BANGOR, Maine — As far as bang for your buck goes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better live music deal than Van Halen. The venerable rockers played a two-hour set at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor on Thursday night, blasting through their enormous list of hits, fan favorites and new songs in front of an adoring crowd.
Guitar god Eddie Van Halen, pounding drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Wolfgang Van Halen — Eddie’s son, who replaced longtime bassist Michael Anthony — and legendary first and (hopefully) final lead singer David Lee Roth still have the chops, the energy and the love of the music that they had when they burst onto the national scene in the late 1970s.
The audience was likely the most diverse age range of any concert so far this season, from 10-year-old kids accompanying their parents to folks in their 50s and 60s who have been fans since the beginning. From “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Dance the Night Away” to “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher,” there was no shortage of crowd-pleasers for the band to rifle off.
David Lee Roth may not be doing any more scissor kicks off drum risers, but “Diamond” Dave is still the consummate showman, engaging in off-color stage banter between, and sometimes during, each and every song, and changing in and out of sparkly, bright-colored blazers. Van Halen has always been as much about the party as it has been about the virtuoso guitar fireworks, and Roth was the primary driver of that attitude from the day he joined the band onward.
But the Van Halens — Eddie, Alex and now Wolfgang — are the true muscle. After all, is there a more archetypal guitar legend than Eddie Van Halen? He’s right up there in the guitar pantheon alongside Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
Opening for Van Halen was the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band, a blues rock band that has been a longtime favorite on local classic rock station WKIT 100.3, with songs such as “Blue on Black” and “Everything Is Broken” still mainstays of the daily playlist.
There were intermittent heavy showers throughout the evening, but a little rain didn’t keep concert-goers from enjoying every last minute of rock.
Coming up next in the Machias Savings Bank concert series at the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion is blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa on Wednesday, Aug. 12, and country stars Kenny Chesney on Aug. 13 and Reba McIntire on Aug. 21. For more information, visit waterfrontconcerts.com.