I've been thinking about this for a while now, and having seen VH with Kool & The Gang last night at MSG, I think that my thoughts have coalesced enough to post here for your consideration. I welcome respectful discussion and disagreement - this is just my hypothesis. When VH hit the scene in the late 70s, we were in a funny time for heavy, guitar based music. Led Zep was sputtering, Clapton seemed like a lost soul looking for his muse, Keith Moon just died, Aerosmith was imploding from the rock and roll lifestyle, disco was still selling and punk was exploding then quickly being co-opted into New Wave. For us who were practicing in our rooms, trying to learn "Heartbreaker" or "Crossroads" note for note, it was like we were Aragorn, keeping the flame but underground and disconnected. Then, like a flaming asteroid coming in from the western horizon, VH 1 came, usually with a buddy passing you the album cover along with the bong saying something like "... but you haven't heard THIS yet ..." (or not saying anything at all, just dropping the needle and smiling). We all remember the first time we heard "Eruption" - the shock, the disbelief, the joy, the awe. Time went on and we came to realize that Eddie's technique was not just a flash in the pan, but that he was continually innovating. This kid (and we forget, he was literally a kid still) modified his gear to deliver what he wanted to get out of it, and what came was a seeming endless evolution of phrases, riffs, rhythms, and progressions that seemed so familiar and yet so foreign, so new at the same time. There was a pop-y vibe, and there was raw fire. There were midgets. There were M&Ms, and bottles of Jack and all the time that smiling face the kid wore constantly as he pulled of these continuous moments of brilliant acrobatics. We were captivated. But, as time would tell, it was not just us guitar players, or metal heads. The sound of Van Halen became a sort of beacon for hard rock between the waves of British blues based riff monsters and the metal resurgence / NWOBHM / hair metal / grunge / etc. that would come. We forget, others were hearing these songs as well. Back then, the radio connected us all, and before the conglomerates came and took over the airwaves, there was a chance to catch the excitement of an actual flash of brilliance. We all knew those Michael Jackson cuts by heart, we all knew Elton John's catalog, and we ("youth" of the time) knew Van Halen. When they reformed, and did their recent run of rehearsals at The Roxy in LA, time stopped and many high profile celebs and acts from other genres came by just to soak in the vibe of the great Van Halen. We all felt the rays, we all shared the "story". And yet we forget that they started by playing house parties, covering Kool & the Gang and other "hits". We forget that they learned their groves from other genres. As such, the choice of Kool & The Gang as openers on this tour is not that hard to explain. It's always been about the party, it's always been about a good time. The two bands are linked in this way - that their music, while diversely different in format is essentially serving the same core purpose, to help us to forget about the crap of life for a while and enjoy the moment of joy that music brings. So we love Van Halen for the technical wizardry, and for the magic of the good time. But .... that is not the real reason why "we" - human beings of all races, creeds, etc. - love Van Halen, and get genuinely excited when they keep coming out into the ring, late in the fight, to raucous applause. We love them because in Eddie we can experience and appreciate a person, human like us, who is doing exactly what he was created to do. I cannot imagine any other thing, in any possible universe or timeline, that Eddie Van Halen could be doing. I could never see myself bringing my years' receipts into Eddie sitting at a desk, doing peoples' taxes. I could never imagine Eddie, with grease all over his hands, up to his elbows in an engine block being rebuilt. I could not even imagine Eddie with a while embroidered lab coat, carrying a clip board into my hospital room to assess whether I was ready for surgery. No, we may all do these things (and some of us, maybe most of us, reluctantly) .... but Eddie has always been special. The broad smile on his face while he pulls off a phrase with such innovation that we go home and practice, practice, practice to nail it just right ... and yet, it will always be at best a copy. The innovation, the spark, is born out of something inside of him, something that we all aspire to possess, something that many of us never find - our true calling matched with our innate abilities. We love Van Halen because through Eddie we can witness that this "flow of life itself", somehow exists and that he seems to be smack in the midst of it. He is doing the thing that he was always supposed to do, and because of that we can have hope that it is possible and we might somehow find it too. And all the while, with the ease in that ever-present smile, having a blast doing it. That is why we love Van Halen.