It’s only Tuesday morning but it already feels like Friday night because pro-shot footage of Van Halen’s 1984 Monsters Of Rock set at Castle Donington – much of which was previously unseen unless you were lucky enough to have been there – has been posted in its entirety on YouTube.
This is one of those time machine gigs you wish you had been at. It was a simpler time, when festivals were a little wilder, a lot smellier. It was a heady time when electric guitar culture itself was being shaped by the genius of Eddie Van Halen.
On the date in question, 18 August 1984, the audience had already been watched Gary Moore, Mötley Crüe and Ozzy, but Van Halen, returning to the UK after a four-year absence was the one you wanted to be down the front for.
Hitherto only audio bootlegs have circulated of the performance, and while this, footage, posted to YouTube might not have the multi-cam production of, say, AC/DC’s Live At Donington DVD/Blu-ray, nor the audio fidelity – Van Halen News reports that the audio is taken from a bootleg – it remains a unique document of the band’s final appearance in the UK with David Lee Roth fronting the band, and, of course, Mr Edward Van Halen operating at the peak of his powers.
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The audio mix might deserve some TLC, a spritz of big-budget mastering to do the performance and the occasion justice. But right now, in 2023, this is the best we’ve got and that ain’t bad. It features an hour of Van Halen, leaving the stage red hot for AC/DC, who were returning to headline Donington for the second time in their career.
Opening with Unchained, barrelling into Hot For Teacher, and then a drum solo because it was the 1980s and Alex Van Halen was not a man to be contained, it’s a high-energy set of front-to-back classics, with Diamond Dave working the crowd as though 60,000-plus British heavy metal and hard rock fans, quite possibly in advanced stages of refreshment, were in the palm of his hand.
Castle Donington, now the annual home of Download Festival, was the first in a string of Monsters Of Rock dates that Van Halen fulfilled as the Roth era was coming to an end. This footage emerged only yesterday and has since been taken down and reposted, so get in and watch it at your earliest convenience, and pray/hope that it is still there come the weekend.
If you want to fast-forward to Eddie's solo, you'll find it 45 minutes in just as the strains of Jump fade out. This is a weekend set from the ultimate weekend hard-rock band.