Both Van Halen and Kenny Wayne Shepherd gave the crowd in Clarkston, Michigan a double shot of electrifying guitar work.
1998 was the last time Van Halen had stepped foot on stage at DTE Energy Music Theatre (formerly known as Pine Knob). Tonight’s capacity crowd is amped and ready for their return. But before Van Halen hits the stage, Kenny Wayne Shepherd (KWS) is up and his band is about to tear through a fiery 50-minute set of blues-inspired rock nâ€™ roll.
KWS kicks things off with â€œSomehow, Somewhere, Somewayâ€ and â€œSlow Rideâ€ from his â€™97 Trouble Isâ€¦ album. Next, goes back to his â€™95 Ledbetter Heights album for his first Billboard Top Ten single, â€œDeja Voodoo.â€ Without a momentâ€™s hesitation, the band segues right into their cover of Earl Kingâ€™s â€œCome On (Part 1).â€
Singer Noah Hunt asks the crowd, â€œAre you ready for the Blues?â€ The band kicks into another classic off the Ledbetter Heights album, â€œShame, Shame, Shame.â€ Halfway through the song, Noah tells the crowd, â€œIâ€™m going to step aside for a bit and let these guys play some Blues for you,â€ as he points to the bass player, Tony Franklin and keyboardist, Riley Osbourn. These two continue to jam with KWS for a few minutes before Noah comes back out to finish the song.
KWS walked up to the microphone and says, â€œThank you so much. Feel free to sing along on the next song if you want.â€ The house goes manic as he kicks into the guitar intro to his very first Billboard #1 hit single, â€œBlue on Black,â€ the crowd singing along to every word.
KWS plays two cover songs; first up is Slim Harpoâ€™s â€œIâ€™m a King Bee.â€ Next is Fleetwood Macâ€™s â€œOh Well,â€ which the crowd seems to enjoy especially.
As KWS introduces the band, he mentions how he was only 17 years old when he and keyboardist Riley Osbourn played together in Willie Nelsonâ€™s band. He tells how bassist Tony Franklin had played in the Paul Rodgers/Jimmy Page supergroup, The Firm. He describes how drummer Chris Layton had played in Stevie Ray Vaughnâ€™s band, and he states he is honored to have been working with vocalist Noah Hunt for the past 17 years.
They close their performance with an electrifying dead-on cover of The Jimi Hendrix Experienceâ€™s â€œVoodoo Child (Slight Return).â€ At one point, KWS raises his right hand toward the sky while playing the guitar solo with only his left hand. Needless to say, the crowd was amazed at the guitarmanship of this 38-year-old guitar-singer-songwriter in his prime.
Although the Kenny Wayne Shepherd band plays a different genre of music than Van Halen, the crowd doesn’t seem to mind. The music of both bands is based around exquisite guitarmanship of two truly talented musicians. KWS proves to be the perfect warm up to the exciting guitar pyrotechnics of Edward Van Halen.
It had been just over two weeks since Van Halen had to cancel a tour stop in Hershey, Pennsylvania due to David Lee Roth having the flu. Remnants of his cold hampered his ability to hit the high notes of many songs however David made the best of his voice and was able to put on an exceptional performance with the help of Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen singing harmony.
The show started with David and Eddie walking out center stage, intertwining arms together, and spinning around in a circle with Eddie breaking off playing the guitar intro to â€œLight Up The Sky.â€ This song was a hint of the rarities and welcome returned ones the band was to pull from their four decade long catalog of songs .
