Concert Review

Van Halen

Verizon Wireless Arena

Manchester NH

May 28, 2008

My adult years have been filled with the classic bands of my youth reuniting.  There was Kiss and the Eagles in the 90’s, and no shortage of groups from the 2000’s, including Motley Crue, The Police, even Simon and Garfunkel.  In 2007, Van Halen joined the “get back together” fray by mending fences with original singer David Lee Roth.

It was with great excitement when I first heard the news of the reunion.  Van Halen had been one of the few bands I had yet to see live.  My enthusiasm was tempered some with the fact that original bassist Michael Anthony was being replaced with guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang, however, this revelation did not prevent me from purchasing tickets for the Manchester NH show.

In this day of YouTube and other Internet avenues, one’s ability to gather information is at his or her fingertips.  Never one to be patient, I logged on the morning after the first show on the tour to see the setlist.  And what an amazing selection it was!  All the hits and plenty of deep cuts from the Roth era made the cut.  YouTube provided the video for us to see the stage and hear the band’s performance.  I did notice after a few shows that people in chat groups were complaining about the sound quality, but I attributed it to the acoustics in the respective venues.

The original date of the Manchester show was in the winter but was pushed back to May 28.  Upon entering the arena, I recognized the strange S-shape walkways on the stage itself that I had seen on YouTube, however, they were partially obstructed by black drapery, not to be revealed until the band took the stage.  Classic rock was playing on the public address system and the band’s crew released a few gigantic black beach balls with the VH logo for the crowd to bop around.

The lights went down and after a brief build-up, Van Halen appeared!  Eddie was on the right and I was immediately struck by his simple t-shirt and jeans attire, accompanied with short, grayish hair, complete with a goatee, more akin to a car mechanic than a rock star.  This would be a workmanlike performance, indeed.  Wolfgang was on the left, while his Uncle Alex (Eddie’s brother) was entrenched behind his colorful and always impressive drum kit.  Meanwhile, Diamond Dave, ever the showman, appeared at the top of the stage, donning a sparkling outfit, similar to what a circus ringleader might wear.

The band opened with their cover of the Kinks classic, You Really Got Me.  Other classic hits and deep cuts followed, including, I’m the One, Runnin’ with the Devil, Beautiful Girls, and Dance the Night Away.  I couldn’t help but notice the muffled sound and thought back to those chatroom reviews.  It really was a jumbled mess.  I wondered if it were due to my seat location, which was in the first row of the upper level, immediate stage right, behind the frontline of stage monitors.  Perhaps I was hearing the sound the band was hearing through the monitors and not out of the main PA?

I observed Roth was experiencing difficulties with the stage sound.  On five or six occasions, he wandered over to my side of the stage and offered us with a clear view of him berating a poor sound guy, undoubtably in charge of stage sound.  I also noticed Roth didn’t provide us with his between-song stage banter, save for the obligatory, “Good Evening Manchester,” and a quick one-liner here and there.  Rather, the band kept segueing from song to song, its momentum not stalled, even with Alex’s drum solo, and certainly not Eddie’s guitar solo, a staple that is a treat for a VH concertgoer, instead of a mere excuse to visit to john.

The hits kept on coming, including, Unchained, I’ll Wait, And the Cradle Will Rock, Hot for Teacher, and Panama.  Meanwhile, fans were treated to numbers that the band had not played in nearly a quarter century, such as Atomic Punk, Everybody Wants Some, Mean Street, Little Dreamer, and a cover of John Brim’s, Ice Cream ManAin’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love closed out the main set, while the encore consisted of 1984 and the classic, Jump.

I am happy I got to see Van Halen with Roth.  Although I am a big fan of Sammy Hagar and the music he made with the band, it’s the Roth era tunes I will always gravitate to.  The fact that I got to see the band play so much of the soundtrack of my youth is something I will always be grateful for, especially since it is not possible to see them again. 

