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Rock veterans\' tour will wind up at AVA

Die-hard Van Halen fans in Tucson can take heart: The rockers haven't forgotten them.

Van Halen, featuring returning singer Sammy Hagar, saved the best for last when it decided to close out the U.S. leg of its 2004 reunion tour at Casino del Sol's AVA next Thursday. Apparently, Tucson was overjoyed to the extent the band added a second show, Nov. 19.

That's bad news for fans of bluesman B.B. King, who was scheduled to perform at the AVA o­n Nov. 19. No o­ne from the casino was available to comment o­n why that concert has been moved to March.

Van Halen skipped Tucson when it set out last summer to show the world that Hagar and the Van Halen brothers (Eddie and Alex) can make nice-nice o­n stage. The band famously split in 1996 when egos collided between Eddie Van Halen and Hagar.

Hagar went his own way; the Van Halens tried in vain to fill his shoes. They even resorted to inviting Hagar's controversial predecessor, David Lee Roth, back into the fold.

Fast-forward eight years to the current reunion tour and resulting reunion album, "The Best of Both Worlds." The best-of compilation, with three new cuts and live recordings, was released in July, just as the reunion tour was cranking into high gear.

Phoenix was an early stop in the tour. About 15,000 fans, ranging in age from their 20s to 50s, filled America West Arena for the two-plus-hour show in early August.

It was a spectacle befitting rock royalty: a gigantic stage with eaves and overhangs that formed the band's initials. Hagar scaled a 50-foot lift to belt out the signature hit "Top of the World." You could barely hear Eddie, recovering from throat cancer, apologize for waxing nostalgic during his 15-minute guitar solo, which turned out to be the evening's defining and emotional high moment.

And throughout the evening, you couldn't help but wonder how the wear of the years escaped these men. All of the band members are in their 50s or close to it; they shouldn't be capable of the high-leaping splits that have always been Van Halen's calling card. But there they were not o­nly doing them, but leaping higher and splitting farther with every o­ne.

There's no telling if they'll have that same energy by the time they get to Tucson. They've been o­n the road since last summer, performing almost nightly. They've got to be pretty tired by now.

Then again, we are talking about rock 'n' roll's bad boys, the band that hasn't let a little thing like age or burnout spoil its party.

The bigger question will be whether Hagar and Eddie Van Halen are still getting along. o­n stage in Phoenix three months ago, the pair were engaged in a love fest that looked like it could last a lifetime. But all the time spent o­n the road, in such close proximity, could surely take its toll.

No o­ne in the band is saying much; they've pretty much kept to themselves since they announced the tour last spring during a free-for-all teleconference with journalists. We haven't heard from them since.

Perhaps Tucson will prove whether the second honeymoon is over. We'll wait to see if the warm glances of support Hagar shot to Eddie Van Halen have turned to icy stares; if the prolonged brother hugs have been reduced to curt pats o­n the back; if the drawn-out speeches of praise for each other now come out as courtesy lip service.

Surely none of that will be o­n the minds of fans packing into the AVA next weekend. They'll be consumed with the idea that they were not forgotten by o­ne of rock's most esteemed acts, even if they were last o­n the list.


Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch
 
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