Trip Down Memory Lane–Van Halen Style

In the late 80s and early 90s, I was heavily in to Van Halen. They have a concert video called “Live without a Net” that I had on VHS. The way my brother put it, “It was the bible of concert videos.” I couldn’t agree more. I’m pretty sure I ran that tape extremely thin. Thankfully, my dad had a stereo VCR. I ran audio out cables to the back of his little boom box and made an audio tape of the concert. I wore THAT tape thin too. I had 5150, OU812, “The Red Album” … wasn’t as much into the David Lee Roth stuff with the exception of their first album from 1978. GREAT music … “Runnin’ with the “Devil,” cover of “You Really Got Me,” and of course, “Eruption”–Eddie’s seminal solo for the ages.

That was about 18-20 years ago.

Flash forward to today. My tastes have shifted somewhat. I still like rock, but with a much more refined ear. Odd time signatures impress me. Key changes are a must. Van Halen … not a lot of that going on. However, earlier in the week, as I was playing with mininova.org, I stumbled upon a DVD copy of the old concert video with which I had spent so much of my time as a kid, visually and audibly. For kicks, I downloaded it.

Wow.

That “wow” has various and sundry layers to it. The most prominent is the sheer “shudder effect” I had when hearing Sammy scream “HELLOOOO, New Haleeeeeeeeeen” and Eddie’s wailing guitar starts up as they get ready to launch into “There’s Only One Way To Rock.” The goosebumps, the chills, the thrill … I was 17 again, sitting on the edge of my bed air drumming with Alex (cuz let’s face it … there’s no way I’m going to even attempt to air guitar with Edward).

The next layer of “wow” was the amazing 80s clothing styles. Sweet merciful crap. Michael Anthony comes out in this yellow blazer looking coat thing with matching yellow pants. Huh?! Why?! I mean … YELLOW pants. MAYBE it was cuz he knew they were video taping, and he was deathly afraid of peeing himself, so he figured, “Hey … yellow pants, pee is yellow … sometimes. Maybe it’ll just blend in.” I don’t know. All I know is that Sammy was dressed in something that would make Joseph’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat cringe. THAT’s saying something. Of course, 3 songs in, he and Michael ditched their top layer. Wisely so, given Sammy’s desperate attempts to show the crowd how David Lee Roth-like he can be, jumping around and high-kicking and what-not. I guess I didn’t know much about the history of the band growing up. I knew DLR split after releasing 1984, but I didn’t know his stage style–his constant martial arts displays, etc. Knowing what I know now and going back and watching this concert, it’s … interesting.

Another “wow” layer. Maybe it’s just me, but there just seemed to be a really thick, heavy “cheese” element to a lot of Sammy’s extraneous dialog. What the hell is “vosephus” anyway? Defining what “5150” is supposed to mean … I dunno. Even some of the songs themselves seemed to have not aged well. That was truly a disappointing revelation. Here were my childhood icons, putting on an amazing show, and there is now a rather different feeling to watching it this time. Everything was just so over the top.

But what from the 80s WASN’T over the top, right?

In essence, it was just a fun trip down nostalgia lane, watching parts of this video again. The great part to this old classic is the dynamic tracking–allowing me to skip over the songs I didn’t want to necessarily finish and get to the good stuff, like “Get Up,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “Panama,” “Rock and Roll” (Zep cover, and WOW!) … there are other good songs, but stuff like “Summer Nights” I just skipped over. Even “5150” didn’t hold up well, but that’s due mainly to the point that I *never* cared for that version. I HATE it when a band plays a song in concert and tunes the whole song a step or 2. Like no one’s going to notice. Rush does that with 2112 all the time. Metallica FINALLY got around to playing “Dyer’s Eve,” only to tune it down a whole step. It’s not like James Hetfield can’t hit those same notes … he hits higher notes on “That Was Just Your Life” off of Death Magnetic. My point is this: if you’re going to play a song in concert, PLEASE play it in the original key.

Anyway, overall, the concert held up well. If they’re not the best party band in the history of music, they definitely have a solid place in the top 10, if not top 5. They’re just … FUN!

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