In this Van Halen Live Without A Net DVD review, I’ll tell you why this concert is a must-see for all fans of high-energy Rock N’ Roll.
Do you like incendiary guitar solos? Even air-guitar players are familiar with Eddie Van Halen, who made the “Brown Sound” and fretboard tapping a household work among rock guitarists everywhere.
Keep on reading to learn more and to check out the equipment Eddie used on the “5150” tour.
Van Halen Live Without A Net DVD Snapshot
- Recorded: August 27, 1986
- Release Date: 2004
- Concert Length: 1 Hour 32 Minutes
- Video Format: Fullscreen (4:3 aspect ratio) NTSC
- Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Surround 5.1, and DTS Surround 5.1
- Starring: Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, Sammy Hagar, and Alex Van Halen
- Producer: Simon Fields
- Director: Daniel Kleinman
Main DVD Disk Menu:
Audio Setup: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Surround 5.1, and DTS Surround 5.1
Bonus Features: None
DVD Packaging: Standard plastic single-disk packaging, no informational booklet
Live Without A Net was recorded during a concert on August 27, 1986, at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New Halen, Connecticut. It was part of a Van Halen tour to promote their seventh studio album, “5150,” during the Sammy Hagar era.
The order of the songs on the home video is different than how they were played during the concert. Unfortunately, the songs “You Really Got Me,” “Dreams,” “Good Enough,” and “Wild Thing” never even made it onto the DVD.
Eddie’s guitar solo was also shortened a little, and parts of it are out of sequence.
This DVD comes as a single disk in standard plastic packaging. The artwork consists of concert photos with a short description of the concert and the setlist on the rear cover.
An informational booklet is not included.
The disk is coded to regions 2/3/4/5/6.
The concert was originally released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1986 and then re-released on DVD in 2004.
Songs And Artists
|3||There’s Only One Way To Rock||Standing Hampton (Sammy Hagar)|
|8||Best Of Both Worlds||5150|
|11||Love Walks In||5150|
|13||I Can’t Drive 55||Standing Hampton (Sammy Hagar)|
|14||Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love||Van Halen (I)|
|15||Why Can’t This Be Love||5150|
|16||Rock And Roll||Led Zeppelin IV|
- Eddie Van Halen – Guitar & Keyboard
- Sammy Hagar – Guitar & Vocals
- Michael Anthony – Bass Guitar
- Alex Van Halen – Drums
Musical Performance Highlights
Here are some short comments that sum up my thoughts on the following tracks.
This is a very short video segment before the concert. A person’s hand stamps out the words “Van Halen Live Without A Net” “Filmed In New Halen” (with the word Haven crossed out and replaced by Halen).
The introduction is essentially a continuation of the opening logos, where Sammy comes onstage and announces, “Hello, New Halen.” He explains that the band has renamed New Haven (CT) New Halen.
There’s Only One Way To Rock
From (album): Standing Hampton (Sammy Hagar)
The band opens the show with this uptempo rocker in Gb, written by Hagar. Sammy dances around Eddie while playing his Flying V. Eddie plays his 5150 FrankenStrat guitar.
Eddie demonstrates his famous “tremolo picking” technique.
Another song from the “5150” album. Eddie does a nice tapped solo on his custom-built 5150 Steinberger GL2T.
For some reason, the guitar looks a little small in Eddie’s hands, but it sounds great with the tune.
Sammy introduces Alex “Bocephus” Van Halen (his real middle name is Arther), along with an explanation of “Bocephus Mode,” which is just a little less than “5150” (the band’s term for someone totally out of control).
Alex takes an unbelievable drum solo, after which the band breaks into the song 5150.
This song is from the title track of Van Halen’s seventh studio album, recorded with the Sammy Hager lineup. It’s not surprising that this album is prominently featured on the setlist since the band was touring to promote it.
Everyone mentions this legendary bass solo during a typical conversation about Michael Anthony. Michael walks out with his Jack Daniels bass guitar and a bottle of Jack Daniels, which he shares with Sammy during the performance.
The sound of the guitar is heavily effects-modified. It appears as if Michaels is using some type of polyphonic synthesizer.
