There was a time when Van Halen was the most party-hearty band on the hard-rock circuit. As bassist Michael Anthony admits, it wasn't just what the band did after each show that earned it such a rowdy reputation. "Post-show, pre-show, during the show, whatever -- it was a non-stop, bashing party," he says, chuckling at the memory.
Those days are gone, though. It isn't just that Anthony, like his band mates, is married and a father; times really have changed for the band.
"Well, you know, you can't go on forever doing that," he says, over the phone from a tour stop in New Jersey. "We still act like we're 17 once in a while. But with Sammy in the band, the music comes first."
Sammy, of course, is singer Sammy Hagar, who replaced vocalist David Lee Roth in 1985. Although Roth's class-clown antics earned the grudging admiration of the rock press, it was Hagar's earnest attitude and heroic tenor that ultimately made the band a pop powerhouse. In the process, Van Halen has somehow held onto its audience -- "Balance" is the band's 11th multi-platinum album -- at a time when most hard rock acts have faded into obscurity.
Anthony credits the band's enduring success to simple honesty. "We've always just been ourselves when it comes to making music and playing live," he says. "We don't hop on any kind of trends or what's going on, as far as, like, grunge or whatever's happening now. We don't fashion our music after that, or whatever; we've always made the kind of music that we like."
It doesn't hurt, of course, that the quartet genuinely enjoys playing together. "We love touring," he says, "and once you get home, it doesn't take too long before you want to go out there again. And unless you go too far in that respect, and overexpose yourself, so people go, 'Oh, here they are again,' it's great.
"You've got to be out there playing, and the people have to know that you're there. Otherwise, in today's world, things will kind of pass you by."
There was some worry, at the beginning of the tour, that Van Halen's live show would suffer because of guitarist Eddie Van Halen's hip problems. But unlike R.E.M. -- three of the four band members had surgery on the road -- Van Halen seems to be holding up on the health front. "We wouldn't be out here if we couldn't give 100-plus percent," says Anthony. "And Ed's actually been feeling really well, a lot better than when the tour first started."
Anthony laughs. "So he's obviously onto some kind of good painkiller or something."
"Balance" your ears
To hear excerpts from Van Halen's "Balance," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6195 after you hear the greeting.
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Tickets: $22.50 lawn
Call: (410) 481-6500 for tickets, (410) 730-2424 for information