Ever since I took the train to Live Earth, I’ve been keeping that in mind as a way to go to a concert in another town. Last night, I did. Van Halen is on my must list for concerts, especially now that they’ve finally made the reunion with David Lee Roth happen (that Wikipedia article details this is the fifth attempt, though only one before actually resulted in anything: two mediocre songs for their single disc best of – although the 3 new Sammy songs on the recent double disc best of aren’t that much better), and they were part of my reunions to see this year (Led Zep wasn’t really expected, and looks like it won’t happen for me). Anyway, they are coming to DC in November, but I’ll be elsewhere, and Philadelphia was the closest stop.

So I got into work really early (can’t remember the last time I walked Illa in the dark in the morning), and left about 2:45, getting into to Union Station about 3:30. Plenty of time to catch a 4PM train, and the two hour ride up was pleasant, although I didn’t quite finish my newspapers. That turned out to be a good thing, as I had planned to read newspapers on the way up and a paperback on the way back, but I neglected to bring a paperback to work. I hopped on the subway, then got off at Ellsworth-Federal and headed east.

I’ve been to Philly several times, but I’ve never tried an authentic cheesesteak. The two places most famous for them are Geno’s and Pat’s, conveniently located next to each other in the Italian Market. I’d found a bookstore up 9th Street that claimed to be open until 7 on Wednesdays, but when I swung by at 6:30, it was closed. So I headed back down 9th for dinner. Since it was my first time, I just stopped at the one that was on the side of the street I was on, which was Geno’s. I ordered one with Cheese Whiz and onions, got a drink (about the only other thing they offer is fries), and checked out the condiments (a word to the wise – their hot sauce has some habanero in it). The steak was cut thicker than I’m used to, and the bun was indeed flakier, well worth the time to get there. Afterwards, I headed back to the subway, then down to the Wachovia Center. I had time to get a drink and get to my seat before Ky-Mani Marley (he’s the third son of Bob I’ve seen). He came out with a cover of his dad’s “I Shot The Sheriff”, closed with “No Woman, No Cry”, and in between did a short set of mostly forgettable pop tunes.

I won’t lie, Sammy Hagar is my favorite Van Halen singer (and one of the very few bands where lightning struck twice – although both Van Halen and Genesis have learned it never strikes a third time). My favorite album is his first, 5150, but my second favorite is Dave’s last, 1984, so a chance to see him sing those songs with the Van Halen brothers backing him up was irresistible. I wish they’d had Michael Anthony remain, but apparently he and Ed have had problems for years, which is why Ed brought his son in to play bass (and he was pretty good).

They opened with “You Really Got Me”, and continued on a tear. Dave’s voice was a bit rough early on, but it softened as the night progressed. With the exception of “316”, played during Ed’s solo, all the songs were from the 1978-1984 period when Dave was singing. And they played all the hits and then some, barely stopping to breathe between songs. Ed, Dave and Al were all in fine form, and Ed in particular hasn’t lost a step on his guitar wizardry. “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “Dance The Night Away” were early highlights, but my favorite part were the 1984 songs, especially “Hot For Teacher” and “Panama”. I left during the last song, “Jump”, as I had to be back at the train station by 11:30. I’d given myself an hour to get there, but it only took about 35 minutes, and I was soon on my way home. And I didn’t mind not having a lot of reading material, because after I was done with what I had, I napped most of the rest of the way to DC, and I wasn’t quite as wiped today as I might have been.