REVIEW: Van Halen – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015 – LeBrain’s review)

For another perspective, check out Tommy Moraisreview of this CD, here!


VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015 Warner)

I’d like to begin this review by diving head-on into the thick of it.  Everybody’s been talking about Dave’s voice.  It’s all anybody seems to talk about regarding the new Van Halen Tokyo Dome Live in Concert CD.  Even Sammy Hagar, always eager to open his mouth and opine on all things Halen, had this to say:

“I’m trying to tread lightly on the whole thing.  Every time they do something, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, can these guys do anything worse to their reputation and to the level of the music of the band?’”

Sammy couldn’t be more wrong (or bitter sounding).

Newsflash:  the new Van Halen is good!

Sonically, this CD is monstrous.  The bottom end sounds so good, and what a bottom end it is!  Lil’ Wolfgang Van Halen has become quite a bassist, which surely comes as no surprise.  His vocals with pa Eddie keep the melody grounded while David Lee Roth freestyles it.  No, he doesn’t sound like Michael Anthony, but surely you knew that by now.  I have always loved Mike’s backing vocals.  But Mike’s not coming back to Van Halen, and if you miss Mike that much, Chickenfoot have two excellent albums for you to pick up.


The setlist: in a word, phenomenal.  All seven DLR-VH albums are mined for hits and deep cuts.  This means that you get to hear tracks like “Romeo Delight”, which I bet you never thought you’d hear live again.  “I’ll Wait”, “Ice Cream Man”, “Beautiful Girls”…almost all of my favourites are here!  But what really blew my mind was “Hear About It Later”, one of my desert island tracks, from Fair Warning.  I understand that the setlists were often decided between Dave and Wolfie, and you sure can’t find much fault in their choices.  The only one I didn’t particularly care for in the live setting was the recent single “Tattoo”, with its taped backing vocals.  It’s kind of an oddball Van Halen track as it is.

Now, Dave’s vocals:  They are what they are.  There are moments he’s out of breath, wheezing, and missing notes.  They are fewer than you’d expect.  I think one thing that didn’t help this album’s early reputation was that they released some questionable preview tracks.  Dave’s vocals on “Panama” are not as hot as they are on something like “Ice Cream Man”.  Definitely, he does better on some songs than others, but he succeeds in injecting every line with that Dave “charasma”.  He cheats his way around certain melodies, and speaks where he used to sing, but other singers his age do the same thing.  Rob Halford changes the vocal melody live quite often.  So, given that age and time do things to the human voice, and given that Dave is a smoker, you cannot compare Roth in 2013 to Roth in 1983.  (Let’s just hope that some day, we get a CD/DVD set of that US Festival, eh?)  And keep in mind: Roth’s so-so vocals are only proof that this album is live, no tampering in the mix (unlike the live album they did with Sammy which was heavily re-recorded).

Last, but certainly not least: Edward Van Halen himself.  It seems kind of pointless to say “he’s playing awesome”, but I do think it’s important to get it out there.  He’s had health scares, and he definitely hit a low point back in 2003.  His singing and playing here is awesome.  There is nobody in the world who sounds like Eddie Van Halen, though there are many who have tried.  In a blind taste test, 100% of Van Halen fans chose Eddie.

Filler:  Alex’s drum solo “Me & You”, a tropical jazz inflected moment that simply does not fit the show.  But the guys are getting up there and a mid-show drum solo gives Dave and Eddie a chance to rest for a few minutes.  In every other way, Alex Van Halen is awesome on this album.

I recommend any serious Van Halen fan to ignore the hype (and Sammy) and pick up Tokyo Dome Live. It’s cheap (about $13-15), it sounds excellent (it’s self-produced) and it has all the songs you want.  After all, we didn’t spend all these years moaning that we wanted Dave back in the band, only to bitch and complain about the live album, did we?

