25 Years Ago: Van Halen Release First Live LP, ‘Right Here, Right Now’
Van Halen's 1987 video Live Without a Net was the first time most fans saw the new-look band, now with Sammy Hagar on vocals, in a concert setting. It's still a blast to watch, even today — the guys look like they're having fun and the crowd eats up every howl, solo and between-song rap. The playing is raw and a little shambolic, with a few bum notes here and there, but it's a live performance; that's what you get.
Six years later, Van Halen released their first live album, 1993's Live: Right Here, Right Now, a combination of the dense, heavy material from their most recent album, a smattering of old favorites and some choice covers. The band sounds tight and together, a really impressive display from everyone's onetime-favorite hard-rock hedonists. Turns out, there's a reason why it's so tight.
Recorded in May 1992 over a two-night stand at the Selland Arena in Fresno, Calif., for a radio broadcast, Live: Right Here, Right Now catches the band late in a long tour (shows 100 and 101 out of a 109-date run). Material from the previous year's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge gets a thorough workout. "Poundcake" kicks off the record, with Eddie Van Halen's power-drill-over-pickups effect slicing through the crowd noise while the band piles it on. A breakneck "Judgement Day" follows, with Eddie's fleet-fingered solo standing out from the dense riffin -- which he repeats elsewhere on "Spanked" and "Man on a Mission." The hits from the album — "Runaround," "Right Now" and "Top of the World" — are represented in fine, energetic and almost note-perfect form.
Older material is injected with fresh energy. "Finish What Ya Started" is frisky and fun, and Van Halen's guitar tone is thicker and fuzzier than on the studio version. "Love Walks In" maintains all its majestic, power-ballad goodness, while the main riff of "Best of Both Worlds" sounds like an avalanche bringing down a mountain — both songs are removed from the slick '80s production of 5150 and sound better for it.
Meanwhile, Hagar adds some muscle to David Lee Roth-era tracks like "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," "Jump" and "Panama," though the best part of the three might be his rap to the crowd during "Panama" -- part pop psychology, part salacious storytelling.
Watch Van Halen Perform 'Jump'
The covers on the album are pretty great too. The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" sounds as raw and powerful as ever, but it becomes the bread in a "Cabo Wabo" sandwich, as the band cuts the Kinks track in half and slips a take on the OU812 favorite between the two parts.
Much more natural sounding is a hammering run-through of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," with the song's signature synth riff played by Eddie Van Halen, using only his fingers and guitar strings. As in the original version, the song climaxes with Hagar nailing Roger Daltrey's scream perfectly — a goose bump-inducing culmination to one of rock's greatest songs.
Watch Van Halen Perform 'You Really Got Me' / 'Cabo Wabo'
The perfection of these and other moments on the album might make you think that some tweaking to the performances was done in the studio, during the album's production, to maintain the essence of the performance without subjecting fans to missed notes, vocal clams and other imperfections that are part and parcel of a live show. But in his 2011 memoir Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, Hagar revealed how much post-performance tweaking was done (spoiler: It was a lot).
"The problem was [Eddie and Alex Van Halen] re-recorded almost the entire live album, because Eddie was out of tune, or Al had sped up or slowed down," he wrote. "They fixed everything. Only now that Eddie was playing in tune, my singing’s off-key. And where Al sped up in “Runaround,” now I’m singing ahead of the beat. Now I had to go back in the studio and redo all my vocals. … They put me in a room with the video of the concert, gave me my microphone and I stood there and sang the whole fucking concert one time through."
While the tightness and accuracy of the band might have resulted from an abundance of studio chicanery, Live: Right Here, Right Now remains a fine sample of the sound that defined an era in hard rock, even in the early '90s.