Van Halen rocked the tiny Cafe Wha? on Thursday night. The band kicks off a North American tour Feb. 18 in Kentucky.
Among all the important people packed into the tiny Cafe Wha? in New York City ‘s Greenwich Village for a surprise Van Halen show Thursday night, lead singer David Lee Roth was pining for someone who wasn’t there.
“Which one of you guys from the press knows Lady Gaga?” Roth said. “I’ve got to meet her.”
Roth, wearing overalls and a newsboy cap, proceeded to tell a happily rambling story about watching Gaga and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on TV during New Year’s Eve and living near a city venue, Pianos on Ludlow Street, where Gaga performed early in her career. The story later morphed into a yarn about his experiences as an EMT in the Bronx.
“When I first came here and I carved my name into a booth,” Roth said later of Cafe Wha?, formerly owned by his uncle Manny Roth. “I’m more nervous at this show than I would be at the Garden.”
Madison Square Garden is where the band will be Feb. 28 and March 1. The shows are part of a just announced North American tour in support of a new album, A Different Kind Of Truth, due Feb. 7 from Interscope Records.
Fans should be in for a treat as Roth and the band — Eddie Van Halen, guitar, Alex Van Halen, drums and Eddie’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, bass — showed they are very much a powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll band on Thursday.
Alex and Wolfgang are a rhythmic dynamo, explosive in intent and unstoppable. Eddie’s skills are still razor sharp and dazzling with his classical scales-meet-speedball solos and fills. The band performed several of its hits from the six Roth albums, including “Dance The Night Away,” “You Really Got Me,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love,” and “Jump.” A new song, “She’s The Woman” from the upcoming A Different Kind of Truth, had a punchy hard funk rhythm foundation and one of Eddie’s timeless inverted solos. It fit right in with the classics.
When the music wasn’t playing, Roth was talking and schmoozing.
“I was seven years old when I first came here [at] midnight in 1961,” Roth said. “There was a calypso player here.”
The standing-room-only crowd included Manny Roth, Jimmy Fallon, John McEnroe and comedian Jim Norton, who stood on his booth bench throughout the 70-minute show. He shook hands with Roth as the band entered the 250-capacity club through the front door.