Firecrackers In The Arena (Tarantura TCDVH – 2)
Budokan Dai Hall, Tokyo, Japan – September 13, 1979
Disc 1: (40:00) Opening Guitar Solo, Introduction, Light Up The Sky, Somebody Get Me A Doctor, Drum Solo, Runnin’ With The Devil (Firecrackers), Dance The Night Away, Beautiful Girls, Improvisation, On Fire, Bass Solo, You’re No Good, Jamie’s Crying
Disc 2: (60:06) Improvisation, Feel Your Love Tonight, Outta Love Again, Ice Cream Man, Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love, Spanish Fly, Eruption, You Really Got Me, Improvisation, You Really Got Me, Bottoms Up, Atomic Punk, SE
Firecrackers In The Arena from Tarantura features a previously unreleased Mr. Peach recording from Van Halen’s second tour of Japan. They were supporting their latest release Van Halen II, released in March 1979.
The name Mr. Peach has become synonymous with great sounding recordings and this one is no different. It is a very good/excellent sounding tape with guitar and vocals somewhat dominating the recording with only the bass guitar slightly lower in the mix.
Van Halen hit the stage with the blistering “Light Up The Sky” from the new record instantly whipping things into a frenzy. “Somebody Get Me A Doctor” quickly follows with the band sounding as tight as ever and contains a short (about two minutes) drum solo at the end. Although it seems a little early for a drum solo it seems to work here.
Back to the first record for “Runnin’ With The Devil”, some firecrackers can be heard during the third verse lending to the title of this set. While they can be clearly heard, it does little to distract from the listening experience. Dave greets the audience with his typical jolly “party” attitude letting them know it’s their last night in Japan and that they will be playing tracks from both records. With the total time of about 67 minutes between their only two records they manage to stretch the show to over 100 minutes including solos and musical filler (while still omitting 2 tracks from each record).
“Dance The Night Away” and “Beautiful Girls” are the most commercial of the new tracks and pair well together. Alex Van Halen provides hi-hat and kick drum for some Roth MC before leading the band into “On Fire”. Dave proves his voice is in fine form tonight during this one. Michael Anthony’s solo spot is up next. It is little more than distorted low end noise and chaos that segues into the opening track from Van Halen II, “You’re No Good”, a cover song written and recorded in the 1960s, most notably recorded by Linda Ronstadt in 1975. Van Halen certainly takes the track to a new level and includes a smoking guitar solo.
One thing that always stood out with the early VH was their backing vocals, thanks to the strong/high vocal range of Michael Anthony. “Jamie’s Crying” and “Feel Your Love Tonight” do an excellent job in showcasing the strength in the vocal harmonies. Dave and Eddie fool around a bit before “Feel Your Love Tonight”. This improv would later be used at the start of “Fools” on their next record. Ed spends a good minute and a half getting the perfect feedback at the start of “Outta Love Again” and again plays some amazing solos in the song.
Roth plays acoustic guitar during “Ice Cream Man”, his ability seems barely adequate but he always makes up for it in entertainment value and gets the job done. His wacky humor is sometimes puzzling and he can be heard asking for a cheeseburger during the breakdown in “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”. (Perhaps poor ole Dave misses his American cuisine).
Eddie is playing like a finely tuned machine during his solo spots. “Spanish Fly”, originally recorded on a classical guitar, gets the electric treatment and is pure beauty with a bit of an edge while “Eruption” loses all control with some of his best and cleanest playing ever, honestly. This segues into “You Really Got Me” (just like the record) and is the last song of the main set.
They return for the first encore “Bottoms Up” and then again for “Atomic Punk”, two enormously strong live tracks. The brief instrumental, “Growth” (found at the end of Women And Children First) precedes the final encore.
Firecrackers In The Arena from Tarantura comes packaged in a glossy cardboard gatefold sleeve with beautiful picture discs and opens to display four individual shots of the band and photos of the ticket and master tapes. This is another priceless Mr. Peach recording highly recommended for the Van Halen collector.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)