Back in 1995, Van Halen preformed a secret club show at the Luxor Theatre, in Arnhem, Holland.
The band was in Europe on a two week promotion tour for the Balance album, which was released Jan. 25th, 1995. The secret show for the music industry, the press, and also for the Dutch “5150” fan club. Word of the appearance leaked, and three thousand fans waited in the cold and snow for hours hoping to catch a glimpse of Holland’s greatest rock export. The gig was broadcast live over national radio, renewing interest in the band due to the warm intensity of the performance.
Here’s a special inside look into the event, written by the president of the Dutch Van Halen fan club, Michel Schinkel, who is now a contributing writer for VHND. Michel published a fan magazine for VH fans called “5150.” The magazine was written mainly in Dutch, with occasional parts in English, and was published from 1990 to 2004. It ran for 54 issues, and included the latest news, interviews, bootleg reviews, and more. Here is Michel’s story…
Note that all the photos, videos, and interviews featured here are from that day — Jan 27th, 1995.
Outside the Luxor Theatre
The Balance Launch Party, a Secret Gig to remember
by Michel Schinkel
This report is written from my point of view as the president of “5150”, the Dutch Van Halen Fan Club.
Back in those days I was in close contact with both Warner Music and the producer of Radio Veronica’s rock radio show ‘Countdown Café’. That turned out to be a good combination.
Somewhere to the end of 1994 I talked to the producer about the upcoming new Van Halen album. He told me they were planning something special around the release of what would become the Balance album. Something like a Secret Gig where Van Halen would perform live on Dutch radio, organized by Warner Brothers Benelux and Holland’s Veronica Radio. The plan was to invite people from the music business, but he was a bit concerned there would be too many people in a three piece suit. So I suggested they should invite all the members of “5150”. To make sure that the real fans got to see it. He liked the idea so much that I was called by Warner Music Benelux a few days later. They wanted to know how many members “5150” had. At that time it counted about 150 people, since The Netherlands is a small country. That was good enough for Warner Music and I was invited to the office by the Product Manager for Warner Music. He asked me to bring the list of names and addresses of all the subscribers.
So there I sat in the Warner Music office on January 3, 1995, three weeks before the release to discuss the upcoming ‘Balance Launch Party’. I received a lot of information. Like the fact that the original location was the famous Paradiso club in Amsterdam where Van Halen played back in 1978. But because the venue was booked, it turned out to be the Luxor Theater in Arnhem (now called Luxor Live), which is close to Nijmegen, the city were the brothers lived before they moved to the States. Since the band was going to do a lot of interviews I requested to do one but I was told that would be difficult. The people at Warner Music played me a couple of new songs and showed me the video clip for ‘Don’t Tell Me’. I left the building with a bag full of goodies, like 15 tins of the live CD-single ‘Jump’ and promo posters to give away. And the advance tape of the new album. It was a nice drive back home, I can tell you. As much as I wanted to, I wasn’t allowed to talk about the upcoming event.
On January 7, 1995 Veronica Radio already started to promote the Launch Party without mentioning the venue. After all it was a Secret Gig. So people started calling me and later when it was revealed that the fanclub would be there, many people wanted to be become a member. Unfortunately for them there was nothing I could do. It all was done and dusted. The “5150” members doubled, anyway. Afterwards I heard some people offered up to $1,000 dollars to get in. I doubt anyone sold their invitation.
On January 13 and 20 Veronica Radio gave away a V.I.P.-treatment with limo pickup. One of the winners was Remco van der Nagel who told me the limo was just a regular Mercedes taxi and the “V.I.P.’s” were just dropped at the line of waiting people. Not so V.I.P., but who cares if you can go to be at a Van Halen show like this?
The special invitations were mailed to each of 5150‘s subscribers on January 18th. Because everyone was allowed to bring a friend, it meant that there where about 300 people from “5150” attending the show. In total there were around 1,000 people.
My request for an interview with the band was granted but later cancelled again. Then I got the news I could see the band after the show. The music business is a hectic world. Getting backstage was no option. After all the venue was just a rebuilt cinema with a very small backstage area.
