I was introduced to Van Halen by a cousin who went to Hollywood High and used to see Roth walking the streets of L.A. pre-fame, and he brought their self-titled debut with him in the summer of ’78 when I was just turning eleven.
It blew my young mind. I don’t know how many copies I blew through in my Walkman in the early 80’s, but it was on there a whole lot. Then for a few years you could count on a good Van Halen record to be the sound of your summer – even if it was released in December, Van Halen made things great. When “the change happened” and Sammy Hagar took over, it still rocked. Despite what hard core Roth fans say, 5150 was an awesome record for Van Halen and Sammy Hagar fans alike. It still gets pulled out on occasion and put on the old cassette player.
Then it started to slip, not all at once, but they couldn’t carry you through a record the way they once did. Later the wheels came off all together. Hagar to Roth to Cherone to Hagar to Roth to… it’s irrelevant.
The recent press with Eddie and David and Alex and Wolfgang(?) would have you believe this is a return to those early glory days… it isn’t. As I watched that Jimmy Kimmel concert all I could think was that Roth can’t hold his voice together. Sure he’s lost none of his showmanship, but he can’t, well, um, ah… he wasn’t much of a singer before, and now well… he just can’t fuckin’ sing.
So now you get this Live In Tokyo Dome, which they are proud to say is authentic… no auto tunes or overdubs… the band is great. Eddie can play the way Eddie has always played, Alex sounds like Alex and well, it is all overshadowed by the fact that David can’t sing. Maybe if I was seeing it live in person the spectacle of a big rock show would compensate, but there is no way around it. They had vocal talent… but for whatever reason, they were exiled to Chickenfoot… which is now the better band.
So what you have here is more than two hours of songs you used to love being sung out of tune or just plain shouted. It’s rather depressing; Captain Roth steering the great ship Van Halen right into the iceberg. Just go out and buy the re-mastered vinyl from the Roth years which is all going to be out in the next few months. You don’t want this, it hurts too much.