Attention to detail is often an elusive goal that when attained can make the difference between winning or losing, whether you are in the red or the black, or whether or not you complete a voyage with a comfortable margin of safety. It’s a recurring subject in this column.
And now, in honor of the late, great guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, I return to it again. For those of you who’ve been fortunate to attend a Van Halen concert, you always got your money’s worth and then some. It didn’t matter which era: version one fronted by David Lee Roth or version two with Sammy Hagar. The overriding band ethos remained the same: give the fans what that they paid for — a good time with superior musicians and showmanship. The band never let me down.
To that end, Van Halen pushed the boundaries in both music and presentation. Eddie was without question the most inventive, creative guitarist of his generation. His impact was enormous and transcendent. David Lee Roth brought an old school performer’s theatrical sensibility to the live shows and, eventually, their MTV videos. The results in concert were memorable. As they gained more traction and went on bigger tours they steadily raised the bar on how impressive a rock-and-roll stage production could be. Bigger and more sophisticated lights, pyrotechnics, and a blow-the-house-down mountain of amplifiers and associated audio gear. It was definitely go big or go home.
As they upped the live-show ante they soon found that the touring world wasn’t necessarily ready for it. Logistical and technical problems large and small emerged, set up times became extended, and everything from doorways that were too small to get the equipment through to not enough electrical outlets of sufficient amperage to run everything properly. And then there was the sheer weight of it all. It soon became obvious to the band that real danger lurked in the details. A collapsed stage or lighting truss could severely injure or kill them, the road crew, or the fans.
As a result, Diamond Dave (Roth) took matters into his own detail-oriented hands, and in true rock-star fashion.