David Lee Roth
Sat June 28, Emerald Queen Casino, 8:30 pm, $35-$70.

"Am I seriously on the phone with DAVID LEE ROTH?" I'm literally shrieking as the eternal teenager inside finally gets her chance to speak to Diamond Dave. "Well," he tells me, "we're not serious yet, girlfriend, but a fellow could get lucky."

In 1978, at age 14, I heard "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" and found it fucking brilliant. Now I'm ear to ear with the man who straight-up admitted his love was rotten to the core. "What's cookin'?" he asks all chatty. I want to know if he saw The Stranger's tribute to his 2001 Bumbershoot appearance, a pullout entitled "David Lee Roth's Stranger Bumbershoot Guide." "I may have," he answers cautiously, "but I'm going to level with you, Kathleen. I never read anything that contains anything about me or anything that has a picture of me in it, because anything good couldn't possibly be good enough, and anything bad ruins my week. And I've found, after 25 sunburned summers in this business--heh-heh--my brief but colorful tenure-- heh-heh--that those are the only real icebergs in front of my Titanic." (By the way, Roth's laugh is quite possibly the most ebullient guffaw of all time, the kind expelled by drunken uncles at Thanksgiving.) "I've maintained that, for a fella--it's different for gals--but for a fella, if you enjoy looking at pictures of yourself after the age of 23, you probably have a sex problem."

Roth's new album, titled simply Diamond Dave, tackles some heavy idols when it comes to its many cover tunes, the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" among them. "In the golden years of the Beatles they were covering tunes of Motown. Hendrix did covers, so did the Doors. Van Halen did covers because it ran antagonistic to the Haight-Ashbury approach, which was that it has to be organic and it has to be homemade. Well, I saw a sign on tour not too long ago that said, 'We serve just like home cookin', except the chef is neither drunk nor wearing a green tube top.'" He's laughing himself silly, so I know he's about to follow another rambling anecdote with another profoundly quotable punch line: "So home cookin' just may not be as large as the barge you're in charge of, Marge."

Roth's unbridled enthusiasm is responsible for his long-lived career, even though it's sometimes caused him to be unfairly dismissed as a buffoon. "I'm a purist," he says. "I like to sing and I like to dance, and that is so rare amongst my colleagues, who usually quit by the time they're my age [he's still executing those ninja kicks at 49]. Or they're doing it three times a week after work, like most of us did when we first started out in garages. I never lost that enthusiasm and consequently, here I am on the road again. It's larger than simple music. It's lifestyle."

His act these days? "It's bigger, badder, better than ever. You're going for the actual physical thrill, here. You don't sit on the roller coaster just for the way it looks." On playing at the Emerald Queen Casino? "I prefer the smaller rooms, 'cause you can see my face. Do you know why dogs are more popular than cats? Because they have eyebrows. You can see all the emotions with a dog, you can tell happy from sad from angry to jubilant. With cats, it's just 'cat.' Can ya dig it? When you're in a smaller place, you can see my eyebrows, and it's boom, big difference."

Many bands I adored 25 years ago occasionally tour but I don't go see them live. It's different with Dave, and I tell him I will always come out to see his show. "That's because I remind you of you," he says. "I'm eternally a student, I'm enthusiastic, I consider sarcasm and ridicule refined art forms, I think I know best on behalf of myself and all of us, just like you think about yourself--I'm just not afraid to say it on behalf of us. [Huge laughter.] I think we're going places, I'm feeling optimistic. Sometimes you may not feel that way, but I'll think it for us."

The rest of this interview, including Roth's priceless anticipation of the upcoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination ceremony, more hilarious anecdotes, and an audio sample of his laugh, appears at www.thestranger.com/DLR.


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