January 26, 1995 – Rehearsal Day
The band arrived from Paris to rehearse at the venue in Arnhem. After all it would be the first time they were going to play the new songs since they recorded them. One of the few people there was a member of the family. Delightfully she told Alex she got an invitation through the fanclub. “Fanclub?” Alex responded. “We have no fanclub”. “Sure you do”, she replied. “You know him, Michel, that red haired guy”. He didn’t recall. “Does he make any money with that fanclub?” “No, it cost him more money to run it”, she truthfully defended me. “Oh, then it’s OK” and gave his relative his well known big smile. Her children were also there and played with the then almost four year old Wolfie. The was no language problem between the youngsters. Because Wolfie was not feeling well, he had to go back to the hotel early.
January 27, 1995 – Radio Show
Judgement Day had come on Friday 27, 1995. I was invited to come to the Veronica radio station in Hilversum to attend the interview Alex and Edward were doing in Jeroen van Inkel’s ‘Rinkel De Kinkel.’ When the brothers arrived at the studio building, MTV was there to capture them. At one point, Edward walked into the restaurant where Mark (my friend and guest) and I were waiting for pick up. Edward greeted us and was very friendly. Just five minutes before showtime, Jeroen van Inkel entered the restaurant to get himself a coffee and he came to us to introduce himself. We were expected.
The show was funny as hell since the brothers were making fun of Jeroen and MTV VJ Vanessa Warwick. MTV were following the band the whole day which resulted in a Secret Gig Special for MTV Europe. The studio itself was so small that we saw this all happening from the hall next to the studio room. Standing in the doorway would be the same as watching animals in the zoo. In the hall we sat down with Scotty Ross, the band’s tour manager. What a great guy. Van Halen probably really misses someone like him. He never forgot the smallest detail! Like when he was checking out the latest issue of “5150” (no. 31) and saw the European tour schedule. He took a pen and started correcting. ‘This show has been cancelled. This has been rescheduled…’ (keep in mind there was barely no Internet yet)
After the radio show was finished the brothers left in a hurry to go to Arnhem to do the soundcheck. But when Alex walked by, he looked at me and connected his visual with his relative’s words the day before and so he yelled “Hey, you’re that red head!” The big smile appeared again. It would be the last time he forgot my face, although I doubt it if he knows my name, haha. After a hug and a handshake Alex and Edward left the building armed with the latest issue of “5150”.
The “5150” Interview
When we arrived in Arnhem, we got in line with the rest of the people waiting. After some time, I saw Carolien, the lady from Warner Music passing the line. She was calling my name and was looking for me.
“You can interview the band… now.” Although I met the guys about five times before—since 1992— I never did an official interview with them. And right now I wasn’t even prepared that well, because I was under the impression the interview was off. So I got a bit nervous and the noise of people in the dressing room didn’t make it any better. As a result I could hardly hear back the recording I made of the conversation.
So I had 15 minutes to interview Sammy and Michael. But since I wanted to give them some stuff, not much time was left.
Michel: “You don’t have an official fanclub in America. Why not?”
Sammy: “Because we never OK-ed it. In America it’s different. We live there… over here it’s more sensible to have a fanclub. [Changing the subject] What’s your favorite track on the album?” He clearly wants to change the subject….
Michel: “My favorite track? I would say “Feelin’”.
Sammy: “Feelin’”? Really? There you go.” His response is like he always knew it was the best track. He’s clearly happy with the backup.
Michel: “It got it all. A ballad with power. It’s got balls! And the opening song as well, “The Seventh Seal”. On the whole album you sound more mature, I think. More like a band. If I listen to “OU812” I can hardly hear you, Mike.
Mike: “Yeah, it definitely sounds on this album like we got it all together.
Sammy: “We might remix “OU812” some day.”
Michel: “I read somewhere, that you Mike, wanted to redo “Van Halen II”. You still wish to do that or was it just a joke?”
Mike: “I wish we could redo them all. And have Sammy’s voice in, of course.” [Laughs]
Sammy: “Remixing is not so hard. You can do that in one week. A song like ‘Cabo Wabo’… big bass.
Mike: “Oh yeah!”
During the conversation Alex entered the room smoking, which pissed off Sammy. He hates smoke, especially before a show. I ruins his voice.
Through the years Michael Anthony wrote something for “5150” a couple of times. Sometimes when I met him, sometimes through fax. In Arnhem I noticed he’s a lefty. When I asked Michael about it he explained that he learned to play the bass right handed because at that time there were no left handed basses available.
