EDDIE VAN HALEN, THE FORGOTTEN GUITAR HERO
Tuesday night Axl and I went to see the legendary Van Halen with one David Lee “Bar Mitzvah band leader” Roth (read Axl’s review here); it was one of the best shows I’ve been to all year. I have literally been waiting since I was ten years old for this tour to happen, and I got all teary-eyed and choked up during the first few songs (crying is metal!). David Lee Roth was jump-kick-flyin’, Alex was slammin’, and Wolfgang… well, he was playing. But Eddie? Fucking A, this dude is nothing short of astounding. Yet how come no one talks about him anymore?
When asked about influences, all you hear the kids and bands talking about these days is Dimebag. Dimebag, Dimebag, Dimebag. Sometimes you’ll hear “Kerry King,” oftentimes “James Hetfield” (but never Kirk Hammet), and every now and then you even get a little “Zakk Wylde” thrown around. But no one mentions Eddie anymore. What gives? The dude LITERALLY changed the face of guitar playing for an entire decade plus, and his influence is still heavily felt today in the newest crop of metal bands that do choose to emphasize musicianship.
Seeing Eddie play live reminded me of how awesome he is — because I, too, had forgotten. It’s not that he plays faster or heavier than other dudes, and though there is much debate about this fact he was probably not even the first guitar player to move his right hand onto the fretboard. But damn, the dude just plays BETTER than anyone else before or after. He’s got speed, soul, creativity, ARTFULNESS — and the latter is often missing in insert-dude-here’s million-note-a-minute shred runs.
Maybe it’s because he’s been off the radar for a while, or maybe it’s because Van Halen is several years older than many of the guitarists who are frequently cited as influences. But as far as influence, hands down Eddie Van Halen is the single most influential guitar player for hard rock and heavy metal music. Ever. I challenge you to dispute this fact.
Please enjoy this fan-shot video of “Ice Cream Man” from Tuesday night’s show at Madison Square Garden, NYC:
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