He runs around the stage with his guitar and bottle, spilling fine whiskey all over the place. If you like bass solos and a few laughs, then be sure to check this out.
Love Walks In
This song begins with Sammy strangely announcing that it’s “a song about aliens.”
Eddie plays the well-known opening lines on the keyboard, which sets the mood for the tune. It demonstrates what a brilliant composer Eddie was.
Sammy takes a guitar solo on his red Kramer Baretta and shows everyone just how well he can play. I have always felt that he is an underrated guitarist.
Why Can’t This Be Love
Eddie struts his stuff on the keyboard again, with Sammy on guitar for this “Pop-Halen” tune. These Hagar-fronted songs really got a lot of radio play in their day and brought the band to a whole new audience.
“Love Walks In” and “Why Can’t This Be Love” are a perfect pair.
Band Interviews And Backstage Footage
Unfortunately, no video of band interviews or backstage footage is included on this DVD.
There is a short narrative on the rear cover of the DVD case. It gives a history of the events leading up to the concert and some very sparse information about the show.
There is no booklet to help fill in the blanks.
The stage is well-lit and straightforward, with video cameras placed out of the viewer’s sight.
There is no video screen behind the stage or any other special effects, except for multicolored stage lights that complement what’s happening onstage.
The stage lights turn on and off rapidly, which sometimes creates a “strobe” effect, making it difficult to see what’s happening.
The focus is always on what’s happening musically.
This is a listing of the guitars, amplifiers, and effects that various band members used during the show. I obtained this information visually, while watching the video, and by Internet research. I always strive to make this list as accurate as possible.
If you disagree or have something to add that makes it more accurate or complete, I would appreciate it if you would put that info in the comment section at the end of this article. I will correct or update it immediately!?
“Live Without A Net” Equipment Summary
|Artist||Guitars||Amplifiers||Effects (stomp boxes & pedalboards)|
|Eddie Van Halen||1. Kramer 5150 FrankenStrat|
2. 5150 Steinberger GL2T
|Marshall Plexi Super Lead – See Below For More Info||See Below For More Info|
|Sammy Hager||1. Kramer Baretta|
2. Randy Rhoads Model Flying-V
3. Dean “Stealth” (Dimebag-shape) Model
|Michael Anthony||1. Yamaha(?) Bass in white, black, and butterscotch|
2. Jack Daniels Bass
Eddie Van Halen
Kramer “5150 Frankenstrat”
The 5150 FrankenStrat guitar has the following specifications:
- Original Floyd Rose bridge with R2 locking nut
- Seymour Duncan SH-11 Custom humbucker in bridge position
- No pickup selector switch
- CTS 500K audio taper volume control with MXR knob
- No pickguard
- Gotoh 90 degree tuners
Eddie’s 5150 FrankenStrat guitar is a little different than his original version 2 red Kramer with white and black stripes. Note, version 1 FrankenStrat is white with black stripes.
The original version 2 FrankenStrat guitar has a single functional humbucking pickup in the bridge position that is wired directly to a volume control. It is a PAF (patent applied for) pickup taken from a Gibson ES-335 that he potted in wax to reduce feedback from microphonic noise.
The circuit has no tone control, even though the volume control has a white Strat knob labeled “Tone.”
The middle position pickup route contains a nonfunctional 3-position pickup selector switch, which Eddie said was just “for show” and to “create curiosity.”
The neck position contains a dummy (non-functional) “Mighty Mite” single-coil pickup to make the guitar look cool.
Eddie installed a 1971 quarter (coin) adjacent to the Floyd Rose bridge to keep it flush with the body during string tension changes for dropped tunings. This predated the invention of the EVH D-Tuna.
The back of the original version 2 FrankenStrat was covered with reflectors. Eddie would flip the guitar over at the end of a show, and the stage spotlights would bounce light off them and into the audience.
Eddie’s Kramer guitar bodies, pickup configuration, and necks were similar to a Kramer Baretta. For more info, see Kramer Baretta Review – Great Playability And Awesome Sound!
“5150” Steinberger GL2T
Eddie’s 5150 Steinberger GL2T guitar was built by luthier Jeff Babicz at the Steinberger factory.
