Ladies and Gent’s! A few weeks back at Tbone’s house I asked him to jot down a few words at some point on one of the very few shows we haven’t seen together and that was …..(Top Secret as that review shall come at a later date) This past Saturday I was cruising around You Tube and came across some Halen 2004 shows. Hagar has publicly stated and even in his book that Ed was a mess both personally and professionally! Well what better way than to get a first hand account of a life long Halen Fan writing a review who was at one of the 2004 shows…. So I zipped Tbone a message this past Saturday and said…..”Jot a few words down” Bam into my inbox on Sunday was this great read!
Halen called this the Best Of Both Worlds Tour. I’m not so sure that’s the case….
Take it away Tbone!
July 22, 2004 Saint Paul, Minnesota….
So back in the summer of 2004 my brothers, Randy (Rugg) & Darren (Darr) along with Darr’s son Ryan, went on a trip to Minneapolis/St Paul. Rugg and I had bought tickets to the Van Halen show and Darr and Ryan were last minute tag alongers who just came for the chance to get away.
The show was to feature Sammy Hagar back at the mic and the most commercially successful version of Van Halen was now seemingly back together. Although I personally was disappointed that the brief reunion with Roth in ’96 didn’t work out, this was at least a close second favorite version and was a lot better than the alternative which would have benn “No” Van Halen.
The band was supporting their recent “Best of Both Worlds” Best-of album which featured three new Van Hagar songs, “It’s About Time”, “Up for Breakfast” and “Learning to See”. The second of these being my favorite, as to be honest I can’t really remember the other 2 tunes off the top of my head as I’m writing this. I do remember noticing that Michael Anthony was not given credit for any of these new songs. Although I don’t recall it being a big deal at the time, it certainly became clear why in the months and years that followed.
So off to the show Rugg and I go, and since it’s been almost 13 years my recollection is a little shady at best. For instance I had to look up online that Shinedown opened the show and to be honest I don’t really recall anything good/bad or otherwise about them as the opener.
Then after the usual intermission break between opener and headliner, Van Halen finally takes the stage and opens with Jump. They go right for the big number right out of the gate and it was a pretty decent version as I recall. (Full disclosure: I looked up the setlist online, as I’m 11 days shy of my 50th birthday, and there is no way I am going to accurately remember this from so long ago. Thank you, internet!)
Runaround was next followed by Humans Being, which I was pumped to hear live as this was the first tune of the night that I hadn’t heard live before and also in my mind this song had marked the end of the previous Van Hagar.
Up for Breakfast was a pretty cool tune live as I recall and I like the tongue-in-cheek lyrics to this one.
Anthony’s Bass Solo was his usual Jack-Daniels mixed heavily with sound effects coupled with him lurking the stage like a lovable nut-job.
Somebody Get Me a Doctor was up next followed by Poundcake. As I recall it was probably around this point in the show where Rugg (who also plays guitar) and I started noticing something about Eddie’s playing. He was sounding off on occasion and actually seemed to be hitting off notes intermittently. He also was really hitting his strings hard , like really hard, with some pretty severe aggression. So much so that it could have been this aggressive playing that was making some notes go seemingly sharp. He was shirtless and shoeless as I remember and looked every part the madman. Almost a bit scary.
It’s About Time which I don’t really remember was followed by a fairly typical Al Drum Solo which as I recall was fairly uneventful. Not in a bad way, but nothing crazy happened.
Top of the World, Unchained and Why Can’t This Be Love which are all good live tunes in my opinion were next, and other than us being very focused on Ed’s unusual rough playing by this point, they were otherwise pretty decent versions.
Then Sammy had his solo segment, just Sammy and his guitar doing, Eagles Fly and Deeper Kinda Love. I seem to recall him jamming a bit either before or between songs but can’t specifically remember but it was a pretty good segment of the show, although I’ve always found it a bit awkward for there to be a 2 song Sammy solo show in the middle of a Van Halen show.
Seventh Seal was next which I was pumped to hear live as I never caught them on the Balance tour and I’ve always liked this song.
Then came Best of Both Worlds which led into Eddie’s Guitar Solo. Now normally this is any Van Halen fan’s favorite part of the show. The moment we’ve all been waiting for, so to speak. But this was not Ed’s best solo not by a long shot. I’ve seen them a couple other times live and those times he was spot on. Any of the versions I’ve seen on DVD’s or online concert footage it’s usually more of the same… Lesson’s from the Master. But on this night the solo kind of rambled on like a drunk Eddie in a MTV interview. Lots of very aggressive string smashing which kind of made my brother and I cringe a couple times and actually look at each other like “WTF!” Don’t get me wrong, it was not terrible, it just wasn’t up to the extremely high standard that we have grown accustomed to from the greatest rock guitarist of my generation.
The highlight part of the solo was when a young Wolfgang got up on stage and jammed with his Dad on 316, the song that is titled after Wolfies March 16th birthday and as legend is told, is the song Ed would play to a pregnant Valerie’s belly to calm the future Van Halen bassist. This was the happiest Ed seemed to be the whole night. This was the calm in the middle of the storm.
After the guitar solo I have to admit I think I had trouble really focusing on the remainder of the show as it had become apparent that there was something troubling going on with Eddie. Was it his health? Was he fighting with Sammy? … we didn’t know what it was at the time, but something was off.
Dreams, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love and Right Now rounded out the show before the band re-emerged to play You Really Got Me and Panama as a first encore and then When It’s Love as a second and final one.
Van Halen shows are like pizza to me. Even bad pizza is still good pizza if you know what I mean. It may not be the best pizza you’ve ever had but you’ll still eat the shit out of it because you love pizza. This show was bad pizza. Better than no pizza but certainly not the Stans’ Jumbo Thundercape (local pizza reference) that I was hoping it would be.
My main takeaway from that show being “What’s Eating Edward the Great?”
Only time would give us the answer.