New York City…Make it there and you can make it anywhere. On this night forty years ago Van Halen had officially made it…
On July 17th, 1981 the mighty foursome of David Lee Roth, Eddie and Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony headlined the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time. Van Halen was on tour in support of its fourth studio album Fair Warning. Six months earlier, Eddie had made his very first Guitar World cover appearance dubbint him The New King of Heavy Metal Guitar. Roth graced the cover of magazine’s like Hit Parader , Sounds and Teen Beat. His posters hung on many-a-female bedroom wall. This was Van Halen IN…THEIR…PRIME.
Guitar World wrote: “Along with brother Alex on drums, Michael Anthony on bass and lead vocalist David Lee Roth, the group Van Halen pumps out hard-rockin’ music that was born in the basement, fused in the bars, and explodes on stage.”
On the night of July 17th, Van Halen was as explosive as ever judging by the reaction from the 20,000 rowdy fans who packed the garden. The New York Times’ Stephen Holden was there and later described the show as “a three-ring circus” and a “spectacle”.
Here is Holden’s complete review of the show:
HARD ROCK: VAN HALEN AT THE GARDEN
DESPITE all the talk about a commercial resurgence of prerock styles of pop, the music that is keeping the record business afloat is the heavy-metal brand of hard rock established by Led Zeppelin in the late 1960’s. And the triumphant appearance of Van Halen, one of the heaviest of heavy-metal rock groups, at Madison Square Garden on Friday was impressive evidence of the style’s commercial strength.
This sold-out concert wasn’t merely a musical event but a three-ring circus with the southern California quartet’s flamboyant lead singer, David Lee Roth, serving as ringmaster and its lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, as right-hand man.
Clad in a gaudy gladiator’s costume and tossing his shoulder-length blond hair, Mr. Roth put on a Dionysian performance whose bumps and grinds, high balletic kicks and strip-teasing maneuvers amounted to a one-man burlesque show. And when not singing or prancing, he regaled the crowd in the theatrically condescending tone of a carnival barker act as master of ceremonies for a children’s television show. Mr. Van Halen, for his part, wielded his guitar like a lethal weapon, playing it with his teeth, even jumping up and down on it in a mock frenzy.
The music was about as extreme as the genre gets, with thunderous power chords creating a deafening wall of sound that rendered both the group’s blues-based tunes and lyrics almost completely unintelligible. In a way it was a shame, because its latest album, ”Fair Warning,” is one of the better heavy-metal records of recent years and reveals Mr. Van Halen as a guitarist with more range than most of his peers. But the audience of teen-agers, who remained on their feet from beginning to end, didn’t seem to care. They got the spectacle they wanted.– Stephen Holden/New York Times
- On Fire
- Sinner’s Swing!
- Drum Solo
- Hear About It Later
- So This Is Love?
- Jamie’s Cryin’
- Bass Solo
- Runnin’ With the Devil
- Dance the Night Away
- Sunday Afternoon in the Park
- Romeo Delight
- Everybody Wants Some!!
- Ice Cream Man
- Mean Street
- Guitar Solo
- Feel Your Love Tonight
- You Really Got Me
- Encore: Unchained
- Encore: Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love
Below is audio of the show uploaded to YouTube by Tommy Lent:
Listen To Van Halen’s “Rockline” Radio Interview From 1981