It has a TransTrem system and two EMG pickups.
In addition to playing this guitar on Live Without A Net, Eddie used it to record the songs “Pleasure Dome,” “Fire in the Hole,” and “Me Wise Magic.”
Eddie’s amps and speaker cabinets are hidden from the audience in this concert, so it’s hard to know exactly what he used. If anyone has any specific info, please leave it in the comment section, and I will update the article.
Eddie favored Marshall amps and cabinets during this period, especially the Marshall Plexi Super Lead 100 Watt heads, which he would lower the voltage with a Variac to get his “Brown Sound” (see the FAQ section).
Eddie did not start using Peavy 5150 amps until 1993.
Eddie’s effects could not be identified by viewing the concert video. However, Eddie was not a big effects user.
Some of the effects he used early on in his playing and recording career included an MXR Phase 90, MXR Flanger, Univox EC-80 Tape Echo, and an Echoplex EP-3 Delay.
Later he used an MXR M234 Analog Chorus, Boss OC-3 Super Octave, and even a Digitech Whammy pedal, as well as his signature Phase 90, EVH117 Flanger, and EVH95 Wah-Wah pedal.
Sammy plays the following guitars at different points of the video:
- Red Kramer Baretta
- Red “Randy Rhoads” model Flying V with “I Can’t Drive 55” logo at 12th fret
- Red Dean “Stealth” (Dimebag-shape) model
Amps and Effects: Unknown
Please send me that info in the comments if anyone knows what kind of amps Sammy was using on this tour. I suspect he was using Marshall heads and cabs.
Michael plays three bass guitars with white, black, and butterscotch body finishes throughout the show. I believe they might be Yahama basses.
He also plays his infamous Jack Daniels Bass. Michael has two models, one made by Jackson and the other made by Yamaha.
GMW Custom Guitars also made a Jack Daniels bass. This guitar featured an EMG pickup and preamp, with 1 volume control and a stacked tone knob.
Nice guitar! and who doesn’t like a little Jack? ?
Amps and Effects: Unknown
If anyone knows what kind of amps Michael was using on this tour, please send me that info in the comments.
Audio Specs And Sound Quality
The concert is recorded in:
- Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
- Dolby Surround 5.1
- DTS Surround 5.1
The audio is professionally recorded, with fair to good audio imaging, depending on your sound system.
Television speakers sound best by using the stereo channel.
If you have a soundbar with a dedicated subwoofer, then try both the Dolby DigitalSurround 5.1 and DTS Surround 5.1 channels to see which works best for you.
The 5.1 surround channels will give you the best sound imaging if you have a home theater (5.1, 7.1, or 7.1.4 Atmos) setup.
Playing the DVD on my Bose 5.1 surround system gives an equally dispersed sound field with a decent signal-to-noise ratio in all channels. On my 7.2.4 Atmos home theater system with the four ambient channels removed from the mix, the sound in the side surround channels is a little muddy after a 5.1 to 7.1 conversion.
The imaging is generally lacking on both my 5.1 and Atmos setup, typical of movies recorded in the 1980s. There is quite a bit of side-to-side stage movement among Eddie, Sammy, and Michael, but the music does not follow them appropriately in the sound field.
Video Specs And Camera-Shot Quality
The video is recorded in NTSC Fullscreen (4:3 aspect ratio). It was released on DVD in 1986 by the Yessup Recording Company.
The concert is pro-shot, as you might expect it to be. Overall, video brightness and contrast are good, but there is a fair amount of graininess, which looks worse on my 65-inch high definition TV.
Generally speaking, the multi-colored stage lights make the background on this DVD transfer look muddy and a little out of focus, with scenes in some songs clearly worse than others.
Some of Eddie’s guitar solos are not entirely captured, with inappropriate break-away to Sammy and Michael. The cameraman bounces around a lot from one person to another on the stage, which can be a little annoying.
Eddie’s hands are usually clearly filmed to show his technique, especially during the fretboard tapping, which is what guitar players really want to see.