4/5 stars

VH LIVE_0001


  1. Excellent review Mike!!!— I bought the album and you are truly bang on in your review!!! — Dave to me sounds great through most of it considering the time that’s past!!— and its live!!!! You need to listen to the whole record to fully appreciate it!. His quick adlibs are always what we loved about Dave in the first place!! True showman that matches the VH Boys sound perfectly. This live VH album is incredible!!!! 4.5/5 stars!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Elis!

      As long as VH fans are not stuck in the past, they should love Tokyo Dome.

      On the other hand I really do hope that one day they release a classic lineup live album, like the US Festival. That would shut everyone up, plus it would be a killer live album.


  2. Yep totally cool with your review Mikey! I think a point that people are missing as well is that they could have easily plunked out another studio only tracks Greatest Hits and promoted that for there tour! In other pull a Crue! So for us peeps at least they gave us something different! People need to relax its only rock n roll for crying out loud!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I totally agree with all of this: this is a enjoyable live album, and I like that it’s delivered “warts and all” style (whether it’s been massaged in post-production, or not)! I would never consider Dave an “amazing vocalist”, either in the VH heyday, or in the reunion era(s). DLR always seems more of a showman/circus ringmaster than anything! Even back in the US Festival clips, Dave’s tosses off the lyrics and vocals like there’s a mountain of blow, a REAL fifth of Jack Daniel’s, and several hairspray blondes waiting for him in that backstage tent (pretty sure there was)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also noted, the VH brothers do sound great on these discs, all the fury and power and bluster you’d expect from them, advanced years and health problems and past excesses be damned. And Wolfie, a source of consternation and abuse for so many stuck-in-the-past fans, proves to hold his own, and shows all those years hanging around 5150 Studios were spent not just playing a Game Boy! He was a willing apprentice.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wolfgang is the band’s secret weapon. From what I know of the guy, he loves old Van Halen and is passionate about those songs. I am sure as he grows, he will take a stronger leadership role.


    2. I would rank DLR as #1 or #2 in “greatest frontman of all time.” Absolutely. (Paul Stanley and Freddie Mercury are contenders too.)

      But for “greatest singer of all time?” Not even in my top 100. Hardly the point though…Van Halen is about more than “the singing”. It’s all in Dave’s delivery. It’s the way he squeezes every last drop of sex from each word.


  4. I have not heard the live album yet .. and the track listing looks cool … But i have seen Van Halen on both Kimmel and Ellen(?) lately … and “most” of the notes seem ok … But Roth’s timing is deplorable. Bordering on cabaret awful. It’s like he is totally lost at times. And he looks like a creepy neighbour. But the timing issue is my biggest complaint from what i have seen. The music and background vocals seem pretty much bang on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually good observation Meat Man. I think the timing thing kind of goes hand in hand with him changing the melodies…I think he’s freestyling it a bit.


  5. Cabaret was mentioned above and reckon that word alone sums up modern DLR, both vocally and in his presentation, give me a VH live record any day but not interested in watching if ya know what I mean!? ;)

    And yeah in regard to this review your gust review and comments for both, not sure either Sam is doing himself any favors but that said, thought the whole Sam Dave division got stale way back and run its course, but sadly this record seems to have reignited the whole shebang, seems some can’t help but resort to name calling which is rather hilarious but at the same time disappointing…

    Anyway, from a fan of both eras of VH (and admittedly a huge fan of the Hagar era), this record will land itself in my collection before long, like I said fer the guest review, at the end of the day while would have appreciated more A Different Kinda Truth tunes cause that record SMOKED, this is Van Halen live and it’s bloody great fun!

    Probably give this a 3/5 but from the looks of those pics Mike thinking the booklet etc will raise that to a 3.5 :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually Wardy I decided to cut the paragraph about the booklet from the review. There is a booklet, but no pictures. There are some artworks of the boat, but otherwise only the lyrics. So I was disappointed with that. But I decided not to worry about it in the review. So I’m glad you brought it up here!


