GUEST REVIEW: Van Halen – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)

NEW RELEASE review by TOMMY MORAIS

“Better late than never or too little too late?”

VH LIVEVAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015 Warner)

It came especially late, but alas we finally have a live Van Halen album featuring David Lee Roth. Tokyo Dome Live in Concert was recorded on March 22 2013 during VH’s last tour. It’s not the band’s first live album as there has been a live Van Hagar release, but it’s the first with Diamond Dave which fans had been asking for, for decades now. This lineup features the Van Halen brothers (of course) Alex and Eddie with David Lee Roth, and Wolfgang Van Halen au lieu of original bassist Michael Anthony. One has to ask “why a live album at this point late in their career?” but it’s better late than never l suppose. Van Halen’s classic lineup and first six albums with DLR from 1978-84 have touched and inspired generations. It’s all-time classic rock, and there are plenty of masterpieces and classics to be found. The band knows this too, as they perform the songs that everyone wants to hear from those six albums along with a few from the current lineup’s 2012 output A Different Kind of Truth.

The setlist is incredible! I mean seriously look at it (they open with “Unchained”) and tell me that it’s not damn well near perfect. All the hits are there along with favourites and that’s one of the album’s strengths and main appeal. I don’t think l would’ve taken anything out. I wouldn’t have added much more either. Anyone who complains is just nitpicking. I would’ve wanted to see “You And Your Blues” from ADKOT instead of “Chinatown”* but that’s about as picky as l can be. Everything l could’ve asked for is here. Two discs and 25 songs (one is a drum solo) at this price is excellent. Those things l can’t complain about.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room. Yeah THAT one! Roth’s singing. Sometimes he completely leaves out lines, his timing is off or at the very last second, and occasionally he’ll almost talk instead of singing. To his credit he’s getting up there in age and moves a lot during live performances, it’s not getting any easier for him and l know criticism of his voice will be harsh towards this release. I’m trying not to be too harsh, while remaining objective. Granted he doesn’t sound great and there some not so good moments, but Diamond Dave was never truly an amazing singer to begin with. Less so live. He was always known to be the charismatic and energetic frontman and no one could touch him.

One of my favourite moments has Dave being Dave, during the beginning of “Pretty Woman” where he goes: “I know that song! (pause) I know that song! (pause) I fucking love that song!”  On some songs he sounds good, some tolerable and some…awful.

People have mixed feelings to say the least about Wolfgang replacing Michael Anthony. I think it hurts them not to have Anthony around because his backing vocals were truly the band’s secret weapon and they improved Dave’s overall sound, something Wolfgang simply cannot do (he does sound a little better now), but he does get the job done on the bass guitar. The backing vocals are not awful, and they try their best (“You Really Got Me” is a good effort) but they could have used Anthony’s presence.  Alex Van Halen has lost nothing with the years and plays incredible.  The “Me & You” piece is amazing. Eddie does what he does best, and surprises us at times adding things here and there being the player we know he is. I can’t say that they really live up to their past glory, but very few bands can and at the end of the day it’s a fun performance.

The sound is very raw and bare-bones, it doesn’t sound like it was overdubbed at all which is one of Tokyo Dome‘s best qualities. I think they were going for a bit of a bootleg sound, not too much as clearly this exceeds a bootleg, but Van Halen wanted a real raw, gritty and heavy feel. Now the audience is essentially nowhere to be found. I own lots of live albums and this has got to be one of the quietest crowds l’ve heard for Van Halen (and a rock concert for that matter). I can only assume they turned them down during the mixing.

On a side note, I think it was a missed opportunity to film the show and have it released as a CD/DVD package**.  I think it would have helped gather even more interest in the band and Tokyo Dome. I’m just glad we finally have some new Van Halen out, and a live one with Dave.

Is it perfect? No. Does it have it’s flaws? Yes. Could it have been more? Well l think if you don’t expect too much out out of Van Halen you will find much to enjoy. The guys are a little older, Dave’s voice has aged and it’s 3/4 of the classic lineup but they can still deliver a good performance and entertain you. Some will completely rip on Dave’s voice and l get it (STOP CHEWING GUM WHILE YOU SING!), it’s the main reason l’m giving Tokyo Dome 3 stars. It does make you long for a proper live release from the early 80’s. The musicianship though, is very good and the setlist incredible.

3/5 stars

*LeBrain disagrees.  I like both songs, but “Chinatown” trumps “You and Your Blues”!

**LeBrain agrees.  I don’t know why that wasn’t done.

For LeBrain’s review, click here!

