Kool & The Gang? Open for Van Halen? They sure did, Friday night at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center, and why not? They both bring on the party.
Kool and The Gang’s set was prompt and full of hits from their 40-year career, ending with a “Ladies Night” / “Get Down On It” combo capped with “Celebration.” Hopes for a hot jam between both bands were in vain, but it was weird enough just to hear the Gang say “Van Halen.”
The boys came out soon after -- Alex, Eddie and his son Wolfgang, and crazy Uncle Dave – opening with the familiar two-fer, “You Really Got Me” and “Running with the Devil.” Hot pants? Check. Hi-kicks? Check. A more mature, pensive David Lee Roth? Not a chance. He dropped f-bombs at every turn, even showing his diva side a few times. But hey, it’s Diamond Dave – just look at him twirl his mike stand like a baton and dance the night away.
It was Van Halen after all, so we got some good solo action with entrancing close-ups of Alex’s face and Eddie’s hands. Eddie offered up his big mix of flashy dexterity with alternating mood and effect, sending more than a few home with renewed dedication to practicing scales and studying Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. And Wolfgang’s got this thing down just fine.
They rolled out the hits. “Ain’t Talking About Love,” “Hot for Teacher” and “Panama” came hurling at us, but, alas, Dave did not reach down between his legs and ease the seat back.
It was striking to see just the four of them on stage, but at the same time distracting: who was playing keyboards on “I’ll Wait” and “Jump”? Was it pre-recorded accompaniment, karaoke style? Or was there a hidden player hovelled behind the enormous wall of amps?
All was forgiven though, when, even in the new songs, they sang their familiar harmonies and gave us that old school sound.