Finally! A solid, low gen proshot video to document the classic Van Halen line-up before things went too far south! 4Reel Productions has really brought the goods with this DVD release, securing a low gen print of the in-house video feed from The Capital Center in Largo, Maryland...or as David Lee Roth keeps saying, "Baltimore Washingtuuuun!"...during the final stop of the Diver Down Tour '82.
At first, the show gets off to the typically awkward start with "Romeo's Delight" and Roth immediately belting out in-stride "I've forgot the fucking words again!" But honestly, after that we get probably one of the most solid Van Halen performances I've ever heard in a live setting, post '78 anyway. Their setlist construction has always been a little bizarre with that opener schtick during "Delight", one solid tune (usually) with "Unchained" and immediately getting into a flipping Alex Van Halen Drum Solo. I just don't get that right away as they've barely got any momentum going yet and we pause for a fairly lame showcase of Alex's abilities. But the whole construction of their presentation is built around showcasing each member via some sort of "solo" but I never thought that starting with the Drum segment worked - especially this early into a show.
Roth is really in classic dumb blond lead singer-form tonight but it is endearing and tolerable because aside from the opener - he also delivers the goods and it's a really enjoyable show when they are actually playing a song. His periodic raps between tunes does get a little tedious and frankly the show is quite disjointed but we get the best of what they provided on any given night and that's the takeaway. It's really not going to get much better than this peformance-wise. The video is superb and is the big surprise for me. Clearly sourced from a master, without any attempts at tweaking the tape in any fashion. That may be a good thing. The audio is where I think some improvements could be made. There is quite a bit of hiss and airy-ness to the disappointing approach of utilizing 5.1 Dolby Digital as the audio stream. I think with the quality of this audio track, PCM Stereo would have served it much better and this is usually my bitch with these boot DVD releases anyway. It is still damn good and enjoyable. I should also mention the other issue with the audio feed here is that when the band isn't playing and it's just Roth ranting or no playing, there's a hum that gets louder through the soundboard but instantly cancels the minute he speaks or Eddie hits a chord, etc. During the in-between song silences this gets fairly annoying and there are a couple of long episodes. The low gen video is nearly complete taking us all the way through "Happy Trails" and band Thank you's at the end - to the reprise of "You Really Got Me". Then the last 90 seconds - 2minutes, the inferior source in circulation was used to complete the show. Not too bad at all as it's just the band standing onstage soaking up the adulation, really. And we do get Dave adorning his ass-less chaps for "Bottoms Up"...so it's all here folks. Highlights?..."Little Guitars", "Ice Cream Man"...and the ass-less chaps version of "Bottoms Up" -it's classic VH...and all the stellar Eddie Van Halen playing we are treated to. This is great stuff.
The bonus footage at the end consists of a 1982 interview of David Lee Roth by some host of some late night Music-related TV show and it's fairly entertaining. Dave is in rare form after being out all night with Alex and James Honeyman-Scott, former Pretenders lead-guitarist now deceased. It is really Dave at his wittiest and sharpest considering the circumstances and worth a chuckle or two. Both the video and audio here are excellent and makes for a nice supplement to the full concert we just witnessed.
4Reels packaging is nicely designed, utilizing plenty of period live shots to adorn the double-sided color insert art sleeve. I must say I prefer having the tracklistings on the back cover though, versus the inside sleeve of this one. The production of the disc is professional and adequate with standard interactive menu and scene selection.
Based on what has been available on commercial bootleg by the band, this is head and shoulders above anything so far, most certainly a jump in quality from 4Reels' previous Buenos Aires '83 VH release, making this a must have for those seeking quality DLR-era Van Halen. I have to give it a solid bootleg rating of "9". Seek it out.