Mammoth WVH with Nita Strauss-Starland Ballroom-Sayreville, NJ

What do you do when your dad is known as one of the greatest guitarist of all time and also played in one of the greatest rock bands of all time,  and when you were 15 years old you found yourself as the bass player for that band playing alongside your dad?  Simply, you just be yourself.   That is what Wolfgang Van Halen does as he creates his own style of music.  He is an incredible talent who writes, sings and plays all of the instruments on both of his albums.   With the release of his second album and second tour, Wolfgang continues to grow in popularity as he continues to develop his own brand of music.  Last night, the hall was packed with Eddie Van Halen fans who have now turned their attention and admiration to Wolfgang.   It is obvious that he is  developing his own following of loyal fans who appreciate Wolfgang as a songwriter and musician.  His love for his father is projected through his music especially with songs like Distance and Waiting.   I, for one, was happy to notice how the crowd was just simply there to hear Wolfgang.   I don’t recall at any point anyone yelling out because they wanted to hear him playing Van Halen tunes.  After watching one of his performances you can understand why there is no need for it.   It may appear to be a solo project but when on the road Mammoth WVH is very much a band.   Touring band members, Frank Sidoris (guitar/vocals), Jon Jourdan (guitar/vocals), Ronnie Ficarro (bass/vocals) and Garrett Whitlock pounding on the drums, all hold their own as they round out Mammoth WVH.  From the moment they took the stage and for the next one hour and forty minutes the crowd was all in.  Opening the set with Right? from Mammoth II, you could immediately feel the energy.  At one point Wolfgang just gazed into the crowd stating he was at a loss for words as the crowd just roared with excitement.   He had things he wanted to say but couldn’t put it together and simply said, ‘let’s just get back to the music.’  The setlist was pretty much split right down the middle performing 8 songs from each album.  A little more than halfway thru the set Wolfgang walked up to the mic with an acoustic guitar and said he wanted to perform Distance the way he wrote it.  Playing with an acoustic guitar and slowing down the pace of the evening for a brief moment.   After the song the crowd started chanting ‘Eddie’, ‘Eddie’, ‘Eddie’…  Wolfgang let the crowd have its moment and then simply said ’Thank you’.   It was pretty amazing to glance around the stage and see all the EVH made guitars, amplifies, foot peddles. Wolfgang mentioned the bass being played by Ronnie Ficarro was another prototype design that he is currently working on.   I’m glad to see the EVH brand is being carried on by Wolfgang as the legend of his father will continue on for many generations. Other fan favorites throughout the night were Stone, Epiphany and Take a Bow which ended the set before the band came back out on stage for their encore Another Celebration at the End of the World and then closing the night with equally energetic Don’t Back Down.  Before the band left the stage Wolfgangs mother, Valerie Bertinelli could be seen on the side of the stage video taping her son in one of those proud mom moments.  The sky is the limit for Wolfgang and I for one cannot wait to see what comes next.

Nita Strauss opened the show with a blistering fast paced performance that included a few instrumental pieces to open her set before she introduced Kasey Karlsen who joined her on stage for the remainder of the show.   Karlsen is a vocalist for the group Deadlands and joined Nita for the tour.  Nita has played with Demi Lovato and Alice Cooper but seems to be enjoying the limelight as the focal point of her own band.  Nita played a 9 song set that included songs from her two solo albums.  As soon as she hit the stage the crowd welcomed her and Nita did not disappoint.   The set opener Summer Storm let everyone know what they were in for right off the bat.   Blistering guitar work that never stopped until she finished the night with Victorious off her latest album The Call of the Void.

Review and Photos by Anthony DiMatteo