They played “Romeo Delight”

21 02 2012

Van Halen was in my hometown last night, playing The Palace of Auburn Hills.  I love Van Halen but, for reasons I can’t explain, I don’t feel like I missed out by not seeing the show.  Maybe I’ll catch ’em next time.

But just because I didn’t see the concert myself doesn’t mean that I don’t believe it was a noteworthy happening.  I did hear callers and emailers on WRIF this morning, and there seemed to be mixed fan reaction to the show.  Some supposed die-hards were “disgusted” by how “boring” it was and walked out of the concert after a handful of songs.  Other clowns griped about there not being a lot of “fist pumping” and “jumping” in the audience.  Still others said it was the best Van Halen show they’ve seen.

Here’s Gary Graff’s review of it.

What jumped (no pun intended) out at me the most was that Van Halen went deep into their material, playing stuff you wouldn’t expect.  Normally, the big acts play the hits, the songs they think the people want to hear.  I’m of the belief that hits at concerts are fine, but that failure to get past them often shows a lack of depth in material or lack of guts on the part of the performer.

The song in the set list that I would least have expected to hear was “Romeo Delight.”  (One of the WRIF callers, incidentally, complained about that song finding its way onto the set list.)  That’s an underrated song, one of the better tunes on Women and Children First.


The truth about A Different Kind of Truth

7 02 2012

Oddly, Van Halen chose “Tattoo” as the first “single” (if there is such a thing anymore) off their first album with David Lee Roth in 28 years.  It might be one of the weaker songs on the album.  Normally I can’t really dig an album the first time around, but I’ve run ADKoT through once, and played a few of the songs a couple of times, and I’m just… stunned.

Diamond Dave is notoriously difficult to live with, to put it mildly.  If you believe Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen is practically certifiably nuts, almost completely incapable of composing a song.  Maybe that was true a few years back; Eddie, it’s no secret, isn’t the clean-living type.  Given the stories about these guys, it’s hard to imagine that they were able to put out anything, let alone a rock masterpiece.

The music on ADKoT proves, beyond any doubt, that Eddie Van Halen is still the best rock guitarist on the planet.  His hooks are infectious and dirty, melodic and gritty.  The album is loud.  Really loud!  There’s no pop like “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” or “Dreams.”  ADKoT has the grit of VH’s first four albums, and none of polish of 1984 or the so-called Van Hagar output.  VH was criticized for resurrecting old material — old outtakes and demos from 70’s and 80’s — for this album, but that best explains why this album has elephant balls.  You can tell you’re listening to Van Halen, but it sounds like the young, hungry, partying Van Halen of the early 80’s.  At the risk of sounding like an ageist, it’s hard to believe guys pushing 60 still have enough fire in ’em to rock this hard.

I expected more songs with a bit of shuffle to them.  It’s easy to imagine that Diamond Dave would try to make an album of uptempo show tunes.  But this is rock, pure and simple.  The only song that has a softer feel is “Stay Frosty,” an “Ice Cream Man” for the 2000’s.  “You and Your Blues” is pure stomp, with just enough pop to make you think of “Jamie’s Cryin’.”

“China Town” is Van Halen doing thrash… well sort of.  It cooks like a honest-to-goodness metal song.  “Bullet Head” isn’t really much different.  It would fit nicely right next to “Romeo Delight.” “Blood and Fire” reminds me of “Unchained,” 3 parts metal, 2 parts pop.  It’s one of the songs that is unmistakably vintage VH.

For “AsIs,” Eddie must have tuned his guitar way down.  It’s got a blues metal boogy with a punk vibe.  Guys half their age would have a helluva time keeping up with it.  Van Halen’s never done anything like “Honeybabysweetiedoll.”  The intro sounds like extraterrestrials of the old B movies. The guitar growls and bites.  “Outta Space” is another big guitar boogy that would be impossible for any guitar rock fan to resist.

The things about this album that jump out at me the most are:

  • Eddie might be playing the best guitar of his life!
  • David Lee Roth can still sing (at least in the studio)
  • Either Wolfgang Van Halen is one of the best bass players around — a far superior player to Michael Anthony — or Van Halen finally decided to put out an album where the bass could be heard in the mix on all the songs.  Whatever the case may be, the kid’s amazing!
  • Alex Van Halen is still among the best rock drummers ever; no resting on his laurels on this album.
  • The lyrics are not atypical for David Lee Roth, but there’s little or nothing on there that would embarrass him.  He’s a more clever — and more eccentric — writer than Sammy Hagar by miles.
  • The true “brown sound” is mostly gone.  Eddie’s new gear sounds so different from the stuff he was using the last time they worked with Roth. But you can still here Eddie in the crunch.  “Big River” is a good example of the brown sound finding its way to the surface.

If you like Van Halen, run to the store or to amazon or wherever and get your hands on ADKoT.  If you just like rock, you’ll have no complaints and  it will be $12-15 well spent.


After nearly 30 years…

6 02 2012

We have a new Van Halen album with David Lee Roth. I’m tempted to go to the last real record store in the western burbs of Detroit, Rock of Ages in Garden City, Michigan, and pick it up at midnight release.

Hey, Wolfie can really shred!

