Well here it is, sort of … the only official live album of (close to) the real Van Halen. Who’s with me that this thing is overdue by about 35 years? I was incredulous that at a time when these guys were one of the greatest and most fun live bands around that they never released something like this.
But now here we are, original bassist Michael Anthony given the boot in favor of Eddie’s son Wolfgang, the band on a tour to support an album of newly reworked demos of rejected songs from their early days, re-formed for what is hard to describe as anything other than a cash grab, playing together onstage but not seeing or speaking to each other otherwise. So how could I have expected this to be any good?
Alex and Eddie, while not as nimble as in their youth do still thunder and erupt, Dave’s never great vocals have lost much of the swagger and style that used to make up for his lack of pipes and while Wolfgang is obviously full of enthusiasm and quite accomplished on the bass he’s not the guy who wrote these songs and is notably absent on those key backing vocals. In the end Van Halen come across as what they have transformed into, a giant party-rock band. Me, I’ll stick with my bootlegs from ’81/’82 preferring to remember them back when they were the dangerous and exciting slap-in-the-face game changer that guitar driven rock needed.