WILTOTWTWT – Van Halen Live: Right Here, Right Now

Here’s another in my awkwardly-titled occasional series WILTOTWTWT, or “What I listened to on the way to work today.”

At the moment I’m preparing my articles for the next edition of Mixdown Magazine. I’m reviewing, amongst other things, four absolutely amazing Ernie Ball Music Man guitars, including an AXIS model which has completely changed my life. CLICK HERE to see EBMM AXIS models on eBay. The minute I picked it up I fell to my knees and cried like a little girl. Well maybe that’s an exaggeration, it’s probably more accurate to say I cried like a grown man. Anyway, this guitar was what was left after Eddie Van Halen ended his association with the company, and as such it totally reminds me of Van Halen’s ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ era.

This was my first Van Halen album – I bought it with my birthday money when it came out in 1991 – and Eddie Van Halen was interviewed about the EBMM guitar in the very first edition of Guitar World I ever read. Between the ages of 12 and about 15 I was pretty much obsessed with Eddie Van Halen.

Anyway, eventually Van Halen released a live album and video (I got it on VHS for a different birthday) called Live: Right Here, Right Now, in which they played pretty much the entire album, with a few other tracks thrown in. Something like that is pretty unheard of today: a well-known band playing primarily their new album to a packed arena full of people singing every word. Most of the time when I go see a band touring behind a new CD they might chuck in between 2 and 4 songs from it, and stick to ‘the classics’ for the rest of the show. But I digress…

Eddie Van Halen played the hell out of his EBMM EVH guitars on that live video and CD (by the way, CLICK HERE to see EBMM Edward Van Halen models on eBay if you want the original version), and playing the AXIS last night inspired me to load the album up on my iPod this morning. What really struck me was not the obnoxiously bright mix of the audience noise (it sounds like rain on tin foil), or the overbearing snare drum sound (it sounds like hail on tin foil). It wasn’t even Eddie’s tragic over-reliance on a chorus-type effect from his Eventide Harmonizer. It was his so-in-the-pocket-it-might-as-well-be-part-of-the-pants rhythm playing. Listen closely during “In N’ Out” and “Man On A Mission” in particular for examples. I’ve always been more influenced by Eddie’s rhythm work than his lead stuff, and listening to this album again reminded me why. The dude knows how to make the guitar do exactly what he wants at any given time in minute detail, and manages to do it while rockin’ the scissor kicks and chain-smoking like a locomotive.

And that’s what I listened to on the way to work today.