When Van Halen dropped back in '78, punk-addled rock critics didn't take too well to their KISS-gone-supernova racket. "This music belongs on an aircraft carrier," Robert Christgau huffed, in one of those odd dismissals that a lot of people might read as an accidental endorsement. But after three decades of increasingly dour hard-rock bands turning heaviness and volume into an unfun, self-serious trudge, it's good to have a reminder of just how flat-out adventurous the original VH lineup sounds. Eddie's canonization as an uber-technician shouldn't overshadow the fact that his flashiness isn't just some self-satisfied dick-wrangling. Those guitar tones he cranked out were and remain defiantly weird, phased into spaceship flybys and revving V-12 motors and sinister chuckling asides. And David Lee Roth hit on the confounding, yet inspired, idea of becoming the missing link between Robert Plant and Louis Prima, a presence that nails the showbizzy sincerity of pop music as vaudeville and kicks the po-faced reverence of Ye Olde Rock Canon to the curb as sure as anyone this side of Prince. The disco-sucks contingent might grimace at Kool & the Gang as an opener, but their early-'70s funk material is sneakily compatible.
Sat., May 19, 7:30 p.m., 2012
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