Van Halen sinking fast

WWW.ROLLINGSTONE.COM
WWW.ROLLINGSTONE.COM

“Hey! I heard you missed us! We’re back!”

That line, from 1984’s “Hot For Teacher,” would normally ring true; however, with the release of Van Halen’s new live album, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Tokyo Dome In Concert” is the band’s first official live release to feature, original lead vocalist David Lee Roth. Recorded in Japan during the band’s 2013 tour, the album features two discs of Van Halen classics and songs from the band’s latest album, “A Different Kind Of Truth.”

Before I go any further, I should make it known that I’m a big Van Halen fan and have been for years. That being said, this new live album is disgusting. Everything about it points back to Roth.

Upon first glance, the cover art makes no sense. It’s a cruise ship with a plain logo. Once you hear the album, however, it makes perfect sense. The ship looks a little like the Titanic, and Van Halen has hit a metaphorical iceberg. They’re sinking fast.

The album opens with “Unchained,” and at first, it sounds just like Van Halen…then Roth comes in. Not only is he off-key, he’s slightly off-tempo. To my ears, it sounds like he’s trying to be a lounge singer, and he has a long way to go.

Aside from the vocals, the band sounds great. Guitar master, Eddie Van Halen, is still at the top of his game. Powerhouse drummer, Alex Van Halen, hasn’t slowed down a bit. As most fans know, Michael Anthony was replaced with Eddie’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen, on bass, and he brings his A-game to the table.

“Tattoo,” one of three songs from “A Different Kind Of Truth,” surprisingly isn’t bad. Roth’s vocals are acceptable, for the most part.

To prove that this was a real live album, the band pointed out in the press release there were no overdubs, and Roth’s mid-song rambles were not cut out. In the liner notes of the album, the correct lyrics to each song are printed, along with a highlighted section of the words that Roth sang during the performance. It’s obvious that there weren’t any overdubs or auto tuning, although I would’ve let it slide.

For all the wrong reasons, the highlight of the album for me is “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” which is the band’s version of the Roy Orbison classic, originally from the “Diver Down” album. When the band starts playing, Roth says “I know this song.” He then proceeds to get the words wrong

If I were going to recommend this album for any reason, I would recommend purchasing “Eruption.” Eddie’s eight-minute solo is proof he’s the reason fans keep coming back.

In a recent interview, Eddie said the band would likely record a studio album soon. I, for one, have no reason to look forward to that. After a reunion tour that yielded mixed reviews, the band proved the critics wrong with a solid studio album, “A Different Kind Of Truth.” And now, they’re throwing that all away, for what?

I hate to say it, but it’s time to consider a new lead singer. I know Roth is capable of putting on a good performance, yet he chooses to mail it in. Visit www.van-halen.com for more information.

11 Comments

  1. At what? Being an off-key vaudeville clown? If you think his performance on this album is worth spending money on, I have a bridge for sale. Don’t let what was blind you to what is…

  2. On most of the songs on this record he has a real strong vibrato and really nice tone. Where he goes of the rails is trying to reach notes in another galaxy let alone another zip code. At the end of the day, he’s a unique and highly eccentric talent. Allegedly, he’s never read a word of his own press and does not appear to rehearse either, they’re still the best live band I’ve ever seen. In support of Cray’s comment above, by the second time I saw them in the summer of 1978, it became keenly apparent that the lyrics were there mostly for advisory purposes..

  3. In my opinion, what Dave is doing on this live release is not much different than the stuff you hear on videos of the band on youtube before 1985….i think Dave should work on his voice some, no cigars or alcohol (if he is drinking) to minimize some of the problems you point out in your article, but it is an authentic product…..Every time I listen to some of the released tracks I’m like ‘this isn’t so bad’ but only reminded i am wrong when I am reading someone of the other comments…which means it’s only a matter of opinion. I do challenge you to listen to all that youtube DLR from yesteryear with Van Halen, pre-1985 and see if you can get it. Roth don’t sing stuff, he kind of just blurts things out in key, when he’s lucky…it’s nothing new.

  4. Most of what is said here, I agree with. However, I think the title of the article is misleading. I was prepared for a Van Halen bashing, when this is actually a critique of David

  5. I got tickets to their summer tour just for nostalgia only. I hope Roth is funny but not “drunk uncle” funny.

Comments are closed.