On November 30, 2011, Van Halen fans worldwide took to the blogosphere and let out a collective moan after the Grammy Awards Announcement Show aired with no mention of the band’s plans for 2012. Fueled by several stupid tweets by Grammy organizers, fans looking for a scrap (anything!) of information about a new album and tour were disappointed and convinced that Van Halen had nothing going on. Two new videos (that were uploaded to YouTube two weeks later on December 14th) show that the band was actually hard at work secretly pulling together old and new material for the new album and tour we have been enjoying for the last few months. The videos, while uploaded in December, have just now been made public.
There are two videos. The first is a scattershot tour of the band’s rehearsal space somewhere in Los Angeles. The second, likely shot on the same day, mostly consists of audio of the band rehearsing “China Town” on the same soundstage. Shot with a mobile device, these videos feel like something out of Watergate – or a burglary in progress. At any moment, it feels like Diamond Dave himself is going to leap out from behind a wall of speakers with a shotgun. And really, that’s what makes it so awesome.
Let’s break these videos down further. The eerie rehearsal space walkthrough reveals several interesting tidbits. The first thing we see is a printed setlist that is definitely two pages long and possibly three (fans seem to think there’s a third page). Aside from the tunes we are hearing nightly, there are a couple of surprises. First, four songs are listed that have yet to be played live in 2012. They are: “Bottoms Up”, “Bullethead”, “Secrets” and “Drop Dead Legs”. Leaked information confirms they have worked on “Drop Dead Legs” MULTIPLE times in soundcheck, but have yet to pull the song onto the racetrack. “Bottoms Up” is a wildcard, and no one has heard them soundcheck it. Same thing goes for “Secrets”, which would fit perfectly as a change of pace tune in the “Women in Love” slot. “Secrets” hasn’t been performed since the US Festival, and we are 100% in favor of this song making its way into the show. “Bullethead” would SMOKE live, and it’s nice to see it on the list. Oddly, the new material the band has been running through at soundchecks includes “As Is”, “You and Your Blues” and “HoneyBabySweetieDoll”, but we can’t confirm “Bullethead”. Additionally, the band has played “Hang ‘Em High” a couple of times and it’s not on the list. We also know that “Light Up The Sky” has been a regular deep cut during soundchecks in Florida.
Note: WE UNDERSTAND THE BAND CAN’T PLAY EVERYTHING FOR HARDCORE FANS IN 2 HOURS. BUT VIDEOS OF THEM PLAYING DEEP CUTS AT SOUNDCHECK WOULD BE NOTHING SHORT OF INCREDIBLE. WE WOULD PAY A FORTUNE TO SEE THIS FOOTAGE!
After our videotaping friend flips through the setlist, he quickly surveys the band’s rehearsal space. And when he walks in there, it’s seriously creepy. You totally know he doesn’t belong there – much less with video rolling. Here’s what you see. First, there are a couple of keyboards, which is (and isn’t) strange. Second, Alex’s bass drums still have the New York Central System train illustration on the front. The filmer quickly pans around the space, revealing dozens of heavy duty VH branded equipment cases, the guitar and bass amp stacks exactly as they are on stage and Eddie’s pedalboard. Aside from a couple of muffled comments, there isn’t much talk and at some point the filmer’s accomplice seems to say, “We’ve got to get out of here.” And then they’re gone. It’s cool.
The second video is probably from the same day and was recorded as the band is actually rehearsing. Eddie, Dave, Alex and Wolfgang are all in the room, although never actually see them. But our ears don’t lie and they sound great. What’s neat about this footage (mostly audio) is that the band was rehearsing a VERY TIGHT version of “China Town” two months before anyone would ever hear it! Further, this was recorded two weeks after the Grammy Awards Announcement mess (which sent many VH fans over the edge) and two weeks BEFORE the band made any sort of official announcement about their plans.
Enjoy the videos!