Kool and The Gang's Robert “Kool” Bell on Opening for Van Halen

It was shocking enough when Van Halen announced live dates with David Lee Roth this year. But the group's choice of pop-funk favorites Kool and the Gang as opening act only raised more eyebrows.

Maybe it isn't that strange, though: When we saw the two bands together earlier this year at Madison Square Garden in New York, the question marks were removed and our fears that mullet-wearing, beer-bellied boors would shout for “Jump” over the strains of “Celebration” proved unfounded. These are two seasoned acts that know how to ratchet up energy levels on stage, with deep catalogs full of gems beyond the mainstream hit songs that might trap them.

Bandleader Robert “Kool” Bell is currently assembling a dream team of players for a forthcoming solo album that might be titled Just Kool; right now, he has an eye toward working with Bootsy Collins, Nile Rodgers, Charlie Wilson, and Eddie Van Halen. We recently spoke to him via telephone about the unlikely road trip he's been on this year. Kool and the Gang opens for Van Halen this Sunday, June 3, at Oracle Arena, and next Tuesday, June 5, at HP Pavilion in San Jose.

How on Earth did you end up on this tour with Van Halen?

Last August, we played outside of London for the Glastonbury Music Festival. There were a lot of rock groups like U2 and Coldplay and Paul Simon, [which] played on Sunday in the afternoon. And we played in the evening along with Beyoncé. We had about 60,000 people, and we really, really rocked 'em.

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