Sunday, June 29, 2008


After spending the day trimming the interior of a couple windows I installed last summer, I was ready to party with the arrival of sunset! Saturday night, and with some hesitation I pulled a CD from Van Halen's 2004 reunion tour with Sammy Hagar. The reason I hesitate is because the shows on that tour were notoriously bad. Or at least they weren't that good when compared to the 1990's: 10 years later Sammy's singing didn't have the range and smoothness it did back in the day; Michael and Alex appeared to be going through the motions; and worst of all, Eddies playing was way off, probably the result of the fact he was back on the juice. Shows are described as "terrible". Eddie would apologize for his bad performance. Particular songs are identified as the worst example ever in their career. So with some reluctance I bypassed the great concerts of earlier years and picked one from 2004, not knowing what to expect.

Tonight's show was held at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 17, 2004. Two hours long. It was A+ when it comes to sound quality because it was a soundboard recording. Audience cheering was minimal. Surprisingly, the quality of the bands playing was easily an B+ or A. Sammy was a little rough sounding, not surprising considering he was 57 years old at the time. Michael's bass was largely absent and Alex played well, but it was unremarkable. The recording really emphasized Sammy's and Eddie's playing. Eddie did really well, although it did not have the fire of earlier years. Some may say that he was playing sloppy or forgetting notes: what I think was really happening was that he was "experimenting", using a more free style form of playing in which he was intentionally changing things a bit. Who knows.

What was interesting about this concert was that Sammy let Mike and Eddie lead on vocals every now and then. This made it clear why Eddie is lead guitarist and only does backup vocals! The band was clearly enjoying themselves on stage. The quality of the recording was so good that you could hear Eddie's fingers sliding up and down the strings throughout the show. During his guitar solo, Eddie stops and almost jokingly says "I'm playin something you kinda know" after which he launches into his classic "Eruption", a guitar solo he'd been playing since the early days 30 years ago. This instrumentals phenomenal finger work is what made the music world realize his genius back in the 1970's club days, everyone wanting to imitate his style, leading to their recognition that he was one of the best guitarists out there ever.

It was a long show, having to nurse the tequila and cigar to make them last. The truck battery was drained, but I'm now accustomed to this happening on 2 CD sets, so I aim the vehicle downhill and its an easy matter getting it rolling to pop the clutch. A cool evening, a front having moved through last night bring clouds but no rain. Back home by midnight.

Youth has escaped them
Bodies struggle to perform
Time's taken its toll

Many years have gone by
Try to recapture the past
The sound eludes them

Two thousand and four
The music sounds so damn good!
The flask is empty

During a serious moment this evening I was reminded of several of my friends who are experiencing ill health, particularly with cancer. It was one of many things that run through my head, all of which emphasize how much time has passed and how so little remains before us. Sobering thoughts that evoke deep emotions that particular Van Halen songs can bring out in the form of tears.

Enemy within
Fights a battle we don't know
Feels so all alone

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