Thursday, April 2, 2015

Van Halen - Tokyo Dome In Concert - The Band Is Named Van Halen, And This Show Rocks

Van Halen
Tokyo Dome In Concert
Rhino Entertainment
Out now

Perspective. That's when you look at something through the proper set of eyes. When you hear with the right set of ears. That's what I've tried to do with the new live Van Halen live album, and it's working for me. Tokyo Dome In Concert is something we've been waiting for for decades, and it does not disappoint.

The 800 pund gorilla in this is Diamond Dave's voice, so let's talk about it. DLR was never about the notes, the tone, or the enunciation - he's the clown prince of hard rock, and he runs this three ring circus like a champ. He gives a great running commentary, supplying the words, and he cheerleads the finest family act in heavy rock history. 'Panama' is a great example as he talks about the weather, his bassist being in Tokyo for the first time, and his delivery is no better or worse than it was in the '80s. We've become so reactionary about old lineups and what we think we remember that we've lost track of what's right in our ears and eyes.

And like I said, this band is called Van Halen. Eddie Van Halen has never once made it easy on himself, and while sometimes it became almost unbearably painful to watch, I could say the same about my life, so who am I to judge, right? What matters is that he's come out the other side, and he's playing like we had always hoped he'd be playing at this age. He is as feral as ever, his tone is brown, the amazing right hand rhythms are intact, and his incendiary leads lead the way. This record is a brilliant encapsulation of his legacy. No one could reasonably be unhappy with what I'm hearing here.

The other two thirds of the VH family band is is fine, fine shape - Alex is still making 'Somebody Get Me A Doctor' an excellent demonstration of how to keep aa hard rock song moving without getting stale. He pushes, pulls, pokes, and probes, pummeling his hi-hats while while the rest of his kit is careening down the tracks like a runaway train. It's impossible to imagine what this band would sound like with another drummer. I can't contemplate it. He and his brother are a set, and they are musically inseparable.

Who doesn't miss Michael Anthony in Van Halen? I do. You do, and probably so do others closer to the situation, but he's not here, so get over it and dig the kid. Wolfgang Van Halen has a great set of hands, and he sings his heart out (he's no MA, but nobody else is either). If I could take you back to the mid '80s and let you listen to this I believe you'd be pretty OK with it. Wolfe is much more than an adequate bass player, he could play with anyone and when you hear him driving the band on 'Hear About It Later', there will be no doubt in your mind that he is the right guy for the gig. Nepotism? Sure, when it's the right move to make, it makes perfect sense. His tone is appropriately huge, and his note choices show that he's absorbed a tremendous amount of music over his young life.

At just under two hours Tokyo Dome In Concert is the perfect length, you don't get worn out, but you get full. This is a righteous representation of what Van Halen was during the David Lee Roth era. 'Tattoo' I could still live without, but it translates better to the stage than it did to the recording studio. That being said, this album is a lot better than I expected from what had been leaked over the last few months - when taken as a whole, it's a very good Van Halen concert that occasionally raises itself up to greatness, and never sinks to the depths we've seen the band hit during hard times. It'll be interesting to see where they go from here. A lot of internet noise is being made over Roth's rough vocals (which are truly about the same as they ever were onstage), and the absence of Michael Anthony, but that's what happens in life - things do not stay the same, but this is a solid comeback for Van Halen, and if you don't think it's worth it just for the sound of the band, I don't know what to tell you. Lighten up and enjoy the rock 'n' roll, kids.

Tokyo Dome in Concert (2-CD):
Tokyo Dome in Concert (4-LP):

Van Halen (CD):
Van Halen (LP):

1984 (CD):
1984 (LP):

Deluxe Edition (6-LP):
4 of 5 Pints

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