Live: Right Here, Right Now

Van Halen

Warner Brothers, 1993

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/24/2004

Van Halen recoded this live set during the tour supporting For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. At the time they were one for the biggest arena fillers in the world. Live albums are among the most difficult to critique. For one thing, most bands don't really sound that much different in their live recordings than the original studio tracks. So essentially live albums frequently become greatest hits collections. Which seems silly since they'll inevitably release a compilation of some sort, eventually. The trick to a successful live album is to give the people something different. Live: Right Here, Right Now does not accomplish that.

The big mistakes that made L:RH,RN a lackluster affair are as follows:

The songs sound pretty much the same as they do on the studio recordings. Other than Eddie's solos, they are primarily note for note recreations.

They recorded almost the entire For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album, save one song. It's totally excessive to overload a live set with 10 tracks from one album, especially one that was only marginally successful (in the spectrum of their career). Sadly, the one standout track from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, "Right Now," gets a shabby and uninspired treatment in the live version. I understand that they recorded the tracks on the supporting tour, but this was mixed at least a year later. Any momentum for For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge had long since spun out, and this material was included in lieu of much better songs from their early years. Which leads to my next point…

They only do three songs from the David Lee Roth era! (four if you count "You Really Got Me"). To almost completely ignore 6 albums, which includes much of their finest material, is criminal, and a gross disservice to their fans. Worse, two of the songs, "Jump" and "Panama," are from the same album. It's well known that Sammy Hagar disliked doing the Roth era songs, but he knew that when he signed up. That the rest of the band agreed to this is a travesty. In contrast, they recorded 10 songs from their most recent album. So in essence this album becomes an advertisement for their recent studio disc.

There's almost no spark of originality on this album. To be effective and entertaining, a live album needs to capture some essence of the artist that isn't in evidence in the studio. This works if your stage act is convincingly original. Van Halen's live act is not. These guys aren't Springsteen, or Tori Amos, or one of the many artists who effectively reinterpret themselves in a live setting. They don't play original or unreleased songs, or play around with the arrangements to any noticeable degree. They don't share anything with the audience really, other than volume, that can't be found on their studio disks. These performances are not particularly inspired or interesting. Even the opportunities to stretch out are wasted. The possibilities of Hagar solo work are abundant. Rather than chose a gem from Sammy's back pages, like "Bad Motor Scooter" or " Reckless," they drag out the tired "One Way To Rock," and butcher a fine Hagar ballad "Give To Live" with a wimpy acoustic arrangement that's as limp as last night's fettuccini.

Talent without inspiration is not pretty. Talent these guys have, but inspiration was not part of the recipe for L:RH,RN unfortunately. To me this album was a forbearer of the downslide of the band that would culminate in the ouster of Hagar and even less inspired studio material. If you are looking for something original, this disc is not it. If you want a greatest hits collection, this is not that either.

Rating: D

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© 2004 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers, and is used for informational purposes only.