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David Lee Roth Belts Them Out At Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival
By Ram Samudrala
(more articles from this author)
2002-06-20
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The moon was rising, obscured by dark clouds that made for a surreal sight. The Seattle skyline was looming upon us. The Space Needle's aesthetic presence, with its elevators going up and down, could simply not be ignored. And to this backdrop (or foreground, if you prefer), I was in the Seattle Center Arena listening to David Lee Roth belt out hit after hit from his days with Van Halen.

Roth was headlining Seattle's annual Bumbershoot Festival, which showcases hundreds of small and large artists, mostly involved in music. The event is spread out over Labor Day weekend and has been going strong for the last 30 years. I didn't catch any of the other acts mainly because my attention span is no longer what it used to be, where I could be intensely into nothing but music for 3-4 days in a row.

The former Van Halen frontman was in fine form. Kicking and screaming, he hardly showed his age. The tunes he sang included “Hot for Teacher,” “Panama,” “Dancing the Night Away,” “I'll Wait,” “Pretty Woman,” “Running with the Devil,” “Ain't Talkin' 'bout Love,” “Ice Cream Man,” “Beautiful Girl,” “You Really Got Me,” “Little Dreamer,” “Everybody Wants Some,” and “Jump.”

A comment about his relationship with Van Halen (the band and the guitar legend) is warranted. “The Stranger,” a publication here in Seattle, commented that Roth always understood that a good sense of humour was necessary to work the crowd, and that the Van Halen brothers were too serious. I think this is an astute assessment (though Van Halen did do really well with Sammy Hagar for a little while). Roth illustrated what a fun show should be like, mocking himself with exuberance.

Roth didn't show his age, but I felt the music did. As much as I've loved Van Halen's music in the past, I can't help but feel that in this day and age of electronica and dance music, there's a bigger appeal to music you can actually groove to (as opposed to playing air guitar to). I'm sure if I were not extensively familiar with the music beforehand, I'd be pretty bored. While there is no denying the appeal of Van Halen's music, especially given its radio play, it was the consummate entertainer in Roth that brought this show to life.


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