There was no hesitation as the band cranked through â€œRunninâ€™ With the Devilâ€ and â€œRomeo Delight.â€ Alex Van Halen played every inch of his drums, with such perfection, it sounded like a thunderstorm in the distance as Eddie played his guitar with weird intergalactic type space sounds coming out of it. David asked the crowd â€œIs everybody having a reasonable time so far?â€ then the song picked up into â€œEverybody Wants Some!!â€
Davidâ€™s voice struggled at points. Nonetheless, he was in good spirits grinning from ear to ear while exchanging pleasant conversation with the crowd. David, Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang played off each other so well that there was a sense of unity and comfort between them. â€œChapter One, Fifty Shades of Daveâ€ David jokingly told the crowd pointing at someone in the front row stating, â€œHow old are you? Do I know your mom?â€ then the band continued on with â€œEverybody Wants Some!!â€
Eddie walked up onto the drum riser and began the intro to â€œDrop Dead Legsâ€ which segued flawlessly into â€œFeel Your Love Tonight.â€ They continued on blasting through â€œSomebody Get Me a Doctorâ€ and â€œSheâ€™s the Womanâ€ before David jokingly mentioned to the crowd â€œI never learned the set list. Every time I come up on stage itâ€™s new to me. I call this selective denial.â€
The band played â€œChina Townâ€ and â€œIâ€™ll Waitâ€ followed by a faithfully precise drum solo Alex is known for playing. David stated â€œNice soloâ€ hitting the head on the nail with â€œThatâ€™s like some cinematic shitâ€ which described Alexâ€™s drum solo to a â€˜Tâ€™ as cinematic is a perfect one-word description.
They broke into â€œLittle Guitarsâ€ while David pulled out some of his classic dance moves sliding across the stage. Alex hit the instantly recognizable cowbell intro to â€œDance the Night Awayâ€ and the crowd was back in a manic state screaming out every word while pumping their hands up to the sky. They followed this with a slew of Van Halen devoteeâ€™s favorites; â€œBeautiful Girls,â€ â€œWomen in Love,â€ â€œHot for Teacher,â€ â€œIn a Simple Rhymeâ€ and â€œDirty Movies.â€
Eddie, Alex and Wolfgang left the stage while David sat center stage playing the harmonica and acoustic guitar. While diddling around with the acoustic guitar, David told us a genuinely sincere story about meeting James Brown at the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony. David mentioned he was up for 14 awards that night. As he sat down, James Brown turned to him and mentioned to him that he liked his stuff and told David he was going to sweep up that night (meaning win all of the awards he was up for). Each time his name came up for an award, he lost out to â€œWe Are The World,â€ not winning any awards that night. He turned to James Brown and jokingly asked him, â€œWhen you mentioned I was going to sweep up tonight, did you mean sweep up the floors after the show?â€ James Brown was a personal hero to David and what was important to him, he told us, was that James Brown knew who he was. Davidâ€™s acoustic guitar playing then turned into the beginning of their cover of John Brimâ€™s â€œIce Cream Man.â€
They followed this with â€œUnchainedâ€ and â€œAinâ€™t Talkinâ€™ â€˜Bout Loveâ€ before everyone left the stage leaving Eddie standing center stage under a single light shining down directly on top of him. Watching Eddie play his guitar with his unique finger tapping style sent chills down your spine as he pulled off his space-age sounding guitar sounds. I over heard several people stating, â€œHeâ€™s the mad scientist on the guitar!â€ Eddieâ€™s guitar solo slowly became heavier with him performing his classic style jump in the air he is famous for doing on many of their music videos.
Eddieâ€™s guitar solo quickly turned into their cover of The Kinksâ€™ â€œYou Really Got Meâ€ followed by â€œPanamaâ€ and â€œJumpâ€. There was no encore. The band played a solid non-stop two-hour set of four decades worth of fan favorites; rarities and long-forgotten songs, which made a welcome, come back to their live set.
Edward Van Halen shined and amazed the crowd with his guitar wizardry playing as strong as he has since he started back in the 70s. Alex Van Halen played every inch of his large drum set never slowing down nor needing a break. The crowd welcomed Wolfgang Van Halen back into the band which bears his family name. Something he first did nine years ago surprising everyone who was hoping for Michael Anthonyâ€™s return. Michael was not missed, however, as Wolfgangâ€™s bass playing and back up vocals have secured a valid place in this band. And, David Lee Roth, struggling some with his vocals was triumphant in the fact that he is still able to WOW the crowd with his unique stage presence, funny stories and classic dance moves, even hitting a couple of high kicks like he did in yearâ€™s past.
â€œYou got a good show tonight, Iâ€™ll tell ya,â€ David told the crowd towards the end of the show. Even though he struggled some with his vocals, he was right as was also evident by the crowdâ€™s standing ovation and thunderous applause at the end of their performance.
Photography by Thom Seling