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David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen
David Lee Roth (left) and Eddie Van Halen kicked off their reunion tour last month in Charlotte, N.C. (Robert Padgett / Reuters)

Keeping a reunion tour from becoming a broken record

So Van Halen, you've decided to get the old band back together. Good for you. Maybe you're seeking some of that old glory, need a little cash to fill the retirement coffers, or just want to play one more time.

Whatever the motivation, this year has seen a rash of reunions big and not so big, and the results have been - receding and graying hairlines notwithstanding - surprisingly pretty. The Police, the Stooges, Genesis, Crowded House, Squeeze, and the Smashing Pumpkins have hit the Hub and offered up pop, punk, and prog pleasures.

With the arrival of the late-'70s, early-'80s lineup of party rockers Van Halen - vocalist David Lee Roth, guitar god Eddie Van Halen, his drummer brother, Alex, and Eddie's son, Wolfgang, replacing bassist Michael Anthony - at the TD Banknorth Garden tomorrow night and the DCU Center next Tuesday, we have high hopes that the streak will continue.

In anticipation, we thought we'd take a look back at 2007's other ghosts of rock 'n' roll past and dispense a little friendly advice about how to ensure fans walk away happy instead of shaking their heads and cryin' like Jamie.

Pay your sound engineer well and don't forget to warm up.

We want to hear every note of the scintillating "Eruption," the cheesy keyboard whomp of "I'll Wait," and every one of "Diamond" Dave's innuendos in "Hot for Teacher." Make sure we can. Generally speaking, reunited bands have the cash to make the mix work for them even in arenas. The Police scored at Fenway. Genesis had some trouble spots early on at the Garden but managed to work out the kinks, and Crowded House and Squeeze both managed to make their harmonies heard at the Bank of America Pavilion.

And now that we've established that we'll be able to hear every note, try to hit them. Just the effort counts. Sting went up for almost all the high bits of "Roxanne" and "Synchronicity II," which made it easier to overlook when he missed a few targets.

If you have fun, we will, too.

In other words, play like it might actually be the last time, not just the last time until you feel like playing again.

The Police sounded great, but sometimes they looked like they were having about as much fun as your average RMV employee. Ditto Genesis. The Stooges, on the other hand, brought their own party; the guys in Crowded House couldn't contain their joy; and, bless his dark heart, even Billy Corgan seemed thrilled to be digging into the Smashing Pumpkins songbook again. Dave, Eddie, if you have to fake it, we won't mind.

Have a sense of humor about how you might look, or conversely, look good.

To lift an era-appropriate phrase from Vidal Sassoon, if you don't look good, we don't look good. Or at the very least we start to obsess that we've aged as badly as you have. Put us to shame, like Sting with his still-bulging biceps or Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook's impressive mane. Or make self-deprecation your friend like Phil Collins, who quipped not only about hair loss, but poor eyesight and drug-addled brain glitches! We are mightily encouraged by the pictures we've seen on the Web of Eddie's wiry, post-rehab physique.

If you're getting the band back together, then, you know, actually get the band back together.

The Police were the only group that managed to get the original lineup on the road. (Clearly, it helps to be a trio.) Special dispensation is given to those who have members who have passed away, such as Zep, Crowded House, the Stooges, and the Sex Pistols. But as strong as Squeeze and the Smashing Pumpkins were, with the creative nuclei on hand to crank out the catalog, a tiny piece went missing without the other familiar faces.

Of course, Van Halen is already operating at a deficit on this score. Although he shares actual genetic connection to the band name, no matter how good Eddie's son Wolfie is on bass - and he won't have to be better than competent, really - Anthony's manic energy and high harmonies are part of the Van Halen DNA.

Involve the fans.

Iggy and the Asheton brothers didn't only play the oldies like they were still loose-limbed garage rockers, they invited half of the audience onstage to help. Bum notes and sloppy licks are a lot harder to hear when crazed people are pogo-dancing around the lead singer.

Don't bore us: Get to the chorus.

You have a new record, Crowded House? You want to play a handful of its best songs? Cool. You want to play almost all of it, Smashing Pumpkins? Not cool. Van Halen, we know you know this, but just in case you thought this might be a good time to premiere that new song of universal love and understanding you guys have cooked up in the wake of putting your rancor behind you, it's not.

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