Sam And Dave
It's all about Eddie.
By Bob Lefsetz
Oh, I've been down on the dude. How he broke up two of the best bands of all time. But after spending three hours with these two hacks Tuesday night you too would have kicked them out of your band.
I always thought Dave's act was a joke. Like the class clown. He was doing it for our entertainment. It was all a put-on.
But that seems to be untrue. Seems that Dave actually BELIEVES all his bullshit. Believes he's the wittiest, sexiest rock party dude of all time. It's positively CREEPY!
But not as creepy as Dave's voice.
Everything Eddie said after doing two tracks with Dave back in '96 for the greatest hits album turns out to be true. Dave's voice is SHOT!
Oh, he had a very narrow range to begin with. Hell, it's not about hitting the HIGH notes, it's about singing in the middle, about as challenging as second grade choir. But Dave couldn't nail ANY of it! God, I mean he TRIED to sing, but he might as well have rapped.
It was quite an event. At the appointed hour, 8:15 p.m., every seat was full. I don't know how it is in YOUR burg, but in L.A. NOBODY gets there on time. What with the traffic...GOD could be opening and he'd play to a half full venue. But they were out in force. A motley crew of late thirty and fortysomethings. You had the buff bodybuilders with hair down to the middle of their backs. The Latinos. The car customizers. Every kid who cranked up the stereo to say fuck you to society. They were there. They were ready to ROCK! To RELIVE their peak. Hell, to believe it wasn't over! And then Dave hit the stage.
He LOOKS positively creepy. What, with that facelift.
Will you acts STOP getting facelifts!! How in the hell are we supposed to believe in you if you change your identity. You're telling us it's all about what's on the inside...but you don't live up to your words. Dave, Sheryl Crow, even Henley, McCartney and Jagger. With age comes WISDOM! Be the elder statesman you truly are. By cutting up your body you...appear to be just as vain as those old divorced housewives pathetically cruising the bars after they've been dumped by their husbands. I just want to run.
And Dave had liposuction too. At least it seems so. His torso is SO tight. Dave!! We don't need you to look like you're 25. Hell, the AUDIENCE doesn't. We just need you to sing the songs!
But, since he couldn't do that, Dave whipped out his inane banter. Jerked a Jack Daniels bottle off. Did those martial arts kicks.
Meanwhile, he's running through a repertoire of some of the best hard rock material of all time.
HAVE YOU SEEN JUNIOR'S GRADES???
At this point, "And The Cradle Will Rock..." is my favorite VH track. That GUITARWORK! Eddie's Kramer sounds like it's in some weird science experiment...blowing up as he plays it. And the dude Dave hired...he could hit every note, but he just couldn't get the sound down. He was missing that extra ten percent. And that extra ten percent makes ALL the difference. And, if you've ever seen VH with Eddie, you know that it's the GUITAR that's loudest. The vocals are just another instrument. Dave had the lead and bass turned down a bit, truncated their edge, so we could...HEAR HIM!!
I'm standing there...in SHOCK!
I turn around. It's like "Springtime For Hitler". Oh, SOME of the sold-out crowd is clapping. But the rest are standing there, STUNNED! They WANT to believe, they just CAN'T!
Dave played "Beautiful Girls", as a nonsensical video appeared on the big screen. Three blonde women in a tunnel. Hell, we saw ENDLESS footage of these babes. No plot. Just them running through a tunnel, and then a close-up.
Then the band played "Runnin' With The Devil".
If you lived in L.A...from the time this record was released until about 1990, you heard it EVERY weekend on the radio. It signified PARTY! It signified CUTTING LOOSE! It signified that the man had no hold on our MINDS! This rock and roll, it had POWER.
It was a motherfucking joke.
Lisa had cut out much earlier. Hell, I didn't expect her to last that long. VH isn't chick music. Unless you're the kind of chick who likes to power down a Corona in one fell swoop and then flash your tits. And...Lisa's not a babe like that.
But too bad. I wasn't gonna let her disappearance bring me down. Yup, I'm a man, I'm gonna stand hear and listen to these exuberant adolescent anthems! This is ME!
But I realized I could take it no longer. It was so offensive, it was SCARY! And I realized I wasn't running so much from the bad music, but the concept that my whole life...it was a JOKE! That I'd BELIEVED in this freaky guy. I split.
And backstage I ran into Nick. I felt busted. What was I doing back here hanging out. But, our eyes locked. We both started talking at the same time, did you see what I saw? Did you feel the same way I did?
We were soulmates. We WANTED to believe...it was just IMPOSSIBLE!
Nick asked me to explain it to his wife. How this music used to mean SO much. He said how he woke up every day during high school and put David Lee Roth Van Halen on the stereo. We were both testifying. Trying to convince OURSELVES more than his wife that...there really had been something there.
And then other people started showing up. Boyle. EVERYBODY agreed that this Dave thing was SCARY!
