111007 Van Halen/Kymani Marley, Montreal, QC

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A funny story: After spending a solid month living with a Thai family on their small island off of Koh Samui I was hankering a normal, Western breakfast.  And by “normal” I meant a pair of broken eggs fried crisp, served on dark toast with a slice of cheese.  I know that I’m very particular about my eggs and if I don’t cook them myself they just won’t be right, so I had arranged with my host to allow me use of her kitchen one morning, and had made sure that her husband had picked up a loaf of bread, a couple of eggs, and two slices of processed cheese for me on his last trip off of the island.  

And so it was with great anticipation and a watering mouth that I fried up my eggs that morning and patiently waited until my bread was cooked almost black.  I lovingly stacked my eggs, cheese and toast onto a plate and was walking excitedly out to the dining area when I smacked my head on one of the kitchen’s low-leaning beams, giving me a good little lump on my noggin and launching the pair of eggs off of my plate and onto the sandy floor, where they landed face down (of course).  

There were no more eggs and there was no more cheese.  My excitement and anticipation had been immediately and irrevocably replaced with longing and disappointment, as the tasty treat was virtually stolen from my waiting mouth.

Which brings me to Van Halen’s stop at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens way back when the were touring their awesome 1984 album.  I had gone down to the show with a couple of work buddies intending to buy scalper tickets with my twenty dollar bill only to find the cheap seats going for the outrageous price of $75 a ticket.  My friends had enough cash to get in but not enough extra to loan me, so I ended up taking the subway home alone that night while the original lineup of Van Halen raged through their biggest-selling album inside one of Canada’s most famous venues on what would turn out to be their final tour, without me.  It was precisely the same disappointment that I would experience with my fried egg debacle a mere eight years later.  That hollow feeling of tragic unfulfillment when you reach for the last potato chip (say) and find the bag is, in fact, already empty.

And then – finally – I was given an opportunity to fill that void, that hole in my soul that had been dug so many years before, when Van Halen broke down and allowed David Lee Roth back on the road with them again (well, half of Van Halen did: I’m guessing Sammy Hager didn’t vote to have himself replaced by Roth, and Michael Anthony was conspicuously absent from the 3/4-sized reunion tour so he probably wasn’t too keen on the idea either.  Though I suppose if the band is named after your surname your vote probably counts extra anyway).

Without any takers I drove to Montreal by myself for this show and it’s just as well; I’m not sure I could have cut loose as much as I did if there had been someone I knew standing beside me.  I mean, I was an air-guitaring, air-drumming, fist-pumping, chronic sing-alonger and I enjoyed the show like the robbed sixteen-year-old me would have, completely unrestrained by any hint of decorum and set free to rockit like a hurricane.

Gosh, I had so much fun.  It was just so, so satisfying to finally hear all those great party songs like they should be heard (ie: not with Sammy Hagar singing them).  And David Lee Roth was so fresh in his re-role as VH lead vocalist that he was still singing the songs the way they were supposed to go.  When I would see the same lineup again almost five years later Diamond Dave was by then bored enough with the material to be sacrilegiously drawing out phrases and reworking lines on the spot (like Bob Dylan does, except when Dylan does it it’s cool.  With DLR?  Not so much).

Man, I had such a great time.

And that’s not even mentioning the wicked opening act courtesy of Kymani Marley, who conjured up his father’s Rasta spirit in his jumpy, groovy reggae set.  Van Halen has famously always booked distinct genre mismatches to open their shows, and while this pairing was no different (being so different) you would’ve been hard-pressed to find anyone in Montreal’s Bell Centre complaining.

It was such a great show that I kept the happy the entire drive back to Ottawa, singing out-loudly to myself in the car like a young little rock & roller the whole way home. 

The next morning, I made eggs.

2 comments

  1. I went to Toronto for this tour and I was likely just as excited to see this tour as you were. Dave back in the band, finally! I had shitty seats but it didn’t matter that night. The 2007 tour ranks up there as being in the top 3 VH shows I’ve seen.

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