It's terrible watching your rock gods grow old. Sometimes, it might be better to quit seeing them while you're ahead.
I reviewed a KISS show in 2000 that the band swore was part of its retirement tour. I interviewed Paul Stanley, who swore "this is it" and talked all about what the guys had planned for post-KISS life. Clearly boosted by the sentimentality in the air, the show was good, especially for those of us who loved the band when we were 9 years old.
In the following years, however, the band pulled an Energizer Bunny. People kept paying for tickets, so KISS just kept going and going and going.
Maybe I forgot they were supposed to be retired, but a year or two ago a friend offered me a free KISS ticket. Bad move. The show wasn't good. They were coasting. They had gotten old.
That stale memory is why I'm typing with my fingers crossed right now, as the Van Halen tour buses pull into the Bay Area for a Sunday show in Oakland and a Tuesday show in San Jose.
Everyone has a favorite act. It's a performer they can't quit; a band they make excuses for when the music isn't up to snuff; a band whose fan sites they spend more time on than they're willing to admit; the band that brought a whole new slideshow of memories with every record.
I first saw Van Halen in 1981 in Oakland, when the band was in its absolute prime. It was my first arena show. I was 13, not even a week out of middle school. It remains the standard by which I've measured all rock shows since.
Tuesday's show in San Jose will be my 15th Van Halen concert. And it may be my last.
I know these are different circumstances than with KISS.
Van Halen was, at least a month or two ago, energized behind its first record with singer David Lee Roth in 28 years (perhaps its best record since then as well). They were in shape. The reviews were great. I was ready.
Then the band canceled 30-odd dates later this summer. There was talk of infighting, which any real fan should have immediately dismissed, knowing VH has always done its best work when Roth and Eddie Van Halen can't stand the sight of each other (it got so bad in the early '80s that while the band was making some of its best music, Eddie Van Halen wanted to quit to join KISS).
Instead, I accepted the explanation that band members have worked nonstop for nearly two years and needed a break to catch their wind, instead of collapsing in August.
In other words, they're getting old.
Holding out hope
On Tuesday, we will see how old. I'm remaining cautiously optimistic, mostly because this was the band that made me want to be a musician (OK, maybe not a musician ... a drummer).
I'm going with three friends I've known almost as long as I've listened to VH, all of whom were also inspired to play, to some degree, by this band. I'm hoping they'll inspire us at least one more time.