      1. Ok cool. Not too fussed about pics within the booklet but from the looks of what there is looks cool. I thought the cover art for A Different Kind Of Truth very ordinary too but it kinda made better sense once got to flick through the booklet some etc… But thanks for the heads up.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Actually this is kinda similar in a way. The pic of the boat on the cover is so-so, but the ones inside kind of complete the concept. Very similar to ADKOT. I know Roth is usually heavily involved in the art and packaging so no doubt he had a hand in both.


        2. Ya beat me to it, yeah glad to hear it, like I say looks neat.

          Although one thing just occurred to me though, not really a fan of the printing of lyrics in a live record. Maiden did it for their recent 88 record and that confused me.

          Considering most fans that picked that up would already own multiple releases with the exact same lyrics already printed, kinda seems a waste particularly when they proved way back they could put a cool package together (see their Best Of The Beast release).

          Dunno, just reckon had they for 88 and Van Halen had done for this release, say printed a bucket load of performance and backstage pictures instead, woulda made better sense at least (to this fan at least).

          2c and some change :)

          Liked by 2 people

        3. Live, the singer doesn’t always follow the lyrics…Dave is one of those singers.

          I liked the lyrics on Maiden’s Live After Death, because I didn’t have any of the lyrics before. But that record was SO DENSE with pictures and other writings, that the lyrics did not take away from anything. That was the perfect LP package. Glad to still have mine.


        4. Yeah, IMO lyrics just seem like stocking filler on a live record. Live After Death worked better because there was plenty more to view, but for 88 there wasn’t much more on offer other than lyrics, which made me feel short changed considering have most the relevant songs on vinyl and CD with plenty lyrics already!?

          Their argument for 88 and here too with Tokyo Dome may be that these records could be targeted also toward ‘first’ buyers ie younger fans, but my counter argument would be the majority of those younger/newer fans would probably be more likely to do exactly what you pointed out, and access the lyrics online anyway.

          Guess we coulda been left with a booklet the likes of KXM (very little), so small gripe :)

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent review, Mike – sold! I’m a VH newbie, but I’ve certainly decided that I prefer the DLR-era stuff and I’m interested to hear what they’re like now …


  7. how many of us can do what we did a 20 or 26 years of age? I’ll take David Lee Roth’s vocals over sammy(sounds like hes constipated)hagar and his lame lyrics…. This live album kicks butt. If the vocals were perfect and spot on then everyone would be saying “bogus”… I think daves vocals are a bit rough at times but on I’ll wait , he does a great job. I think dave is trying to hard to be the dave of old vocally speaking , if he sung in register he sings on I’ll wait, i think he would be more consistent vocally and singing in a register that wouldnt sound so rough etc.. But i will say this whatever dave does to eddie, it sure brings out the fire in eddie v’s playing, cause i aint heard him playing with this much fire when they had sammy in the group and thats the real deal people. Dave brings out the fire in eddie and alex. And wolfgang is one bad mutha on the bass. I love michael anthony background vocals and bass playing but he aint in VH so get over it. Eddie wants to play music with his son and brother,etc…. Sammy’s comments are kind of sounding like a cry baby. I could of swore some time back that sammy made a comment how he would like to do a tour with dave and the VH brothers… In sammys book he said he was abducted by a ufo, they must have removed sammys balls since he cries like a b—h so badly. Hey sammy go drink some cabo wabo and choke on the worm hahahahahaha!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment man!

      What can I say, I’m happy with this live album. The thing that makes me happiest is that there’s no overdubs, no faking, nothing like that. It’s really live and nobody does that anymore.


  8. Hear About it Later is my all time favorite song…The way Eddie shapes those flanged lines is out of this worldly!!!!! I agree the live album is ggod. Good to hear these tunes live that are not a crappy bootleg…and yes Sammy sounds like a bitter dude but come on he is the Jimmy Buffett of Metal/Hard Rock(wish I could take credit for that line…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He is kinda the Jimmy Buffet of hard rock isn’t he? But also becoming the grumpy old man. I’m disappointed that Sammy has to trash the new VH. He really wishes he was back in that band, I’ll reckon.


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