U.S. hard rock band Van Halen are not renowned for their prolific output in recent years. Since original vocalist David Lee Roth re-joined the band in 2007 there have only been two releases from the band. In 2012 a studio album “A Different Kind Of Truth” was released. That was the first new album from the band in 14 years, and came 28 years since the last studio album to feature Roth on vocals (discounting the two songs recorded for 1996’s “Best Of – Volume I” compilation) and was largely made up of re-worked material originating from 1975-1977.
Now comes the second release, “Tokyo Dome : Live In Concert”, the recording of a concert at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, which was taped almost two years ago. The band had only previously released one live album, 1993’s “Live : Right Here, Right Now” when Sammy Hagar (lead vocals) and Michael Anthony (bass guitar / backing vocals) were still in the band.
Live albums are a tricky proposition. Sonically usually inferior to their studio counterparts, the songs can nonetheless have more of a spark and “feel” when presented live.
The set list here contains tracks taken from all seven of the studio albums recorded with Roth, but ignores anything from the four Hagar fronted albums and the one that featured Extreme singer Gary Cherone. That is probably only to be expected, and there are unlikely to be many complaints about the tracks that have been included.
However, despite the stellar tracklist, and some superb playing – particularly from guitar maestro Eddie Van Halen – it has to be said that I won’t be listening to this album very often.
The guitars are great. Alex Van Halen’s drumming is pretty good – though a bit lacklustre from time to time, and Wolfgang Van Halen’s bass playing and backing vocals are solid. There are occasions where it all threatens to fall apart – “I’ll Wait” being a notable case in point. The big problem here though is simply that Roth’s performance is awful. Just check out opening track “Unchained”. Tuneless, out of time, some of the lyrics mumbled or completely missed – the sound of a vocalist who long ago lost what singing ability they had. I would imagine that in person, with the support of a stage set and light show, this would be more bearable, but captured here for posterity it is – I’m sorry to say – just embarrassing from such a legendary band.
For die-hard fans only…
“Tokyo Dome : Live In Concert” tracklist:
1. Unchained / 2. Runnin’ With The Devil / 3. She’s The Woman / 4. I’m The One / 5. Tattoo / 6. Everybody Wants Some!!! / 7. Somebody Get Me A Doctor / 8. China Town / 9. Hear About It Later / 10. (Oh) Pretty Woman / 11. Drum Struck (Drum Solo) / 12. You Really Got Me / 13. Dance The Night Away / 14. I’ll Wait / 15. And The Cradle Will Rock / 16. Hot For Teacher / 17. Women In Love / 18. Romeo Delight / 19. Mean Street / 20. Beautiful Girls / 21. Ice Cream Man / 22. Panama / 23. Eruption (Guitar Solo) / 24. Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love / 25. Jump
1,9 and 19 originally from “Fair Warning” (1981) / 2, 4, 12, 21, 23 and 24 originally from “Van Halen” (1978) / 3, 5 and 8 originally from “A Different Kind Of Truth” (2012) / 6, 15 and 18 originally from “Women And Children First” (1980) / 7, 13, 17 and 20 originally from “Van Halen II” (1979) / 10 originally from “Diver Down” (1982) / 14, 16, 22 and 25 originally from “1984” (1984)