagar, is a reminder that “the only person you can trust is yourself” and has lyrics inspired by Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Swaggart.
This is the band’s third major tour since Hagar replaced the flamboyant David Lee Roth as the band’s vocalist and he’s since made himself right at home. The 39-year-old singer was all over the stage, mugging the audience for all it was worth and even climbing up one of the large racks of speakers. His voice, although competent for Van Halen’s kick-out-the-jams style of rock, is showing a bit of wear and he definitely overdid it with the crude language. The fans, however, did not seem to mind.
“I want 20,000 people to give it to me,” commanded the singer, as he was recruiting harmony vocalists for “Panama.” Most responded, either singing and shouting along or holding disposable lighters skyward.
Eddie Van Halen dead: Legendary guitarist dies at 65