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Van Halen Relaunch Tour With Flashy, Hit-Laden Sin City Performance

April 21, 2008 1:32 PM ET

When Van Halen last hit Vegas for a pair of shows in December, the group's legendary guitarist was not doing too well. On the first night, despite his health history, Eddie Van Halen kept a cigarette affixed to his axe for easy access. Even more disconcertingly, fans noticed the guitarist was wobbly on his feet and took at least one embarrassing stumble during the concert.

Then last month Van Halen had to reschedule some shows so their rehabbed cancer survivor guitarist could undergo undisclosed medical tests. But the band made its triumphant return in Las Vegas on Saturday night, headlining Tiger Woods' Tiger Jam, the golf icon's annual charity concert. The veteran band was not taking anything for granted, either: a few hours before the show the band worked repeatedly sound checking "Hot for Teacher."

"We are here to listen to one of the greatest bands in history," Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer in history, announced to the audience. "It is my honor to introduce you to Van Halen." There was no stumbling this time around. The set opened with a guitar squeal followed by a shirtless Eddie Van Halen looking great and leaping out from behind the curtain and into the familiar chords of "You Really Got Me." Meanwhile, Diamond Dave and the boys were still hiding behind a black skrim awaiting the grand showbiz reveal. But that was Eddie Van Halen on this night: a player who couldn't wait to get started, play more and milk each note from his guitar for two hours. He is back.

While David Lee Roth can't seem to do anything with his voice but fall flat, the man was born to be a headliner in Vegas: Top hats! Outlandishly dated outfits! Roundhouse kicks! "I can not play golf for shit," Roth told the crowd. "But I can ruin my knee with the pros."

The 40-something audience enjoyed the run through the Van Halen double-barrelled greatest hits catalogue: "And The Cradle Will Rock...," "Runnin' with the Devil," "Beautiful Girls," "Everybody Wants Some!!" and even the cover of "(Oh) Pretty Woman" from Diver Down. In all, Van Halen offered a great evening to be old and rich (top tickets were $200), with the profits going to help the young and poor. Everybody won — which in Vegas is normally an impossibility.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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