10 01 2012

I had no idea the boy had such skills! He’s really good.  It shouldn’t surprise me given the musical talent in his genes.

A Different Kind of Truth

6 01 2012

Van Halen’s new album, A Different Kind of Truth, is set to hit stores on February 7.  The first single, “Tattoo,”  will debut on January 10.  Finally we’ll have new Van Halen material.  It’s been a long time.

New Van Halen “Trailer” hits the net, teases 2012 tour

26 12 2011

Apparently Van Halen is teasing it’s tour.  I understand they’re are older guys (with the exception of young Wolfgang) and they aren’t going to be running around and jumping a lot.  Eddie’s had hip replacement surgery after all.  But is this the best they could put together to tease their 2012 tour?  Watching David Lee Roth slide and shuffle around like Charlie Chaplin doesn’t entice me to buy tickets.  A new album might awaken my interest in seeing them live.

Van Halen surfaces with new record company execs; Hagar takes shots (not of tequila, either)

28 11 2011

To diehard Van Halen fans, this might be old news.  But it’s good news.  Van Halen has finally surfaced.  Apparently, in mid-November, they set up gear at the Roxy in LA where, reportedly, they were shooting a video.   A photo with the band and a bunch of record company stiffs all but confirms they’re with Interscope Geffen A&M Records.

Van Halen with Execs


Since Van Halen couldn’t be reached for comment, Rolling Stone thought it to be the second best thing to get Sammy Hagar’s take… on issues about which he knows nothing first hand (the new record and the band’s record deal.)

Sammy talks a big game about not being bitter.  He might have just cause to be.  But you wouldn’t know it from the shots he takes at the band.

We’re hearing that Van Halen signed to Interscope this week.
What? VH? Van Halen? I don’t think . . . How long has it been since they did a record?  And that last one doesn’t count. You have to go back to 1995. For them to take that long to make a record, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. If it does, it better be good. Oh man. It actually might be. I’m not dogging them. I don’t understand why they couldn’t do something by now. [Laughs] Though I kind of do understand.

This seems legit. I think they actually, for real, signed to Interscope.
I thought they signed to Sony. Hmmm . . . Interesting. I’ll be the first guy waiting in line at the record store, if I could find one anymore. I’ll be really curious. I think they owe the fans that. I would love to see them make a great record. They have some of the most loyal fans in rock, and they’ve been treated so, so bad these last 20 years. I’m a real fan friendly guy.

The fans aren’t too happy that they threw Michael Anthony out of the band.
It didn’t bother me when they threw me out. I’m a solo artist. I can start a new band. But Mike? He’s the most loyal guy, and the best bass player in the world – and the best background singer on the planet. His vocal sound is as much a part of Van Halen as anyone’s. When they threw him out, I just thought “WHY? This is so wrong. This is so damned wrong!” Then to go back to Dave, FINALLY – but they threw Mike out first. Once again, it’s not a fan friendly band. Eddie could have played a solo album with Wolfie. He could have produced it and gone on tour and played theaters with him.  He could have done so many different things. He did not have to make Wolfie the bass player in Van Halen.

I find it interesting that David Lee Roth has barely made a peep in public since he rejoined the band. Before that, he wasn’t exactly a press shy guy.
Yeah, this isn’t very Dave-like. Obviously, he’s trying to make it work. Look, I’ve been there. It’s not an easy camp. It’s gotten crazier and wackier, every day. I think that Dave has just learned that if he wants to make it work, he needs to shut up and hang in there and do what he can, and do what they say. It’s a very strange situation.

Look, back in the day, Dave was the boss. He was running the damn show. When I came in, I was the boss. I was running the show, but I didn’t want that job. It was always, “Well, what do you guys want to do?” They’d be like, “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” Then all of a sudden, it became this wicked, freaking dictatorship – and nothing has happened since.

I think nothing would be more fascinating than a Some Kind of Monster-style documentary about the making of this new record. Can you even imagine?
I’d be curious to be a fly on that wall. I heard this record is old outtakes from the old days. I mean, stuff from before I even joined the band. I heard this five years ago though. Michael Anthony was curious if his background vocals would wind up on the album. I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It’s kind of interesting. Bob Seger did it, and so did the Rolling Stones. I think it’s an interesting thing to do in your old age if you can’t come up with fresh, good stuff – or you can’t get along. Because from what I heard, they aren’t working with new material. Ed and Dave didn’t actually write new songs. They took old stuff from previous sessions, and then maybe Dave had to go in and add vocals because they just had scat vocals, or even no vocal part at all.

That’s bizarre, because in the few interviews that he does, Ed is always talking about how many great new guitar parts he’s written.
Ed talks really weird about all that stuff recently. He goes, “I have all this music! So much music . . . ” Well, they really aren’t songs [laughs]. They’re really not. It was always easy for me to write songs with Ed. He had all these parts, and I had these ideas. I’d be like, “Oh, go to B over there for a bridge – write a bridge, Ed.” He’d do it, and it would be some bad ass shit. But it wasn’t like he wrote instrumentals and I just had to write lyrics over them, like I do now with Joe Satriani. Joe writes friggin’ instrumentals. Ed doesn’t have any songs. I’m sorry. I love the guy’s guitar stuff, but play me a song, will you?