7/17/1981 – NYC, NY @ Madison Square Garden

Van Halen live in NYC, July 17, 1981. Their first time headlining at Madison Square Garden. This is decent quality and gets a little better within a couple songs (Grade B).

Audio Bootleg Quality: B

By Stephen Holden
Published: July 20, 1981

DESPITE all the talk about a commercial resurgence of prerock styles of pop, the music that is keeping the record business afloat is the heavy-metal brand of hard rock established by Led Zeppelin in the late 1960’s. And the triumphant appearance of Van Halen, one of the heaviest of heavy-metal rock groups, at Madison Square Garden on Friday was impressive evidence of the style’s commercial strength.
This sold-out concert wasn’t merely a musical event but a three-ring circus with the southern California quartet’s flamboyant lead singer, David Lee Roth, serving as ringmaster and its lead guitarist, Eddie Van Halen, as right-hand man.

Clad in a gaudy gladiator’s costume and tossing his shoulder-length blond hair, Mr. Roth put on a Dionysian performance whose bumps and grinds, high balletic kicks and strip-teasing maneuvers amounted to a one-man burlesque show. And when not singing or prancing, he regaled the crowd in the theatrically condescending tone of a carnival barker act as master of ceremonies for a children’s television show. Mr. Van Halen, for his part, wielded his guitar like a lethal weapon, playing it with his teeth, even jumping up and down on it in a mock frenzy.

The music was about as extreme as the genre gets, with thunderous power chords creating a deafening wall of sound that rendered both the group’s blues-based tunes and lyrics almost completely unintelligible. In a way it was a shame, because its latest album, ”Fair Warning,” is one of the better heavy-metal records of recent years and reveals Mr. Van Halen as a guitarist with more range than most of his peers. But the audience of teen-agers, who remained on their feet from beginning to end, didn’t seem to care. They got the spectacle they wanted. Stephen Holden

source: http://www.nytimes.com/1981/07/20/arts/hard-rock-van-halen-at-the-garden.html

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