Hard rock musicians talk all the time about how much they love their fans, but few ever make that affection as obvious as Van Halen did at the Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday.
It wasn't just the way singer Sammy Hagar went on about how great the crowd was, either, for the band's enthusiasm was audible in every note, from the set-opening "Mine All Mine" to the encore rendition of "Rockin' In the Free World."
True, there weren't many surprises in the set list. Van Halen is currently touring behind its live album, "Right Here, Right Now," and as such turned in what was essentially a greatest-hits show.
But there was nothing perfunctory about the playing; if anything, the band seemed to enjoy the hits even more than the fans did, bringing extra sparkle to such familiar favorites as "Best of Both Worlds," "Love Walks In" and "Right Now."
Even the solo spots, traditionally the most pointless parts of the show, had an extra edge to them. Not that Edward Van Halen's guitar soliloquy ever lacked for interest, but this time around his playing was more melodic than virtuosic -- and given the level of technique exhibited, that's saying something.
It helped, of course, that the capacity crowd was making almost as much noise as the band (although some got a little carried away, like the moron next to me who stood and screamed "whooo!" every four seconds, regardless of what was happening onstage).
But that sort of symbiosis -- where crowd energy inspires the band, which in turn plays well enough to incite the fans even further -- is what great rock shows are all about.