Amidst the screams of sweat-soaked teenaged fans, fists raised high in the air, comes the voice of Van Halen’s toast master David Lee Roth giving his bandmate Alex Van Halen the cue: “Help ’em dance the night away Al!!!” And with that, the party raged on…
It was on this night in 1979 that Van Halen brought their very first headlining tour into Rochester, New York for a concert at the Rochester Community War Memorial. The band’s “World Vacation Tour” was in support of their latest album – Van Halen II. The band played before a sold-out crowd of 4,902 fans with ticket prices at $10 and $12. The opening act was a band called The Granati Brothers.
Three of the songs from the show were eventually released as videos by Warner Bros. Records – “Dance The Night Away”, “You’re No Good” and “Bottom’s Up!”. You can view them all above. The band was in top form that night. Another unsurprisingly high energy performance from David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony.
Van Halen fans have had their fingers crossed for many years, hoping that there is more than just those three songs captured on film. Maybe some day a lean, mean, pristine copy of this entire show will see the light of day. The many fingers at the VHND are crossed too.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone in the audience on that night could have walked away disappointed in Van Halen’s performance….but there was.
Below is the review of the show the following day from music journalist Bruce Pilato of The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle who was surprisingly more impressed with the opening act:
The Community War Memorial was a combat zone last night when Van Halen, the current kings of sledgehammer rock, brought their elaborate and painfully loud stage show to Rochester.
They played to a wildly enthusiastic sold-out audience, amid a barrage of firecrackers.
Trudging their way through 90 minutes of hard rockers such as “Runnin’ With The Devil,” “Somebody Get Me A Doctor,” and Jamie’s Crying,” the group played with the force of a Mack truck running over a grape. The crowd, which was made up of mainly 13-18 year olds, loved the band despite its limited musical appeal.
Drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony provided a solid, yet simplistic rhythm section, while guitarist Edward Van Halen spent most of his time racing up and down the fret board of his instrument. There’s only so much one can do with a three-piece instrumental line up as such. Unless you’re The Jimi Hendrix Experience (which these guys aren’t), it soon become tiresome.
Lead singer David Lee Roth, teased with his skin-tight pants and wide-open shirt, constantly gyrating along with rhythm. Physically he is almost a double for Big Jim Dandy, lead vocalist with Black Oak. He established a good rapport with the eager audience when he naively shouted, “Hey, it smells like dope in here!”
The problem with the group is that even though they give the audience everything it wants they fail to provide any variety in their music or musicianship. These utter simplistic hard rock songs must be supported with flashing lights, smoke and blazing, ear-shattering guitar solos.
And they’re too loud! The guitarist alone used six power amps at 100 watts each and 72 speakers! Before the show, I was told by member of the opening act that he was going deaf in one ear from the use of such amplification.
Opening the show were the Granati Brothers, an exciting group out of Pennsylvania. They played a vigorous and musically varied 45-minute set that proved them to be one of the more enjoyable openers in recent memory.
The material was mostly high energy pop songs based heavily in the mid-sixties British Invasion and R&B sound. They demonstrated that they were not only good musicians but talented singers and songwriters as well.
Was he watching the same show as the rest of the audience? We think this critic was the only one in that auditorium who wasn’t blown away by the headliner! After all, The Granati Brothers themselves proclaimed Van Halen to be “The Led Zeppelin of our generation!”
Obviously, history has proven that Van Halen had plenty of musical appeal. And as for Pilato thinking Van Halen was “too loud!”? Well, you know what they say: If it’s too loud then you’re too old!
Enjoy the video and stay young, Van Halen fans!
Van Halen Setlist at Rochester Community War Memorial – May 18th, 1979
- Light Up The Sky
- Somebody Get Me A Doctor
- Drum Solo
- Runnin’ With The Devil
- Dance The Night Away
- Beautiful Girls
- On Fire
- Bass Solo
- You’re No Good
- Jamies’ Cryin’
- Atomic Punk
- Feel Your Love Tonight
- Outta Love Again
- Ice Cream Man
- Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
- Guitar Solo (Eruption & Spanish Fly)
- You Really Got Me
- Bottom’s Up!