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Van Halen silences the skeptics

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Well, Gary Cherone, the former Extreme vocalist who is now lead singing for Van Halen, does a good Sammy Hagar and a mediocre David Lee Roth.

However, Cherone mostly resembles a mix of Jack Skelington and Jim Carey's Riddler from "Batman Forever" with a load of Richard Simmons thrown in.Yes, Cherone is much more flamboyant than original singer Roth, and quite a bit more on the dainty side.

Once you get past Cherone's anorexic appearance (this is no lie; he looked like skin and bone), the rest of the show was nice and nostalgic.

Yep, Cherone, not only makes Twiggy look like "Mama Cass" Elliot, but he also brought out some VH songs that haven't been played in more than 19 years.

The set opened with the blasting "Unchained." To the delight of the audience, the band quickly slid into the newer cuts "Without You" and "One I Want," from the latest album, "Van Halen 3."

As guitarist Edward Van Halen treated the audience to an expected dose of hard-rock, speedy-and-melodious guitar riffs, bassist Anthony pumped the low end of the works.

"Romeo Delight," a rocking gem from VH's third album, "Women and Children First," took the older fans back to their junior high and high school days - as did the ghetto-blasting of "Mean Street," another song not played since 1981.

As for the ballads, there was "When It's Love" and "Dance the Night Away" and the acoustic encore opener, "Josephina."

Skeptics were silenced as the band cranked out some more older tunes such as "Somebody Get Me a Doctor," which featured Anthony on vocals, "Feel Your Love Tonight" and "Ain't Talkin' `Bout Love."

Mid-career Van Halen tunes featured "Right Now," "Humans Being," "Panama" and "Jump."

The stage was void of major sets, although Cherone danced and lay on a circus barker's circular platform that was just to the left of drummer Alex Van Halen's double-bass drum set.

There wasn't an overblown light show. Just enough to highlight the songs, set the mood and follow Alex's syncopated rhythms and solo.

Edward spent his time playing an extended solo comprised of bits from "Eruption" and "Cathedral."

It should be noted, however, although Roth was famous for his black bottomless (buttocks, that is) chaps, Cherone did one better - whether it was intentional or not.

The boney Cherone sported a small hole in the crotch of his pants that progressively got larger as he contorted, kneeled and slinked around the stage.

Opening the evening was the 19-year-old blues rocker, Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

This young guitarist is one of the few opening acts for Van Halen that didn't get booed or thrown off the stage.

In fact, the audience seemed to warm up with Shepherd and gave him a standing ovation.

His set comprised Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," "Slow Ride" and the current single "Blue on Black."

Shepherd played through his guts and connected with each audience member's mind and ears.