Unseen For 41 Years – Highlights From A Van Halen Concert At Fresno’s Selland Arena, Friday, September 22, 1978
This story would have to be deleted as well.
While I like Van Halen, I’m not an uberfan. I have all the David Lee Roth era LPs and still listen to Van Halen. But live, I always thought of Roth as a great front-man, rather than a great singer. He might agree. I wish he’d sing the lyrics!
What is the attraction to Van Halen? Besides the virtuosity and innovativeness of Eddie Van Halen, it’s probably because the band built up a huge following through touring, putting on extravaganzas and releasing unique, catchy kick-ass rock albums.
Unfortunately Van Halen has rarely released whatever footage they have of themselves when they were just starting out on their way to becoming superstars.
That is why this is special. 41 years after it occurred, here is Van Halen LIVE in concert only seven months after the release of their first album.
You may not like vocalist David Lee Roth’s showmanship, jumping around with lyrical improvisations and high pitch shrieks. Then maybe you’ll stop watching after a few minutes. Roth, however is hitting more of the notes live as recorded on the album than many of his recorded performances.
Seeing Van Halen as openers for Black Sabbath, trying to win over an audience is unique in itself. Guitarist Eddie Van is blazing on all cylinders. Bassist and harmony singer Michael Anthony is confident and steady. And drummer Alex Van Halen is holding it all together keeping great time. They’re young and hungry and it shows. Eddie and David were both 23-years-old. According to manager Noel Monk the band was being paid $750 per show – split four ways!
This is what the late 1970s were about. Great music with rock band’s wanting to impress you in concert with their music and energy. Seven dollar tickets, small stage, no pyrotechnics, or giant video screens or back-up dancers. Everyone is watching and listening to the band.
So thank you FresnoMediaRestoration for putting together audio with this 8mm film footage to come up with 20 minutes of live Van Halen in their prime.
Below the footage I’ve quoted some of the better YouTube comments.
A few of the better YouTube comments:
It’s surprising they ever made it big. I mean, if you were a rock star in the 70s, would you hire them to open your show? – Baba Yaga
This show was the night before their memorable 9/23/78 concert @ Anaheim Stadium where Boston headlined along with Black Sabbath & Sammy Hagar. VH hired 4 skydivers to jump out of a plane. The skydivers landed behind the stage & VH — in parachute gear — jumped out of a van & rushed onto the stage to On Fire. Crowd went crazy. That was also the day that EVH met Sammy Hagar for the first time.– jpr – 030507
A million 50-somethings can relate to this video when we were tweenagers (I was 14/15 when Van Halen broke into the music scene).
Despite the “raw” video quality it captures the attention-demanding power of the band. First time I heard them was (gotta laugh but so appropriate) in the upper parking lot of my high school just days into my freshman year (yep – September ’78) where all the stoners would hang out near a chain link fence which had been cut open to allow them to go smoke “off campus”. Some guy shows up with a mega car stereo and plays “Eruption” at full volume. Everyone just stood there totally baked.
I was more of a RUSH fan at the time, with emphasis on Neil Peart’s drumming, but until then had never been so impressed with an electric guitar sound, ok maybe Jimmy Page, but really Eddie VH’s sound was a game changer. David Lee Roth, what can we say? He’s a real showman, but more vaudeville than rock&roll, girl pinup but still funny. Anyway finally got to see them live at the Seattle Center Coliseum on Saturday April 5th 1980 for 9 bucks on the floor center stage. Still have the ticket stub here: https://live.staticflickr.com/7055/6919588265_1ab7a8c92f_o.jpg – nongthip
Sweet Jesus the 70’s put out more incredible music than is fathomable. Today’s top 10 is just silly. We live in an age of cultural and musical stupidity. – Justin Hyers
I saw them open for Sabbath in 78. I was 10. My older brother took me. We had no clue who Van Halen was. I remember watching Eddie and thinking it was fake because nobody plays a guitar with their picking hand on the fret board. We were in shock. Total shock at what we heard. It was a new style of music. Sabbath was blown off the stage. Next day we bought the Van Halen album. It was life changing – Rob Foam
The amount of energy, creativity, raw talent, quality of song writing and arrangement, aggressive playing, virtuosity, and pure showmanship exhibited here is almost overwhelming to watch. Anybody at this show watching it live back then no doubt walked away having collective thoughts that this group of characters was going to be world-wide huge for a long time! – Florida Musician
Just incredible. You hear or read about how good they were during the Sabbath Tour and how they were blowing Sabbath away night after night. After hearing about it for decades and now seeing it, it’s like holy shit, it’s even better than I imagined. They were tight as hell, Eddie was on fire and his tone was like the album. Makes me appreciate the 1st album even more. (Producer) Ted Templeman captured lightning in a bottle. – Skyko
This is what rock concerts use to be like…no distractions from exterior stuff. Every band today feels they need to make it a Broadway stage show. I am there to see one thing….THE BAND!. – Keith Schlotthauer
Name a single modern band that comes even close to this level of musicianship, energy, fun and charisma. If there were bands this good today, I’m sure we’d all know about them! And as great as VH was back then, they were part of a scene that included many others of their caliber. This is why rock of this era is so important to nearly everyone that grew up then. It’s also why this music is still being listened to by young and old today. Many reasons why I believe we don’t see it today, which I won’t get into. But I’m sure we all agree it’s freakin’ sad that young people don’t know what the power of this kind of music is all about. Crank it! – billymac72
Watching classic rock videos makes me even more depressed about the future of music and society as a whole. Music today is such shit! I wish I could’ve grown up back then. The concerts around the 70’s and 80’s look sooooo badass. What a time to be alive. – Hannah S
I remember telling a friend to go see them after he was blown away by the album, the only thing he said after– “I really didn’t think he could play note for note and make those sounds he put on the record, amazing, he’s the real deal!” – the artist
I gotta say, I’m not a Van Halen fan. I’m 45-yrs-old and if they are on the radio, I turn it down and never really understood the hype about them….UNTIL this video. Holy crap. I get it now. thank you for posting. – Roy Kilbourn
Like millions of kids in the late 70’s early 80’s, I wanted to have a band like this! But like millions of kids, my dreams were dashed when I realized that I had absolutely no f**king talent. LOL – 1Adam12
UPDATE 10/7/20 – Eddie Van Halen died yesterday. Click here to see Van Halen’s triumphant return to Fresno in 1979 as headliners.