Van Halen in Tampa – second and final part of the story

After passing out early (US time) on Friday evening, I woke up extremely early. It was maybe 5.40 AM, sunrise, quiet… But to my body, it was noon. 

Gave me plenty of time to get dressed, write a blog, upload pics and stuff. Spent the most perfect afternoon in Clearwater (I even like that name, very “indian” – clear water…), which started at Starbucks – my “home” everywhere in the world! 

Around 4 PM I headed down to Tampa. This time, I didn’t have any problems, and I was among the first ones to park because the parking house had opened only 5 minutes before. I’m so glad that I paid for that and got my ticket the day before! Made things SO much easier.

When I got out of the car I heard music playing, so I went to check what it was. A band was playing while people were waiting for the doors to open. 

I went to find somewhere where I could grab a sandwich or something, cause you never know what time I would get out of there or when I would get my next meal. As I was walking around looking for a deli or something, this man with a funny hat handed me two stickers.

I don’t know whast he wanted really, but I did understand that he was from some kind of religious uhh, place, and wanted a donation. I told him I didn’t have any cash, I was from Sweden and just there for one day. He laughed: “Yeah, right! You have SUCH an accent!”

Wasn’t sure how to respond so I just said:
“Well okay…”.

He didn’t believe me. So he started questioning me.

“If you’re from Sweden, what’s the capital of Sweden?”
“Stockholm”.
“And where do you live?”
“In Malmo, south of Sweden, near Copenhagen, Denmark…”.

It dawned on him that I wasn’t kidding.

“So, Eddie Van Halen is from there somewhere, right?”
“I don’t think so”.
“Well, Holland or something, that’s near Sweden isn’t it?”

Ya. Just around the corner…

When he realized I wasn’t going to contribute to his cause, he whipped the stickers out of my hand and went on his way to grab somebody else he could bother. Funny dude. :)

When the doors to Tampa Times Forum finally opened I went to find my seat. Not bad considering it was a regular prized ticket and not one of the zillion “VIP”-tickets (http://lita77777.posterous.com/van-halen-ticket-hell )

Kool & The Gang entered the stage and although I, and many others, had wondered what a band like that was doing on tour with VAN HALEN, they proved to be a great party-band that did their job well. They warmed up the crowd. Like it or not, we all know those old songs – “Celebration“, “Get Down On It” and whatever else was lined up on their musical menu.

Regardless my personal taste in music, I’ll give them credit for being incredible musicians. Great job. Maybe you need to be a sceptic sometimes because when you expect less than nothing, that’s when you get pleasantly surprised.

The arena kept filling up, people just kept coming in like ants, row after row, seat after seat… I don’t know if it was sold out, but if it wasn’t it must have been damn close.

Van Halen took the stage in an unexpected way – they just quietly WALKED RIGHT IN…! No flashy entrance, no light-effects or sound-effects…. Just “hey guys, we are here! Let’s do this!” 

And off they went! My god. A thousand thoughts were rushing through my head. Eddie Van Halen – he’s lost weight, worked out, dressed cool but casual in black – and played like the one true classic guitar-master who has inspired an entire generation of guitarplayers. 

David Lee Roth…. The embodiment of ENTERTAINER is STILL an entertainer. He’s in great shape, and although he can’t do the impressive jumps and kicks that he used to do in his early days, he’s still very fit, does a few high-kicks here and there and at some point in the show he also did a few splits to show off that he could still do it. I was thinking “Jesus man, you’re gonna break your hip or something!” But he got back up like a rubberman, smiling – always smiling.

David Lee Roth to me is so much more than just a singer. He is inspirational. I read his biography “Crazy From The Heat” years ago, which to this day is still one of my favorite rock’n’roll bios. He’s an adventurer and really lives his life to the fullest. He challenges himself, he gets the most out of his life and I just LOVE his attitude. Read it if you haven’t already:

Van Halen’s stage was simple. Not much laser and lights, no pyrotechnics or any of that stuff.

But it was magnificent – tasteful and very mighty with that simple big screen behind them that didn’t just project the band, but also provided some pretty cool mix/footage between different cameras put together onto one screen. It gave you the feeling of really being close no matter WHERE you were in the arena.

Also, kudos to their sound-guy, whoever he (or she) was. Fantastic sound! If you can make it sound like that, so that even people way in the back can hear everything crystal clear, every little detail, then you really deserve your paycheck. Thumbs up!

It was like being a kid again hearing all the classics – Panama, Hot For Teacher, Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, Euroption, Running With The Devil…. Oh MAN! If anyone asked me if it was worth going to Florida just for THAT, I would say… HELL YEAH!

You bet your ass it was worth it!

Diamond Dave sounded better than I remember him doing even back in 1999 on his solo tour. Eddie was enjoying himself and Alex was the powerhouse we all know, love and respect – impressing us all with his powerful, engergetic drumming.

Wolfie van Halen – not sure what to say there. He did his job, but he’s not in the same league as the big boys. He still has a lot to learn, maybe not musically but how to work a big stage. He did a good job, but he’s not the one you remember when you leave a Van Halen show.

I can’t really review this, because to me it was more of an emotional thing than a professional. It was really like stepping into a time machine and be taken back on a journey through time and space. All I can say is that there is a reason why Van Halen is one of the biggest, greatest and most popular bands on the planet – it’s because they are truly unique!

The music, the playfulness, humor and virtuosity is beyond most “regular” bands today. I hope they will make it to Europe soon so that everybody gets a chance to see this before the band decides to retire for good.

Here’s a good review from those who could review it “professionally” (that wasn’t my job this time):

http://www.vhnd.com/2012/04/15/tampa-van-halen-concert-reviews/

On the way back to my hotel, I made another doodoo – by driving through Tampa in the middle of the night, up on the highway and whatnot…without lights! I didn’t know, cause here in Sweden most cars have automatic lights. It’s cause you need to have lights on daytime as well, by law.