But they all said to catch Sammy. They talked about hanging with him. How great he was. How he was the same guy offstage as on. They were waxing rhapsodic.
But the Sammy thing... It was almost MORE scary. Oh, Sammy could sing. Could hit all the notes he used to. But, without Eddie, you realized...this guy was REALLY average. A journeyman. And he's got this whole party vibe going. As if the whole show were an advertisement for Cabo Wabo Tequila. He's got breast-implanted babes coming out serving margaritas, telling everybody to drink up and party as he takes just a sip and then resorts to water. The guy's 54, he should be doing public service announcements saying he's STUNNED that he's still alive, what with all that drinking. To consume in moderation. But no, he's perpetuating the myth that life's one big party, as if we're all still in high school and getting fucked up on the weekends. I'd say it was a time warp, but there he was up on stage, sans plastic surgery thank god, doing this crazy act.
He too had a band that could play every note, even tap the guitar, without duplicating Eddie's SUPREMACY!
And, as if anybody cared, he opened with a bunch of his solo stuff. Oh, one VH track, but despite that, song after boring song from his catalogue. As if this weren't a special tour, as if we'd actually come to see HIM!
I wanted to split. Wanted to beat the valet parking crush backstage. But, God, he had to do SOME Van Halen tracks, right?
And then Michael Anthony emerges from the wings. And there's SOME applause, but not enough. Because at this point, everybody's crushed. They'd come to see Dave, everybody knows Sammy's VH work isn't as good. If Michael had come out during Dave's set, there would have been pandemonium. But Michael with Sammy...WHO CARED!
Sammy told long bogus stories, Michael mugged. They played.
The highlight? "Finish What Ya Started". With an over five minute intro telling how Eddie showed up at Sam's door with this unfinished song and they stayed up all night completing it. It was like a wake for Eddie. You'd think that Eddie was holed up in a hospital, clinging to life, but...he was in the Hollywood Hills, refusing to be a part of this sideshow.
And then Michael exited. And Sammy played "Eagles Fly", to almost complete silence. And "I Can't Drive 55". Which, I must admit, was pretty good...on a night when everything else was so damn bad. And then it was over. Oh, it wasn't SUPPOSED to be over, there was supposed to be an encore. But next to no one was clapping.
But Sam came out anyway. Told everybody that the HOB employee told him he could save $1700 if he was off the stage in twelve minutes. Sam said HELL NO! He was gonna party all night. That was all that was important. But, I set my watch, he was off the stage to the second. Before the 11:30 union payments began.
It's all a business.
Not to Eddie. Eddie's a PLAYER! Only a player could be convinced by his half-assed manager Ray Danniels that he should add Gary Cherone to the band. ANYBODY knows this is a recipe for disaster. But Gary wasn't working, Ray wanted to do him a solid, win for everybody but...Eddie. Who he'd inherited when Ed Leffler died. And Eddie...since he's a player, he bought Ray's plan. Oh, YOU wouldn't have. But Eddie's a MUSICIAN! He didn't want to search endlessly for a new vocalist, he just wanted to make MUSIC! If he could see the business landscape well, he wouldn't be able to PLAY well.
Hell, his playing, it was sorely missed. Even the keyboards for "Dreams" weren't right.
Prior to last night, I wanted Eddie to get back together with Dave. But, seeing Dave, I now know that's impossible. During intermission, I thought Eddie should get back together with Sammy. But Sammy's a BUFFOON!
Eddie should leave them both behind.
Then again, where does he go from here?
Wherever HE goes, I'll tell you where Sam and Dave go...straight into the dumper. Dave will go back to playing the Rio, the lounges. NO ONE who saw him on this tour will pay good money to see him again. Sam? Sammy will be like any has-been seventies and eighties player. Doing his act in small halls. Releasing albums that don't sell. Because even if Sammy IS nice, he's a lowbrow. Those lyrics weren't even sophomoric, they were just saved by Eddie's stupendous playing.
Think of it like Cream. When it was over, nobody cared about Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, it was all about Clapton.
And Clapton was great in his day. Maybe still great.
But Eddie's better. Oh, I know that sounds heretical. But Eddie developed a whole new way of playing, with his tapping. He wrung a POWER from his instrument. Clapton could whip out leads...but they were tuneful notes that danced in your head. Eddie would work it out and your whole BODY would writhe. And he could play the keyboards too.
Talk to any young player. They're not interested in being Clapton. Not interested in learning what he did. No, they want to copy EDDIE!
You see there WAS something there. In all those Van Halen albums.
But whatever it was, it was not on stage at the Universal Amphitheatre.
Whatever it was.... I know what it was. It was EDDIE! Eddie, COME BACK! We MISS YOU! The way you could play the guitar EFFORTLESSLY! With such power and grace. YOU brought 12,000 people to the Universal Amphitheatre on Monday and Tuesday night. YOU did the business on this tour. It was all about YOUR memory.