Guitar Notes with Brian Baggett

In Celebration (and Defense) of Van Halen

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The band is back and despite, ahem, certain personality issues, VH is badder than ever.

I grew up on Van Halen. MTV had the Live Without A Net concert on heavy rotation—I taped it and watched it a hundred times. Like many musicians of my age, I would not have picked up the guitar without having been first inspired by Eddie Van Halen.

 

Van Halen in concert from the 1986 DVD, Get Up Live Without a Net.

I saw two Van Halen shows on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge tour and then did not see the band again until the last tour with Sammy Hagar in 2004. Wolfgang came out and played “316” and Michael Anthony sang “Somebody Get Me A Doctor,” but Sammy and Eddie were not getting along and were even taking shots over their mics at each other. I saw them again in 2007 on the first tour with David Lee Roth back on vocals. It was really good and I was happy the band was back, but Wolf was young and (at least at the show in Kansas City), and Eddie’s delay wasn’t set right for “Cathedral.” This was the same tour on which Eddie’s embarrassing tuning issue on “Jump” made it to YouTube.

A Different Kind Of Truth Album Cover

A Different Kind Of Truth, Van Halen’s first album with David Lee Roth since 1984—even the graphics signify a return of the mighty Van Halen.

Fast forward to an email I received in 2012 announcing the new studio album, A Different Kind Of Truth. The cover itself is huge and the music is unquestionably Van Halen. Even though I love 5150, OU812, etc. and consider them fine Van Halen, ADKOT sounds like the follow-up album to 1984. I think it’s a triumphant and powerful return of the mighty Van Halen. Wolf, Dave, Alex and Eddie hit the road again with new songs and renewed energy.

Van Halen Kansas City

Van Halen threw a big party at the Sprint Center in Kansas City (2012).

The 2012 Van Halen show in KC was great! New songs, Wolf growing up and into the band, and Eddie playing really, REALLY well. So then all of the sudden people start to criticize the band? I don’t get it. Whether it was the use of old material for the studio album to where’s Mikey, the criticism piled up. The beefs were endless: the sound at the Soundwave festival, and especially, David Lee Roth’s voice. Isn’t having Van Halen around better than no Van Halen? I say yes!

The VH fanbase put up with keyboard-based songs about love but now don’t like the rough and raw energy of the band live? On The new Tokyo Live CD David Lee Roth has 40,000 people in the palm of his hand. Not many performers can do that. He’s not the greatest singer and never was, but he is the singer in Van Halen, and the band in it’s current state is true to form and larger than life.That is the Van Halen way. I’m very thankful that Van Halen continues to play music! And Eddie Van Halen continues to refine his signature guitars and amps making them available to all guitarists through his EVH brand.

EVH 5150 III Amp Head

Eddie Van Halen’s signature all-tube amp head, the EVH 5150 III, is built like a tank and is a fount of phenomenal tones.

Brian Baggett playing the EVH Wolfgang Stealth Guitar

Here I am at Musician’s Friend Private Reserve playing a EVH Wolfgang Stealth. This has been Eddie Van Halen’s main guitar for the last few years.

Finally, after no news for many eons, Van Halen fans have cause for celebration. 2015 is turning into a big year. There was not only a new live album, but also a North American tour (see dates below) and a special two-night stand on Jimmy Kimmel Live where the band shut down Hollywood Boulevard. The new Tokyo Dome In Concert 2-CD set is live and edgy-sounding and once again unmistakably Van Halen! The more I listen to TDIC the more I like it. I hear all of those things I love so much about Van Halen. The sound, the energy, the party, virtuosity. It’s all right there. Plus, Wolfgang has pushed the bass fader giving the band a new sound.

 

This footage of “She’s The Woman” was recorded on the bass side of the stage. Wolfgang Van Halen is for real friends!

Van Halen Tokyo Dome Cover Art

Once again the cover art for Van Halen’s new live album evokes the powerful music inside.

Eddie’s guitar playing on this live album is full of energy, tight and clean. His style and tone come through strong on the classic set list. Van Halen wrote some great songs and it’s great to hear them again live. Eddie Van Halen appears to have recovered that effortless mastery—one of the qualities that make him such a gifted guitarist.

Eddie Van Halen

Guitar Legend Eddie Van Halen is back!

Another high point is Alex Van Halen’s drumming on TDIC. His sound and groove are unmistakable. He always has the Alex Van Halen drum sound, whether it’s live, studio or as in this case, a live album. Alex is solid as a rock on this recording as usual and his identity is strong. I love musicians whose playing has a strong personality. From Coltrane to Snoop Dogg, style is huge in musicianship. I find myself listening to Alex and Wolfgang locking it in on Tokyo Live almost as much as I’m listening to the guitar.

Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen has a lot to do with that Van Halen sound and feel.

The Van Halen sound is rock and roll on the verge of exploding. And sometimes it does. Eddie recently neatly encapsulated his philosophy saying, “If it’s all you can eat...I’ll take two!”

