Those who were going to a Van Halen concert expecting a boxing match were surprised Thursday night at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater when they saw lead singer David Lee Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen hit the stage spinning around arm-in-arm, then shaking hands for all in the crowd to see.
The often-feuding duo proved that although they may butt heads offstage, they are brothers in rock and roll when the music starts. Despite being in their early 60s, with the exception of bassist Wolfgang, Eddie's 24-year-old son, Van Halen proved it still has fire in its belly.
In a nonstop two-hour performance, VH blazed through a well-balanced mix of classic rock hits ("Everybody Wants Some," "Runnin' With the Devil") and obscure fan faves ("Light Up the Sky," "Drop Dead Legs"). Judging by the 40- to 50-year-old male-dominant crowd, it was clear that they were recalling some high school moments, creating a comfortable blanket of nostalgia.
Van Halen doesn't need special effects. Roth's enthusiasm and spunk conveys the band's spirit while the trio of Van Halens -- Ed, Wolf and drummer Alex -- keeps the music tight. However, Roth can be challenged vocally at times. He floated by on "Hot For Teacher," in which he cracks wise as the band cooks. But when he has to sing out on "I'll Wait" or "China Town," he lets Ed and Wolf do the heavy lifting on background vocals. That's when he winks, spins and cartoons his way through the show -- hoping you won't notice.
Eddie makes up for Roth's aging pipes with his power chords, which haven't lost a step. While his hair and goatee may be graying, his fingers are still very much alive and limber, which is why the crowds still come.
"This is one of the best shows of our whole season," declared Roth with a smile to the sold-out crowd. "As it should be."
Van Halen plays another show at Jones Beach Saturday night.