TOKYO DOME_0002

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39 comments

  1. I’ve not heard enough of this to comment much but it seems like a fair, balanced review. Some of the songs I’ve heard have made me want to hear more but then some have put me right off! I’m going to have some listens on Spotify before parting with any cash.

    I’d vote on You and Your Blues on the studio album but… I can see why they might have preferred Chinatown for the concert. Both great songs at any rate!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done review…myself I would have bumped this up to a 4. It’s a official live bootleg and more importantly it’s the soundtrack to my Highschool years! (Fair Warning/Diver Down and 1984) were all released when I was attending school!
    I’m real good with this album …….
    No probs what’s so ever…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to wait until I get a CD in my hands with full audio fidelity before I can judge for certain. I can say that having heard the preview tracks…I think Tommy was bang on.

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    1. I agree that something from the 1984 tour would make a GREAT live album, but be careful what you wish for. Dave (who has been one of my heroes since I was 8 years old) has NEVER been a great singer. Even in his prime, his live vocals are…lackluster at best. Check out youtube, and you will see what I mean. That being said, Dave is and always was showman, an entertainer, and the best frontman of any band…especially in the ’80s. The1983 US Festival would be a welcome release if VH would ever put it out. The band is tight, but Dave is DRUNK. I mean sh*t faced drunk. He tries though, and even though he butchers many of the lyrics, he makes up for it pure showmanship. I guess I just realized that a VH concert with a HAMMERED Roth at the mic is better and far more fun to listen to than any Van Hagar concert, and I saw several of those in person!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great write-up, Tommy. I think you were fair. I saw this at our local shite little HMV for $12.99 and still didn’t pull the trigger… everything I’ve heard from it so far the music was good but DLR… is he singing out of time because he can’t hear the monitor? Out of breath? Doing some weird messing-with-it thing that he thinks is artistic? I watched their live performance on Kimmel on the youtubes and same thing on Panama. He’s with it, then he’s not, then he’s back. I dunno I wasn’t feeling it. EVH still kills though, damn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know Tommy reads these comments even though he doesn’t weigh in himself. So I’ll thank you on his behalf!

      I got the CD today. That was a Mrs. LeBrain adventure that may turn into a mini Tale.

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  4. Cool review, very refreshing after many the negative online comments thus far…

    No lie, and probably not alone but little worried about this one for no other reason than the elephant in the room, the first couple previews weren’t comforting. But the Kimmel performance of Panama just put up to youtube is IMO excellent. No-one needs Roth in best form in 2015, okay is good enough and if the majority of the performance is like the Kimmel one, count me in ;)

    And I mean just hearing the intro keys to Jump sheds 30 odd years away like it was yesterday, undoubtedly THE most recognizable and uplifting intro to any song period right?

    Thanks again for the review :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I just got the CD today myself. I haven’t popped it in yet. Gotta do laundry first. Yes it’s true — LeBrain does laundry.

      I agree, nobody should expect Dave to be “perfect” in 2015. It is what it is.

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  5. Haven’t heard any of this, but I’m aware of the issues around Roth’s performance especially. That said, I’m enjoying early Van Halen and I’m interested in this one, so this appears to be a nicely balance review that may lead to me parting with some cash (though not for vinyl this time).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely not for vinyl. That is just way overpriced.

      If I may be so bold — before you listen to this or check out the tracks, do yourself a favor and watch Van Halen at the US Festival 1983.

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      1. Well so far as Roth goes not hearing a lot of difference between this and the new stuff (granted don’t have the new record yet basing that just on samples). The missing key right here is obviously Mikey’s high backing vocals.

        Get Mike back in the band and don’t think it would matter which of the two throats are out front, either way ya got yerself classic Van Halen right there!

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  6. WHAT a joke you people are. THIS ALBUM IS TRULY FANTASTIC —5 STARS….. the 80s was awesome, yes. They are 60 now….and to point out, BELTING OUT some amazing rock songs that sound pretty damn good to me. I love that they adlib. If I wanted to hear the exact copy of a record, I will just listen to all the ones I own as a true fan. THIS IS A VAN HALEN CONCERT and VAN HALEN IS A PARTY WITH DAVE…….no matter what age. His voice fits the brown sound they produce with their wonderful tone. No one else can match that. What have you recorded lately, and what will you be doing when your 60???? Give them a break, and stop living in the past man… I’m glad they’re performing!!! Thats it. Way to go WOLF, to get your dad back into awesome shape!!!! GREAT BAND. VAN HALEN.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ALSO TO ADD…. you need to listen to THIS actual LIVE VAN HALEN ALBUM when you buy it. Its $12 bucks. (a couple cups of coffee for gods sake). TRUST me. I dont miss Mike at all. It sounds AWESOME compared to all of the youtube iphone recording out there. That is what most people are hearing. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!!!! 5 STARS….. It bring me back to the party days….. of the 70s and 80s for sure with Daves character— who always didnt give a shit what others thought of regarding even what they dressed like back in the day. (if you remember —what other rock band wore striped coveralls or rags stitched together???) Van Halen were original in that sense. They didnt follow…same goes for today!!!! AWESOME…. is all that needs to be said.