My only complaint is a big one.  Frankly, the sound was bad.  At times, I could not understand what Roth was singing, or could even tell what song was being played until an undeniable chorus or hook came along.  In the elevator to the parking garage after the show, I came across a couple of guys who mentioned the same thing, and when I asked them where their seats were, they told me they were in the stands behind the sound board, directly center of the stage.  My theory of the stage monitors flew out the window.  I find that an act of this caliber, on a highly anticipated reunion tour, should not sound like this.  It was a damper on what should have been a magical evening.

Van Halen Setlist:

You really Got Me

I’m the One

Runnin’ with the Devil

Romeo Delight

Somebody Get Me a Doctor

Beautiful Girls

Dance the Night Away

Atomic Punk

Everybody Wants Some!!

So This is Love?

Mean Street

On, Pretty Woman

Drum Solo

Unchained

I’ll Wait

And the Cradle Will Rock

Hot for Teacher

Little Dreamer

Jamie’s Cryin’

Ice Cream Man

Panama

Guitar Solo (featuring Eruption, Cathedral, Spanish Fly, Mean Street intro, and Women in Love intro)

Ain’t Talkin’ ‘bout Love

Encore:

1984

Jump

https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/eddie-van-halen-van-halen.html

Metal Monday 11-22-2021

Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best.  As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones.  I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate!  This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?

NOTE:  I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only.  There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.

This week, we take a look at a band from Southern California that is often credited with saving the fledgling rock and roll scene of the late 1970s.  Of course, we’re talking about Van Halen.

Any synopsis of this band would have to begin with the guitar wizardry of Eddie Van Halen, who gave rock music its first electric guitar virtuoso since Jimi Hendrix.  Brother Alex, himself extremely underrated, created numerous drum parts that were copied and covered by skinsmen from coast to coast.  And we couldn’t forget the flamboyant and bombastic original vocalist, David Lee Roth, who was without a doubt, one of the best frontmen of all time.

Perhaps one of the most impressive traits of Van Halen is that they didn’t record an album that was a complete flop, at least quality music-wise.  As you will see, even the lower ranking records have their share of fine moments, something that cannot be said of just about all the acts I have covered in this column.

#12:  

Van Halen III-1998

Poor Gary Cherone.  Already a successful and talented vocalist from the popular band, Extreme, he had the daunting task of replacing Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth in Van Halen.  He hadn’t stood a chance.  Nor did this album.

For all the strikes against this record from the start, and despite musical experimentations that would be considered unforgivable among Van Halen diehards, there is some impressive stuff here.  Without You, From Afar, Dirty Water Dog, Josephina, and Year to the Day are all worthy of your time.  But, alas, there must be a worst album in every band’s catalogue, and this would be it.  Poor Gary Cherone.

Best Song:  From Afar

Best Deep Cut:  From Afar 

#11:  

Diver Down-1982

Originally scheduled to record an EP, the band ultimately were pressured into a full long play, the result being a rushed and disorganized effort.  Cover songs were aplenty here, although Where Have All the Good Times Gone and (Oh) Pretty Woman were done nicely.  Little Guitars is the strongest original tune on the record.

Best Song:  Where Have All the Good Times Gone

Best Deep Cut:  Where Have All the Good Times Gone

#10:  

Balance-1995

The final Sammy Hagar album.  This one gets a bad rap and does have its share of filler.  However, the highlights are still plentiful and strong.  Radio hits, Can’t Stop Loving You, and Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) are catchy enough, but it’s the deeper cuts that make the record go.  Listen to Big Fat Money, Not Enough, Aftershock, and the brilliant, Feelin’.

Best Song:  Feelin’

Best Deep Cut:  Feelin’

#9:  

A Different Kind of Truth-2012

You never thought it would happen, did you?  And when it did, you had no idea it would be this good, did you?  I’m talking about a new Van Halen record with David Lee Roth.  Containing riffs and lyrics left over from the 1970s and 80s, the album is as solid a release as could be expected from a band this late in its career.  