So, of course I didn’t think much of it. You follow the traffic, it’s not like you need lights unless you’re alone on a dark, deserted road somewhere…. When I stopped at the toll, a man behind me yelled for all he was worth: “YOUR LIGHTS ARE OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Oooops. 

I barely slept that night. Maybe an hour. Was packing, uploading videos from the show… It was around 6 AM when I left Clearwater to go to the airport and return the rental car. Beautiful morning. Palmtrees, sunrise, quiet…. amazing.

Had breakfast at TGI Friday’s at Tampa airport, then continued to the passport and security gates.

In the LONG line of people, I saw this man with a Van Halen tour t-shirt that I had seen people wearing yesterday. He saw mine too, and said: “So, what did you think of the show?”

I probably had a smile from ear to ear when I explained how it was totally worth the trip. He was from Michigan and was also on his way back home. 

“I had the VIP package… we were allowed to attend the sound check, and there was a free bar and everything….” I asked how much he paid for the VIP-thing and he answered “Not much…about a thousand bucks….”. NOT MUCH?? :-) But he was a big fan, was 51, good job and had liked Van Halen since the early days, and also seen them several times throughout the years. He wanted to treat himself with something special this time – so to him it was worth the money.

The conversation ended when we finally reached the “security scanners” that look like something from Star Trek that’s gonna beam you up. After the usual piling of bags, laptops, liquids, jackets, shoes etcetera, I grabbed all my stuff and headed for the nearest bench so I could tie my shoes back on.

As I was walking towards one of those, I heard someone yelling behind me: “HEY!”

It was the guy. He was holding a guitarpick under my nose, from the sound check the day before. He put it in my hand. “This is for you. Safe travels!” He smiled and left.

My god. It may seem like a small gesture, but it just shows how the love for music ties people together everywhere. It was just such a sweet thing, I was really touched.

Spent many hours at Tampa Airport, but what I love about Tampa airport is that they have FREE Wi-Fi and it’s fast too. I don’t have to deal with the crap Boingo-WiFi that costs a fortune and never works (like I had to do in Detroit).

Everything went just fine this time, except for when I got to Amsterdam’s airport Schiphol (or the more appropriate Shithole….). I was checked in for a trip with KLM in the afternoon, but I had bought and booked another trip with SAS to get home earlier. But they had checked me in wrong in Tampa so… I needed to find a self-service kiosk OR somebody at the airport to help me PRINT my boarding pass.

THAT’s when the nightmare began! I RAN to one of the kiosks with my laptop open – cause I had the boarding pass on there as a pdf…. Didn’t work. I turned to the lady who was there to help passengers. She had ALL the time in the world, worked nice and SLOW while I was feeling the PANIC accelerate. 

A free TIP to the lovely service people at Amsteram airport:

When someone has PANIC written all over their face, breathing like they just ran a marathon and has sweat dripping from all over, it’s a sign that THEY ARE IN A FUCKING HURRY! 

How about at LEAST asking “Can I help you?” The first one was slow like an 80-year old, her colleague ignored me and decided to help some old indian dude who CUT the line (I was there FIRST, hello, am I invisible???).

She FINALLY gave me this look that said “What’s YOUR problem?” and answered, like I was a total idiot, “That’s not HERE – you need to go to gate T5, around the corner!”

I RAN to “around the corner”. Nothing there. Followed signs. No T5 anywhere. Grabbed 2 stewardesses who were just off their flight, asked them about T5. They started discussing is amongst themselves but didn’t know, I just ran off again, found the T5 eventually.

THEN they told me it wasn’t T5 but T3… Off running again, clock was ticking I had about 10 minutes to find somewhere to print the boarding pass and get to my gate!

They said T3 was through passcontrol and security. And of COURSE the person in front of me had to ask and tell his life story to the passport officer. Why couldn’t I just get behind someone who shows his passport, gets it back and leaves?!

Once through pass control – he hurried cause he saw my panicking face – I saw all these people in line for security… I just shouted “Are you all in a hurry…? My flight is in a few minutes!!”
They kind of smiled and said I could cut the line. Even the security people helped speed it up a bit thank god.

RAN to that fucking T3….. But couldn’t find it. So I stopped at an information booth. I looked like a crazy person I’m sure. The two ladies were trying to hide their giggles as I was cursing and swearing at every idiot I had encountered so far, and the excercise of the day that I hadn’t asked for after 9 hours on a plane…

I found T3 but there was a LONG line of people there. Forget it! NO WAY! What the F……..!?!?

Then I couldn’t find the GATE. C13. Oh yeah. Figures. C11, C12, C14….
WHERE THE FUCK IS C13???????????

I finally found the damn gate, battery on the laptop was about to die, I could barely breathe and I couldn’t stay in control anymore. Was too tired and too stressed out, I just burst into tears. BOOHOOO, I JUST NEED MY FREAKING BOARDING PAAAAASSS….!!!

The man behind the counter gave me my boarding pass. Finally. I could relax but I was so upset that I was sobbing all the way up on the plane. Life sucked.

And from THAT….straight to work when I got to Copenhagen. I just fixed my makeup a bit and took the bus out to the office. 

So if you wonder why I haven’t been in the most productive mood this week, that’s why. :-)

But all this crap is part of the memories you have for life – it’s always funnier AFTERWADS, not while it’s happening.

Would I do it all over again? You bet your ass I would………..

Photos from all this – and David Lee Roth showing hiss ass,
is on the Facebook-page:

http://www.facebook.com/intherearviewmirror 

 

 

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