Van Halen

Cox Arena, Sunday, November 25, 7:30 p.m. 619-594-0429. $79.50 to $149.50.

If 1984 was the best Van Halen album ever, then Van Halen III had to be the worst. With Sammy Hagar gone, III featured vocals by temporary replacement Gary Cherone. Call it Van Halen Smooth; the material just wasn't there. Bassist Michael Anthony played on only three tracks; he and the brothers hadn't been getting along for some time. Hagar (who returned and then split again or was fired, depending on who tells the story) was recruited for the first tour of duty after Patty Smyth, singer in the one-hit band Scandal, wouldn't take the job. Had she signed on, one wonders how things might have gone for her and for the band. Smyth eventually married John McEnroe and continued to record and write. Hagar and Anthony bonded, went off on their own, and now perform as the Other Half, as in the Other Half of Van Halen. Eddie went to rehab, and his son Wolfgang joined the tour. Reads like a soap opera, doesn't it? And I haven't even mentioned David Lee Roth.

Diamond Dave fronted Van Halen almost from the beginning and essentially created the Van Halen brand. He was the face of Van Halen. For many fans, it was a hard day when animosity between him and Eddie forced the split. After Roth left (or was fired, depending on who tells the story), the new band became known as Van Hagar, such was the Red Rocker's influence. Roth-sung hits weren't forgotten in the years that followed, but the heavy influence went to the new Hagar-inspired material, supplanted in concert with stuff from Hagar's vast catalogue.

Still, and I mean no disrespect to Eddie's guitar, it was Roth's arena ham that defined Van Halen. This year he rejoins his old band, still minus Michael Anthony. Me? I'm not stingy with my Van H love. Hagar, Roth, I couldn't care less. They fronted two different groups, each of them the best rock band on the planet.

VAN HALEN, Cox Arena, Sunday, November 25, 7:30 p.m. 619-594-0429. $79.50 to $149.50.

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