There is plenty to choose from on this album, including, Tattoo, She’s the Woman, You and Your Blues, Blood and Fire, As Is, The Trouble with Never, Outta Space, Beats Workin’, and the bluesy, Stay Frosty.  A triumphant return for the band’s original lineup.  Sadly, it would be the last.

Best Song:  The Trouble with Never

Best Deep Cut:  The Trouble with Never 

#8:  

OU812-1988

A strong album that features big singles When It’s Love and Finish What Ya Started.  However, again, the deep cuts mold the record.  Listen to Mine All Mine, AFU (Naturally Wired), Cabo Wabo, and Sucker in a 3 Piece.

Best Song:  Finish What Ya Started

Best Deep Cut:  Cabo Wabo

#7:  

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge-1991

A commercial smash, F.U.C.K. (Get it?) spawned four hit singles, including, Poundcake, Runaround, Top of the World, and the piano driven anthem, Right Now.  Van Hagar was at their absolute peak.  Nobody on the outside was wiser to the internal strife that has infiltrated the band.

Best Song:  Right Now

Best Deep Cut:  Judgement Day

#6:  

5150-1986

The first Van Halen album with Sammy Hagar was received with trepidation, but fears proved unnecessary with one listen through 5150.  The record contained four big hits in, Why Can’t This Be Love, Dreams, Best of Both Worlds, and Love Walks In.  Meanwhile, Good Enough and Summer Nights serve as solid deep tracks.  It was a lighter, poppier, and more radio friendly Van Halen, but it was much better than no Van Halen at all.

#5:  

Van Halen II-1979

As we reach the Top 5, one thing is certain.  Other than the top two spots, positions 3-5 could be determined using a coin flip.  Today, I give the fifth spot to band’s sophomore effort.  Dance the Night Away and Beautiful Girls are the radio hits, while Somebody Get Me a Doctor, Outta Love Again, Light Up the Sky, and D.O.A. are more than worthy of your attention.

Best Song:  Dance the Night Away 

Best Deep Cut:  D.O.A.

#4:  

Fair Warning-1981

Another tough choice as far as specific ranking.  This album has just one big hit in Unchained, but it may be the best Van Halen song in the entire catalogue.  Mean Street, Dirty Movies, Hear About It Later, and So This Is Love are strong deeper tracks.

Best Song:  Unchained

Best Deep Cut:  Hear About It Later

#3:

Women and Children First-1980

Van Halen’s third record kicks off with the hits, And the Cradle Will Rock and Everybody Wants Some.  However, the amazing Romeo Delight, Loss of Control, the bluesy Take Your Whiskey Home, and the Americana sounding Could This Be Magic round out a very diverse and outstanding album.

Best Song:  Romeo Delight

Best Deep Cut:  Romeo Delight 

#2:  

1984-1984

The top two positions in this ranking are non-negotiable.  The second slot goes to the commercially epic release, 1984.  Though hinted at during earlier albums, Eddie’s fascination with synthesizers becomes quite prevalent here, especially on the album opening title track that leads into the band’s signature single, Jump.  I’ll Wait gave the record another poppy synthesizer driven single, while Panama and Hot for Teacher satisfy the hardcore fans with its guitar driven hard rock that also includes Alex at his absolute best.  

Meanwhile, there are plenty of deep cuts to listen to, including, Top Jimmy, Drop Dead Legs, and Girl Gone Bad.

Best Song:  Panama

Best Deep Cut:  Top Jimmy

#1:  

Van Halen-1978

Van Halen exploded onto the scene, and quite possibly carried hard rock with its self-titled release in 1978.  Moreover, it gave the scene its own guitar god, and influenced thousands of young kids to pick up the axe.

There isn’t a filler song to be found here, as all 11 tracks are winners.  In fact, how about I save myself from naming the entire track listing and just say this is a Top 5 record of all time for me?

Best Song:  Jamie’s Cryin’ (although there are 5-6 others that could go here, depending on the day)

Best Deep Cut:  On Fire

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started