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Fair Warning


The band reunion phenomenon was in full effect this summer with the second coming of The Police, merrily gouging its nostalgia-starved fans for a chance to see the king of tantric pain smirk his way through neutered versions of once-zesty classics. Now it's looking like the big fall reunion will involve none other than Jeff Spicoli favorite Van Halen, one of America's greatest homegrown rock bands.

It's not the original lineup. Bassist Michael Anthony has been left home to cry into his Jack Daniels bass in favor of guitarist Eddie Van Halen's teenage son, Wolfgang, the latest evidence of cocaine- and alcohol-induced mental deterioration from the hallowed guitar god. The kid may be a good bassist, but now they just look stupid -- like three of the Baldwin brothers backing up Engelbert Humperdinck (Van Halen's brother, Alex, also plays drums).

Indeed this reunion, billed by the participants as the dawning of a "new band," has all the hallmarks of a surreal stink-fest. But at least there's Diamond Dave to make further mockery of the proceedings. The last time David Lee Roth fronted the band, he had long hair and was still wearing buttless chaps, howling and high-kicking his way around stage, a demented cross between a Vegas stripper and a male cheerleader. I once saw Van Halen in Richmond for the "1984" tour, and Dave even had his own sword-swinging exhibition midway through the deafening show. One can probably expect similar gimmicks on this tour, which kicks off in the FM classic-rock hotbed of Charlotte, N.C. There are no Virginia dates yet, but rest assured, C-ville and Richmond will both try to intercept the sequined tour bus as it skulks up I-95 to Washington and beyond.

The best thing about Van Halen, besides its early musical crunch, was Roth's cheesy, vaudevillian theatrics, his strict adherence to the bygone days of rock excess —nay, his unapologetic worshipping of cock-rock power. This is a guy who knows how to sell himself, but who has also shown humility in old age, working briefly as a New York paramedic, even appearing as himself on "The Sopranos" in a big-stakes card game and declaring that he used to "write off condoms" on his tax forms.

Now if he can get shoe-gazing indie-rock kids to show up and sway side by side with aging mullet-heads while singing "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," Roth will have performed a near miracle. This is a hall-of-fame band with a lot to prove — not least of which is why it's still any better than the countless Van Halen tribute bands like The Atomic Punks or Richmond's own Van Heusen that have flowered in its wake.

One thing is sure: Viagra should sponsor this tour. S

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