Soon it was time to leave and wish the guys a lot of fun. After all it would be the first time to perform the songs from ‘Balance’ before a live audience. I informed Sammy that there were a lot of people from the Dutch Fan Club. Later, he sure used that info during the show…
“Countdown Café” ran between 9 and 12 p.m. In the first hour a pre-recorded interview with the band was broadcast, which you couldn’t hear at all because of the noise coming from the audience. The show was hosted by Alfred Lagarde en Kees Baars, which were longtime friends of Alex and Edward. Those two put Van Halen on the map in Holland back in ’78. Alfred was also a pilot, and in 1995 he flew to London to see the band. He died on January 1, 1998, which was a shock to the brothers. Veronica made a TV tribute program for him later that month. I gave the ‘Countdown Café’ producer Eddie’s phone number so that’s why the brothers ended up in ‘Farewell to Big Al’. They were very sad that Alfred never got to hear ‘III’. ‘The same as our father never got to see our children’, Edward said. Alex remembered he had the expression ‘Rock ’n Roll is bigger than music.’ “Alfred was bigger than music.” “Bigger than a DJ, that’s for sure,” added his younger brother.
It was fun to walk around in the Luxor. At the bar I noticed someone ordering a couple of beers and asked the bartender how much he had to pay. The answer was ‘nothing.’ Warner Music paid for everything. As if being invited to see Van Halen play in a small venue wasn’t enough! Those were the days. Life would never be the same.
The Secret Gig
It would be the band’s first time to do a live show for radio. And it was loud as loud can be! It took me two days to recover. But it was all worth it. It was a small stage which Alex entered carrying his bag with sticks. Never saw a professional musician doing that. For me that set the atmosphere right there.
After Van Halen was announced by Alfred they opened with ‘The Seventh Seal’. It was clear this would a live favorite during the upcoming ‘Balance’ Tour. The second song was ‘Judgement Day’. ‘Don’t Tell Me’ was introduced by Sammy with ‘We’ve got the Van Halen Fan Club here tonight!’ At that time everything sounded good, but listening back the recording it turned out that Sammy had some trouble with his voice.
“Don’t Tell Me” went straight into “Amsterdam”, where Sammy got a bassball cap from ‘The Bulldog’ (a famous ‘weed club’ in Amsterdam) trown at him. Perfect timing. At some point in the show Sammy also got a Hard Rock Cafe Schipluiden T-shirt. That’s funny because Schipluiden is a small village with no HRC at all, but Sammy wore it anyway, of course. A break followed because Edward had some technical problems. The audience used that pause to sing “Happy Birthday” for him, because he turned 40 the day before. Shy as he is, Edward just said “Bedankt, thank you!” He wasnervous because it was his first show ever playing sober. Mikey was as relaxed as always, driving the audience even more crazy. He knows how to work a crowd.
Van Halen continued with playing ‘Panama’ and ‘Top Of The World’. ‘Feelin’’, wasn’t planned but probably because of a banner in the audience they did it anyway. The last song of the set was ‘Best of Both Worlds’.
On Dutch radio there is a news bulletin every whole hour on the spot, so the band could play just a little less than one hour. Because they had some time left, ‘Ain’t Talkin’’bout Love’ was also played. Sammy thanked the people from “5150” for coming.
Watch the first 5 songs of the Secret Gig:
Seventh Seal • Judgement Day • Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do) • Amsterdam • Panama • Top of the World • Feelin’ • Best of Both Worlds • Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love
After the show Alex, Edward and Michael were interviewed by Alfred en Kees on the balcony of the venue. When asked about the Dutch Fan Club Alex responded that if he wants to know something about Van Halen, he reads “5150” magazine.
When the band had left, I was asked to the balcony and I was interviewed. It was cool when the audience chanted my name. I turned shy but I understood. I had done something right.
After midnight when ‘Countdown Café’ was off the air, the bar wasn’t free anymore, but nobody cared about that. Everyone had just witnessed the greatest gig of their lives!
The Secret Gig was a good preview of the upcoming ‘Balance’ tour later that year. Everyone there had a great time, including the band. Looking back after all those years, I still remember this one hour show as the most impressive one I ever saw. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.