Monday, April 21, 2014

Unchained performs the first Van Halen album...and then some.

Who remembers the first time they heard Van Halen?
It was like stepping into Mr. Peabody's Way Back Machine. The club was small and the crowd was anxious. Unlike my very first time seeing Van Halen live, I went into this show WITH expectations. After the opening act exited, I stood at the lip of the stage and waited for that sound...the blaring of car horns that signaled the start of the first Van Halen album as well as the start of this show.

The beauty of a live show is in its imperfection, and the night started with a test of Unchained and their ability to overcome as they blew the power twice in the first three numbers. True to form "Diamond Dave" simply used the glitch to play with the crowd. 

The strains of RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVIL fade when it was time for "Shreddy Van Halen" to fly into ERUPTION. That is a piece that will make or break a Van Halen tribute band. What makes Unchained special is how each member has worked to really personify the roles of the people they portray. Down to that trademark smile, Unchained's Eddie is something special to behold.

As Unchained shook off the early power issues, the band put on a show that could have stood by itself with JUST the set consisting of that first album being played from start to finish. Without a doubt, this band rates as one of (if not outright) my favorites in the "Tribute Band" scene. Having caught my share, I can say that it takes more than just a wig and some Spandex. People seeing these bands are usually big fans of the original group. The tribute band can't get away with being so wasted that the music suffers...they have to nail the sound (and feel of the band they portray) if they want to win over the audience. By the time they played ON FIRE, they owned the crowd.

Look...but don't touch!
After a brief break, they returned in new costumes that gave that 80s vibe and launched into a set from the remaining Roth-led collection of VH. What makes Unchained so special is that they give all the bluster and bombast of the band they assume the identity of while making each member of the audience feel as if they are being performed for individually. "Alex" holds the band in time with his tight rhythm. "Eddie" smiles and makes eye contact with fans who are watching in rapt amazement as one of their guitar gods comes to life before their eyes. "Michael Anthony" stalks the stage with his bass and belts out the backing vocals like his real life counterpart. And you are so close that you can touch them. But don't worry, "Diamond Dave" will flirt, touch, tickle and cavort with anybody he can reach. At one point, he actually came out because, as he told the audience, he wanted "to see what it looks like from out there with all you crazy people!"

David Lee Roth never sounded so good live!
By the end of the show, the audience was hot, sweaty, and happy. Unchained delivered the goods with interest. What makes them stand out is their dedication to putting on a great show and making the audience feel like it matters. 

Bottoms Up!

Having seen Unchained before, I wanted to add a few observations. It is obvious that the band has been focusing their energy on being better with each show. The backing vocals were polished and it is apparent that they have been either in vocal training or simply practicing very hard. "Michael Anthony" had a few moments where he was able to truly shine as he carried a solo line or two of the chorus on some of the songs.

If you are in the Portland area, I highly suggest that you catch these guys at any of their future shows. If you were/are a fan of the DLR era, these guys will give you more than your money's worth. If you search just a little, you might very well find your favorite band being given the tribute treatment. Get out there and show some love.

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