Van Halen accomplished a lot during the seven and a half years between the release of the band’s debut album in 1978 and David Lee Roth’s departure from the band in 1985.
However, one thing Van Halen never did during that period was release an official live album, even though almost every other rock band that was around during the late Seventies and early Eighties released one, and some bands even released several.
It has now been about seven and a half years since Van Halen played its first shows in 2007 with David Lee Roth back as the band’s frontman once again, and finally the band has fulfilled the wishes of fans who have longed for years to hear a live album with Roth singing the group’s classic material.
On March 31, Van Halen released Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, a two-disc package containing all 25 songs that the band performed during their concert at Japan’s Tokyo Dome on June 21, 2013. Featuring nearly two hours of material, the album includes songs from all of Van Halen’s first six albums as well as three songs from their 2012 studio effort, A Different Kind of Truth.
Unlike many live albums, which are compiled from several shows and liberally edited to correct mistakes, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert captures Van Halen’s Tokyo performance in its entirety as it actually happened, mistakes and all. The band hired award-winning engineer/producer Bob Clearmountain to mix the album and present the recordings in their best audio quality, and as a result the nuances of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar solos, Alex Van Halen’s drumming, and Wolfgang Van Halen’s bass lines come through loud and clear without diminishing the power and energy of their performances.
Hearing Roth speak to the audience in Japanese is also a rare treat, but for readers of this magazine the best gift is Eddie’s eight-minute guitar solo—the longest track on the album—which combines “Eruption” and “Cathedral” with some of his most dazzling fretwork ever captured for posterity.
Although Van Halen doesn’t crank out studio albums at the furious pace they did when Roth was first with the band (even today’s most prolific bands don’t release six studio albums in six years anymore), they have remained surprisingly productive since their last tour ended in the summer of 2013.
The band is currently rehearsing for a new tour scheduled to start in July, and in January Wolfgang started work on his own project, which consists of himself and Eric “Erock” Friedman and is being produced by Michael “Elvis” Baskette.
Ed also took time to travel to Washington, D.C., in February to be honored by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, donate two guitars and an amp to the museum, and participate in Zocalo Public Square’s “What It Means to be American” interview forum.
Ed also remains very busy with his EVH brand guitars and amps. He’s developed and introduced a steady stream of new models over the last couple of years, including a new affordable Wolfgang Standard model, a redesigned Wolfgang Special model, a 5150III 1×12 50-watt combo and the limited edition 5150III“S” touring head.
In addition, EVH recently introduced the “Stripe Series” guitars based on iconic instruments from Ed’s past. Even in the midst of releasing a live album and rehearsing for a tour, Ed is working on several exciting new products with EVH and MXR/Dunlop that will be introduced later this year or early next year.
Ed may have celebrated his 60th birthday on January 26 but, unlike most other people who reach this milestone, retirement is the very last thought on his mind. With the release of a long-awaited live album featuring David Lee Roth singing classic Van Halen songs behind the band and the release of Wolfgang’s project coming up, a new chapter in the Van Halen story is being written as the focus turns from the past to the future.
While the lack of official news from the Van Halen camp between the last 2013 tour dates and the announcement of the live album caused many fans to speculate the worst, in reality the band has never been more functional, agreeable and drama-free, which is the best news any true fan could want. What the band’s next step will be remains unknown, but what is certain is that it will be a hell of a ride once it arrives.
Guitar World recently sat with Eddie Van Halen to discuss the making of Tokyo Dome Live in Concert, Wolfgang’s upcoming album and the secrets of staying youthful at 60.
Read the rest at GuitarWorld.com.