Bottoms Up! (Godfather Records G.R.751)
Selland Arena Fresno, CA – March 25th, 1979
(76:59) Light Up The Sky, Somebody Get Me A Doctor, Drum Solo / Runnin’ With The Devil, Dance The Night Away, Beautiful Girls, On Fire, Bass Solo / Your No Good, Feel Your Love Tonight, Outta Love Again, Ice Cream Man, Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love, Guitar Solo, D.O.A, You Really Got Me, Bottoms Up
Van Halen’s second record, II, was released on March 25, 1979 and the tour began the same day in Fresno, California. It was dubbed the “World Vacation Tour” and was a large undertaking, it boasted a 33 ton equipment set featuring new amplification and Lighting and not only did the band have the tour buses they would even use a Lear jet for traveling between shows at times.
The recording from the Selland Arena has been circulating for some time under such titles as On Fire In Fresno (Babyface – BF016), a titles that was missing a couple of songs and Live And Loud (Aces High AH CD 005) and Definitive Fresno 1979 (Shades 474). Earlier this year a new transfer of a verified 1st gen copy of the master spread out to the collecting community, it boasted improved sound and is the source for this release.
The taper who taped so many shows from the area knew what he was doing and obviously had very good equipment as the recording quality for an audience source is superb, a completely three dimensional stereo recording with wonderful dynamics that sounds as if it was recorded yesterday coupled with a great performance by a band literally on fire (Alex used to light his drum set on fire during the show but sometimes would light himself on fire !).
The band hit the stage with two new songs, the first is Light Up The Sky. The sound is infectious from the start and the band sounds powerful and very confident. They waste no time with Somebody Get Me A Doctor, although newly released on record the song has been around for ages and was part of the Gene Simmons demo.
The song is linked nonstop with a Alex Van Halen drum solo, I have a always found it interesting how Alex would get a solo early on, certainly not a conventional thing but again Van Halen was certainly not a conventional band. The crowd screams in delight as the band breaks into their signature Runnin With The Devil, Roth makes good use of some vocal effects during the song that strengthen his screams and Michael Anthony provides those killer high pitched backing vocals.
Roth takes his first rap of the night and talks about the release of the new record and new tour, something that gets a lot of audience praise, he also talks about a celebration…what else. Dance The Night Away was a radio tune that picks up momentum, the band hammer out the ending in great fashion and it carries with a up tempo Beautiful Girls, the atmosphere is bonkers, the band has brought the party and all they needed was an audience who is filled with women, the scream throughout at Roth’s swagger, he is in great voice and full of charm.
Alex fills in while Eddie tunes up and leads into a ripping version of the old set opener On Fire. Honed to perfection from years of playing the song is pure aggression funneled through musicianship and is one of the best examples of live VH. At the songs conclusion Anthony gets into his solo spot and is soon accompanied by Alex, his solo is a series of really fast run through’s that works its way into You’re No Good, short and sweet. Roth follows the song by saying it sure ain’t Linda Ronstadt who also had a hit with the song.
Eddie works in some interesting sounds for another new one, Outta Love Again and the song works well live. It has always been a favorite of mine as it has a great riff and live it’s even better ! Eddie is such an incredible innovator and this song is a good example of his finger dexterity.
Roth gets his solo spot in as he strums his acoustic and as usual it is a great one. He starts off with the weather and talks about harvesting crops, something that gets a huge round of applause as does his question of “are you gonna clap your fucking hands “. His vocal improvisation is a prelude to a classic Dave tune, Ice Cream Man. Anthony and Van Halen give the song a boogie woogie feeling that just swings and the backing vocals are spot on making the song a lot of fun.
Eddie takes his solo that starts with a bit of Spanish Fly before just ripping into a flurry of notes and hammer ons and while he does not play Eruption he does feature a few snippets of the song within. His solo is just totally inventive and is the thing that would spawn many imitators for years to come, it evolves into a fantastic D.O.A. with Roth proclaiming “This Is It Fresno”. Probably my favorite song from the second record and again is the mix of killer riff and solos with a great lyric, broken down and dirty for sure and the song lays waste to the audience.
The band return for the obligatory encores, their take on the Kinks You Really Got me is always a crowd please and the finale of Bottoms Up is a perfect end. Van Halen live were a party and I remember reading someone describe Van Halen’s music as the sound of thousand of beers cans opening in unison, one statement I can only agree with, its summer time and this release hit at the perfect time.
The packaging is the typical tri fold sleeve, the cover is a great take on the Jack Daniels whiskey black label and the inside is adorned with live shots of the band and even a picture of the tour logo. I do not own the Shades title but suspect it comes from the same source, perhaps someone who has both can comment but for me, this is a must have release. So relax, kick back, turn it up and pop open a can of cold brew and enjoy.