I’m guessing this mentality might be responsible for for the criticism David Lee Roth gets for singing above the melody. Maybe he’s just excited. Or maybe he’s singing harmony to the voice in his head. He’s crazy! Always has been. If you want to hear pretty singing go watch The Voice. Meanwhile, Diamond Dave will be blocking off Hollywood Boulevard, picking up girls in the front row and acting as the MC for a mighty rock band. It’s no wonder he could care less about the critics. You can hear the excitement in DLR’s voice on Tokyo Dome In Concert when he repeatedly calls out, “Guitar!” He’s stoked to be back in the band and nobody is going to bring him down.

I make guitar videos for Musician’s Friend and I’ve learned a lot lately from David Lee Roth and Van Halen. We aren’t perfect and that’s okay. There are plenty of people online waiting to point out our flubs, but can they do it better? Do they actually know what the circumstances were? I’m shocked that people can write some of things they do and not feel bad later, returning and deleting their posts.

I say put your stuff out there even if it isn’t perfect and neutralize ego-based critics with logic. Could they have done it better? Have they come as far as you have? Probably not. Otherwise why would they care about what you’re doing? It’s almost like we have an internet community obsessed with pointing out that we are all human, have off nights, make mistakes etc…

Let’s be human and...go see Van Halen this summer, warts and all! Here are the tour dates from van-halen.com:

VAN HALEN 2015 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR

Sunday July 5, Seattle, WA, White River Amphitheatre
Tuesday July 7, Portland, OR, Amphitheater Northwest
Thursday July 9, Concord, CA, Concord Pavilion
Saturday July 11, San Bernardino, CA, San Manuel Amphitheater
Tuesday July 14, Irvine, CA, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
Thursday July 16, Mountain View, CA, Shoreline Amphitheatre
Saturday July 18, Salt Lake City, UT, USANA Amphitheatre
Monday July 20, Morrison, CO, Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Wednesday July 22, Kansas City, MO, Cricket Wireless Amphitheater
Friday July 24, Chicago, IL, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Sunday July 26, St. Louis, MO, Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Tuesday July 28, Pittsburgh, PA, First Niagra Pavilion
Thursday July 30, Bangor, ME, Darling's Waterfront Pavilion
Saturday August 1, Boston, MA, Xfinity Center
Monday August 3, Cleveland, OH, Blossom Music Center
Wednesday August 5, London, ON, Western Fair District
Friday August 7, Toronto, ON, Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
Sunday August 9, Holmdel, NJ, PNC Bank Arts Center
Tuesday August 11, Hartford, CT, Xfinity Center
Thursday August 13, Wantagh, NY, Nikon At Jones Beach Theater
Sunday August 23, Hershey, PA, Hershey Park
Tuesday August 25, Darien, NY, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
Thursday August 27, Camden, NJ, Susquehanna Bank Center
Saturday August 29, Washington DC, Jiffy Lube Live
Monday August 31, Cincinnati, OH, Riverbend Music Center
Wednesday September 2, Indianapolis, IN, Klipsch Amphitheatre
Friday September 4, Detroit, MI, DTE Energy Music Theater
Sunday September 6, Bethel, NY, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
Wednesday September 9, Raleigh, NC, Walnut Creek Amphitheater
Friday September 11, Charlotte, NC, PNC Music Pavilion
Sunday September 13, Tampa, FL, MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre
Tuesday September 15, West Palm Beach, FL, Coral Sky Amphitheatre
Thursday September 17, Birmingham, AL, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre
Monday September 21, Austin, TX, Austin360 Amphitheater
Wednesday September 23, Dallas, TX, Gexa Energy Pavilion
Friday September 25, Houston, TX, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Monday September 28, Phoenix, AZ, Ak-Chin Pavilion
Wednesday September 30, San Diego, CA, Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Friday October 2, Hollywood, CA, Hollywood Bowl

You can bet Tokyo Dome Live In Concert will be my soundtrack for the summer, AND I’ve got tickets to see the mighty Van Halen in July. Until next time...keep playing!

Check out Eddie Van Halen’s EVH line of guitars,amps and accessories at Musician’s Friend

Read more Guitar Notes from Brian Baggett: Guitar Notes The HUB

Visit www.privatereserveguitars.com or contact Derek White directly at 866-926-1923. He can get you the absolute lowest price on your dream guitar. Connect with Private Reserve Guitars on Facebook and Instagram.

Brian Baggett Private Reserve Bio

Brian Baggett is Video Presenter for Musician’s Friend Private Reserve Guitars. He curates the Private Reserve guitar collection on video, visits guitar factories and works closely with luthiers and signature artists to gain insight into the greatest guitars being built today. He is also a professional guitarist playing every Wednesday and Saturday night at The Green Lady Lounge in Kansas City. A former jazz guitar professor, Brian continues to teach guitar lessons and has a book and DVD titled Keys To Unlocking the Fretboard. Find Brian on Facebook and twitter.

Tags: Acoustic Guitars EVH Private Reserve Guitars Guitar Notes

Comments  

# John Scott 2015-07-23 06:30
Well written and thoughtful Brother Brian. Really enjoy being able to hear you play and read your columns. I've missed a few VH albums. I look forward to catching up. Thanks Brian, John
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