It's been just over a year since we lost one of the greatest guitar players the world has ever seen in Eddie Van Halen. For years Eddie provided joy to millions of fans with his guitar wizardry, taking the instrument to new heights with every album and subsequent tour.
Fortunately, I'm happy to report that Eddie's legacy lives on! His son Wolfgang ("Wolf" or "Wolfie") Van Halen is here to carry the torch. From what I experienced last night (10/16/21) at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln, I think it's safe to say the world will continue to recognize the Van Halen name for years to come.
The name Mammoth WVH is a tribute to Van Halen in that Van Halen was called Mammoth before ultimately changing their name. They also went by Genisis at one point before discovering some small British band was also called Genisis. We all know how that turned out, ha.
Much like Dave Grohl after Nirvana ended, on Mammoth WVH's debut album Wolfgang wrote, sang, and recorded all the parts. In interviews Wolfgang has been quoted, "I wanted to tackle the challenge of writing my own record, just to see if I could do it". Well he did it folks, and he did it well. If you haven't heard Mammoth WVH's self-titled debut give it listen. It's full of well crafted pop-rock songs and there's really no skips from start to finish. As a collection, there's a small lack of cohesion, suggesting the album may have been written and collected over a few years, but the songs still sound amazing.
So far, Mammoth WVH has had a few headline shows but most recently they toured arenas with Guns N' Roses. Talk about a great opening gig! Speaking of opening gigs, let's talk about Saturday's opener Plush from New York/Maine. These girls had the place on their feet from the first note! Before the show I heard a lot of people comparing Plush to other groups that prominently feature women like Heart and Joan Jett. While Plush did do an absolutely ripping cover of "Barracuda" I think they stand on their own just fine. You could tell the band has put a lot of work into their craft. Everyone sounded really tight up there and they all had huge smiles as they melted our faces off.
After the show I caught up with some folks coming out of the venue and they were all wearing Plush shirts. I asked if they were super fans or following the tour and they explained that they were family of the band. In the commotion of all the people pouring out the door I can't quite recall who was related to who, but at one point the grandma of the group teared up at how well the girls had performed. "They sounded so great together and they've come so far". Well grandma, this is just the beginning. There's a lot of factors that can determine a band's fate, but having an opening slot for someone named Van Halen and a single "Hate" that's approaching a million streams on Spotify is a pretty good place to be. I wish Plush all the best and if they need a journalist for any Midwest shows I'd be happy to oblige.
After Plush, the lights went down and smoke filled the stage. As the crowd chanted "Wolfie, Wolfie!" the hair on my neck stood up in anticipation. I scooted closer to the front and steadied my lens waiting for that perfect shot. Woflgang and his band stepped out to near-deafening applause.
They kicked things off with their latest single "Don't Back Down" from their debut album. The crowd responded in kind with horns in the air and plenty of sing-alongs. Wolf and his band sounded amazing with their wicked guitar solos and three part harmonies. It was really cool to see how different the band sounded from Van Halen. If you think about it, Woflie could've easily just stepped into Van Halen and kept that band going or played a mix of Van Halen songs and originals, but this show was all his own. Not even a quick Van Halen "Eruption" or "Hot For Teacher" solo snuck its way into the set.
One little treat the crowd received was Mammoth WVH played "Talk and Walk" which was only available on the Japan release of the band's new album. Looking at some of the set lists from other cities, Mammoth WVH stuck to the same lineup, playing through nearly all of their debut album. Towards the end of the night Mammoth WVH played the song "Distance" which is a tribute to Wolfgang's dad Eddie Van Halen. For some reason there was a weird dust cloud inside the Bourbon and my eyes just started flowing with tears! All kidding aside, the song is so beautiful and touching. If you really want to shed some tears watch the video with clips of Wolfgang growing up, from birth to playing on stage with his dad.
While I was waiting for Mammoth WVH to come on I talked to some fans who had seen Van Halen many times when they were still around. One guy said he cried for a month after Eddie passed. "I had never cried over someone I never met before, but his music meant a lot to me". While Mammoth WVH isn't a replacement for Van Halen, which isn't what the fans really want anyway, I think people walked away with some healing knowing they were seeing a piece of Eddie and now they're excited for the next chapter. I know I certainly am.
Thanks so much to 104.1 The Blaze for bringing Mammoth WVH and thanks to Mammoth WVH management for photo access. Shout out to Plush and family, you guys are awesome!
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