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      1. Thanks for the comment. I like the album better than Tommy, I’d give it 4/5 stars. I think it’s sonically excellent. But you’re way off base. Tommy’s opinion is as valid as yours, mine, or anyone else’s. I think a general survey of opinions would show that Tommy was quite kind in his review. Kinder than you were in your comments. Cheers.

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  7. Thanks for your reply —– Yes you are correct — Tommy’s review is fair. So, My apologies, I regret my harsh tone – and I think my venting was not meant to be directed to Tommy’s article — as it was carried over from another article that I’ve recently read prior to this one — on the internet — about how bad they sound. The True Van Halen fans understand the Dave and Eddie electric combo, and their adlib loose style….. which compliment each other. My real opinion is that I don’t miss M.Anthony – since I always thought his singing (squeezing my balls high notes) were almost too high for the band in the first place (it was good on some of them, of course, yes)…BUT…when Dave left — all Mikey did was simply pull Sam H into the high pitch range as well – and forever changed the beautiful brown tone that we came to love in the VAN HALEN unmistakeable sound. It became a completely diff. band. ED and ALEX were still gifted….in there music playing, yes.

    To me this is the classic VH again. THE PARTY, COOL MEMORABLE LYRICS and LOOSE FUN SIDE………. IMHO -The main drivers of the sound were always ED, DAVE and ALEX in the first place. 4.5/5 stars — to 5 Stars
    Cheers!…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think Wolfie is an amazingly bassist. I don’t want to compare him to Mike as a bassist, but I have a feeling Wolfie can play anything, and then some!

      Mike’s vocals were a special ingredient. But when I need to hear that voice, I can play some Chickenfoot. It’s too bad it’s not all 4 original guys, but given that it’s 3/4 and the 4th guy is pretty damn good…I won’t complain.

      I couldn’t personally rate the album a 5/5 because I think I need to reserve that for one of those near perfect albums – Kiss Alive, Maiden’s Live After Death, etc. However given its a late-period VH live album, I’m very happy with my purchase! The CD sounds very good.

      Cheers mate!

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      1. You consider kiss Alive a great life album?! That album has so much studio doctoring it should have been called “sorta live”

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  8. Agreed! Well said. Thanks. (Listening to it right now – lol)

    (Most importantly about Wolf — the world has just seen the tip of the iceburg with him) —- Hopefully he will create his own band (different from alterbridge) at one point when VH cannot continue, and have his breakout moment preferring to playing lead or drums like his dad and uncle….and call that new band WOLF VAN HALEN or just simply WOLFGANG

    Cheers!
    E.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wolfgang goes way beyond “a bass player” and becomes an influential musician in his own right. Alter Bridge is awesome and I’m glad he’s getting some chance to play music outside Van Halen. It’s probably a no-brainer to think the son of Van Halen would be talented, but he is proving it!

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  9. wow…just heard that Sam H. Is out there trying to get his 15 minutes of fame again. Bashing the Mighty VH. Unbelievable. Sad to hear that. For all the fans of Vanhaggger the horrible…guess what? your mighty leader is doing a fine job of never being able to be in the band with EDDIE or ALEX again. Just like a scorned old girlfriend, he calls up radiohosts to bash VH just days after any VH releases, like this one now (Tokyo Dome). VH always takes the high road and never says anything negative about Chickenpoop songs. Ever. Actually they don’t even waste their breath with this guy. If anything Eddie only talks about nice things about ALL of VHs records they’ve done (with both singers) saying ALL the albums and songs he created are like his children and likes them all. Can’t choose one disc over the other. They are all special to him in their own way during different years. That’s class.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heheh…I had to include Sammy’s quote in my review. Ever since VH put out the last studio album, Sammy’s been shooting his mouth off.

      The thing is, Sammy has plenty of his own good stuff to talk about! Now he’s hot Jason Bonham in his band. Focus on THAT!

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  10. I have been reading about all of the negative reviews but went and downloaded it anyways! Killer live album- people that criticize DLR know nothing about the history of the band- Dave has always ad-libbed and flubbed over lyrics- I saw them in 84 and he was doing the exact same thing. He still sounds like Dave! The band is full of energy, classic VH! Their last studio album was dissed when it came out- and it is a bloody hard rock work of art!

    Liked by 1 person

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