“Think of me as a camp counselor,” David Lee Roth announced, by way of introduction. “My parents used to send me up here every summer; now, I’m in charge of windsurfing.” Proud in black, skintight, snake-leather pants with purple tuxedo stripes up the side—plus more than a few octaves short on his high notes—the loser was almost likable, just for being human, aging if not gracefully, then at least sympathetically. This year alone Roth got fired from his high-profile morning-radio show; begged publicly (and unsuccessfully) to be let back into Van Halen, a band he’s already been kicked out of twice; worked as both a helicopter pilot and an EMT; become a YouTube legend for the Leno outtake of his bluegrass version of “Jump”; and helped produce a whole album, Strummin’ With the Devil, of straight-faced covers of Van Halen songs.
Outside Nokia Theatre, two balding men with gray ponytails speculated as to whether the night’s star attraction still had his own glorious mane (nope). Later those same dudes would point without irony toward their girlfriends during “Beautiful Girls” and applaud wildly when Diamond Dave got a quarter of the way around on his roundhouse kicks. When he took the stage for “Hot for Teacher,” he reminded his crowd—construction workers and fraternity alumni, mostly—”You never did no fucking homework,” as if these people were even young enough to remember whether they had or not.
Mid–guitar solo, Roth would walk over to his axman and act like the solo was actually setting his microphone on fire. “Sweet,” he moaned, then, “Double Sweet.” By the time he hit “Triple,” you realized: This man was fired from Howard Stern’s old job because he was incapable of not laughing at his own jokes.
I was just about ready to not punch the guy who’d cornered my girlfriend to tell her “how many memories this brings back” when Diamond Dave addressed his target audience: “You sexy little sluts—not you, your mother!” Then he started rubbing his dick.
Is this the price of admission to see a four-fifths cover band play “Jump” live? Not the $65 ticket, the clouds of Washington Square Park weed, or the surreal pat-down, where security was momentarily sure that my pen was in fact a knife, but the experience of watching a balding, 51-year-old man try to get a hard-on in front of 2,000 people?
“David Lee, you’re just another horny, semi-intoxicated white boy,” Roth said to himself, about halfway through a mind-blowing pre-“Panama” talk-like-black-folks monologue set seemingly, inexplicably, in South America. “It was humid, suffocating. Like my last two relationships.” As he emerged, clad in his third outfit of the night—what he was calling a “pimp suit,” with panama hat and suit jacket—somebody in the crowd shouted, “Go back to Atlantic City!” Instead, he played “Jump”—twice.