There are few '70s-era hard-rock bands that can inspire the kind of unabashed hedonism as Van Halen with original lead singer David Lee Roth. Founded by brothers Edward and Alex Van Halen in 1972, the group went through several name and personnel changes before settling on what is considered to be the classic line-up with lead singer Roth and bassist Michael Anthony in 1974. The quartet gradually moved from playing backyard parties and high schools to clubs on Hollywood's Sunset Strip like Gazzari's and the Whiskey A Go Go.
Van Halen would build a growing local following and after a couple of brushes with fame (KISS bassist Gene Simmons financed a demo and tried to get the band signed before abandoning the idea) got signed to Warner Bros in 1977. The group's self-titled debut the following year featured such rock-radio staples as their cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" and originals "Running with the Devil" and "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" showed off Edward Van Halen's dazzling guitar pyrotechnics, Roth's swaggering delivery and an uncanny mix of hard-rock heft and pop hooks.
Van Halen built a reputation for blowing such headliners like Aerosmith and Black Sabbath off the stage on its earliest world tours before filling arenas on its own. While their eponymous debut remains a commercial and critical high-water mark almost 40 years later, the band released a string of great albums including such landmarks as Women and Children First and Fair Warning. While Van Halen achieved another huge milestone with it's hit effort 1984 -- the album's huge sales were spurred by the group's first #1 hit "Jump" -- simmering acrimony between the band and Roth would led to the singer's messy departure for a solo career in 1985.
Van Halen would tap former Montrose singer and solo star Sammy Hagar to take Roth's place and hit even greater commercial heights, but many fans would still hold the first six albums fronted by Roth in a special place. There was a brief moment in the mid-90s that it appeared Roth might return to the fold, but after contributing two new songs to a greatest hits compilation, another falling out at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards doomed any further collaboration at the time.
The reunion wouldn't pan out until a full decade later after a dismal late '90s album with Extreme singer Gary Cherone and a period of seclusion with rumors of the guitarist struggling with alcohol problems that would surface again during a 2005 summer tour reunion with Hagar. Two years later after Van Halen successfully went through rehab, it was finally announced that a full-blown reunion tour with Roth would happen, though Anthony would be replaced on bass by the guitarist's son Wolfgang.
Since then, the Roth-fronted version of the group released its first album in almost 30 years (2012's A Different Kind of Truth) and embarked on a second live tour together that provided the recordings for this year's Tokyo Dome Live in Concert double disc. On it's current tour, Van Halen is performing a number of songs that haven't been played since the late '70s or early '80s, including some tracks that were never played live during their initial heyday. Guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd and his band open the show.
Thursday, July 16, 8 p.m. $45.50-$160.50