By James Currie
Wolfgang Van Halen brings his band back out on the road in support for his sophomore album, Mammoth II. This time around he brings his touring line up from the 2021 tour featuring Frank Sidoris on guitar, Jon Jourdan on guitar, Ronnie Ficarro on bass and Garrett Whitlock on drums. A solid backing band that worked well for his inaugural tour, so it makes sense not to disturb the mix.
The first time I covered Wolfgang was when he was playing bass for his dad, Eddie Van Halen in Van Halen. Wolf was on tour with his dad, uncle and Mr David Lee Roth. It was shocking to see someone else other than Michael Antony on bass, but he not only filled the role, he completed the Van Halen legacy of backing musicians. Van Halen was the band. As a father myself and a musician, I can imagine the feeling Eddie had looking over and seeing his youngling backing those iconic tracks holding down the beat and filling in the backing vocals. The next time around was for his debut as a solo artist. The House of Blues in Chicago was his premiere and he proved he was a force on his own. Tonight, we get that again but this time with more accolades under his belt.
Opening the show was another guitar extraordinaire, the Hurricane, Nita Strauss. WVH knows how to surround himself with stringed talent as Ms. Strauss is Alice Coopers main woman on the axe. She shreds through her own solo work like the legend she has become.
An early show this night, Mammoth takes the stage around 8:45PM. As a headliner, this is a little early, but that’s how it goes for these all ages shows on a weeknight. They start off with the track, “Right?”, the opening track off their new album, Mammoth II. The stage darkly lit with hues of greens, purple and blue, they roll right through two more tracks before taking pause to thank the audience for coming and letting them know, Chicago is always the best.
Mammoth WVH songs are poppy, grungy, heavy and varied. With tracks like, “Miles Above Me” and solos like, “Distance” there’s something for everyone to dig into under the guise of rock.
Standing on a checkerboard rug, center stage, Wolf leads the bands songs, solos and banter like a natural born leader. Like someone who’s been at this for many years longer than he’s been doing this. The now, 32 year old son of a legend strikes forward paths greater than most have anticipated. His songwriting, lyrics and lead licks a proving he’s more than just the son of a guitar icon. He’s truly his own. Yes he’s learned from the legend, but made this his own. These songs are his. He’s not trying to be his dad or his dad’s band. Although the bands name, Mammoth (WVH) is an homage to Eddie Van Halen’s legacy (their name before changing to Van Halen), that’s about where the similarities end.
After sixteen songs ending with the encore of “Another Celebration at the end of the World” and “Don’t Back Down” this crowd was still pumped. Again, leaving little doubt Mammoth is its own thing. A true original force on in the modern hard rock scene.
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