Van Halen shows off its new singer

August 20, 1998|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Ask Alex Van Halen how it feels to be playing in Van Halen with new lead singer Gary Cherone, and he feels compelled to qualify his answer a bit.

"I guess it sounds rather self-serving to tell you that, no matter where we go, when we're done playing, there's not a single person who doesn't just say, 'Wow!' " he says, over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "Other than that, if I said any more, I'd sound like a carnival barker, you know? 'Greatest show on earth! Check this out! Come see! Make you feel younger!' "

He laughs, but he's totally serious. As far as he's concerned, Cherone - who joined the band after Sammy Hagar's departure in 1996 - is the best thing to happen to Van Halen in a long time. "The band has been revitalized creatively," says the drummer. "Energy-wise, we're all on the same wavelength, and I think it really translates to the audience.

"I don't think there's a person on the planet who fits the mold better than Gary. It's sort of amazing how we lucked out and ran into each other."

Cherone is the third lead singer Van Halen has had in its 24-year history (hence the title of the band's latest album, "3"). Originally, Alex, his guitar-playing brother Edward - who writes all the band's music - and bassist Michael Anthony played with David Lee Roth. But in 1985, Roth decided to pursue a solo career and left. Hagar joined the band shortly thereafter.

Why Hagar left depends on who you ask. The singer himself has claimed in interviews that he was forced out of the band. Alex, however, sees things differently.

"You have to remember that the situation we're in was not caused by the guys in the band," he says. "It was caused by the lead singers. We had no choice."

What was the problem? "It's an ego thing, quite bluntly," he answers. "Basically, the lead singers have a problem with the band being called Van Halen and that Ed gets a lot of the attention. They're very jealous. It happened with Roth, and it happened with Hagar. And it was very sad. And I mean that, truly, because these guys at one time were our friends. It's very sad to see grown men behave like this."

Cherone has no such problem. In fact, unlike Hagar, he feels perfectly comfortable singing any song from any point in Van Halen's 13-album career. "He appreciates the songs," says Van Halen. "As does the audience.

"There are certain songs that I think the audience would like to hear, and that's what it is about, you know? Making music is part band, part audience."

Van Halen

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge, 7800 Cellar Door Drive, Bristow, Va.

Tickets: $40 pavilion, $20 lawn

Call: 410-481-7328 for tickets, 703-754-6400 for information

Sundial: To hear excerpts from Van Halen's new release, "3," call Sundial at 410-783-1800 and enter the code 6159. For other local Sundial numbers, see the directory on Page 2B.

Pub Date: 8/20/98

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