My Favorite Songs And Musical Moments
These are the songs I enjoyed most in the show for various reasons. The entire setlist is fantastic, as is always the case at a Van Halen concert.
From (album): 5150
Here’s another tune played by Eddie on the 5150 Steinberger, and it sounds great in the key of D. I really like the melody, and the band really makes it rock.
Sammy explains the meaning of a 5150 police call to the audience.
Best Of Both Worlds
This is a classic “Van Halen-Type” tune, musically defined by Eddie’s staccato harmonic approach. Eddie totally “parrots” Sammy’s vocal lines during the song’s opening. An absolute must-see, Eddie at his best!
Sammy spray paints a woman’s white shoes red and tells her she can claim them after the show and that now everyone will know she’s been to a Van Halen Concert.
Panama is a song about a race car that David Lee Roth saw in Los Vegas. It features another staccato chordal opening, “Eddie-Syle,” – which makes clever use of tap harmonics and whammy bar dives that sound very musical.
Michael is still playing his Jack Daniels guitar, which he used for his bass solo.
I’m partial to the guitar parts on the earlier Van Halen tunes, but it’s all great music!
What can you say about a Van Halen guitar solo? Eddie is an absolute master at making even the most hard-core and distorted instrumental break sound totally musical.
Sammy introduces him as “the greatest rock and roll guitar player in the world,” which certainly isn’t far from the truth, no matter who your guitar heroes are.
Eddie really understands musical composition, and it shows in this medley of solos from some of the earlier albums.
He begins with “316,” written as a lullaby for his son, Wolfgang. The solo takes a plunge into “Eruption,” his timeless classic, before moving onto “Cathedral” and then finishing with “Mean Street.”
Unfortunately, Eddie’s solo was shortened a little for the video, and parts of it are out of sequence.
Eddie gave us so much, and his death was a tremendous musical loss for the world!
I Can’t Drive 55
From: VOA (Sammy Hagar)
I can’t drive 55 is my favorite Sammy Hagar song, hands down! I sing a few verses every time I see a speeder pulled over on the highway.
It features Sammy on guitar, standing high above the audience on the stage scaffolding, playing his red Kramer Baretta.
Eddie accompanies him on his 5150 FrankenStrat and breaks a low-E string after the song’s bridge, but somehow Eddie continues to play until he is handed his 5150 Steinberger, which he also uses to play the next tune, “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.”
Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love
From: Van Halen
Here’s another oldie but goodie classic David Lee Roth era tune. Eddie’s at it again, with his flanger-rich iconic solo that’s built beautifully around the lyrics, still using the 5150 Steinberger from the broken string debacle.
It’s Rock N’ Roll at its very finest!
Rock And Roll
From: Led Zeppelin IV
What a way to close out the show with this Led Zeppelin classic from their fourth (untitled) album! Sammy introduces the tune as “A song written by some old friends of ours.”
Eddie finally switches back to his 5150 FrankenStrat, and Sammy plays a red Dean “Stealth-Type” (Dimebag-shape) model axe.
The band certainly did Jimmy Page and the boys proud!
What I didn’t Like
There aren’t any significant concerns about this concert video, but here are a few things you might consider. On the whole, we are lucky to have it since there were only two Van Halen concerts professionally recorded.
This DVD is challenging to find and is expensive to buy new. Your best bet is to buy a used copy or stream the concert on an Internet site like YouTube.
Four songs were played, which never made it onto the DVD. They were “You Really Got Me,” “Dreams,” “Good Enough,” and “Wild Thing.”
It’s not like there was no more room on the DVD. Also, the songs that appear on the disc are not in the exact order they were played at the concert. What’s up with that?
Video Transfer Not DVD-Quality
The video transfer does not appear to be DVD resolution. Perhaps it was a VHS to DVD transfer, or some movie frames were shot poorly. I’m still looking into this, and I’ll let you know more definitively in the future.
Surround Sound Issues
The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track sounds fine through TV speakers or a soundbar, but the Dolby Digital and DTS Surround 5.1 tracks have some issues that take away from the listening experience. See the section above on Audio Specs And Sound Quality for more info.
No Backstage Footage
I really like watching backstage concert footage. It adds to the enjoyment of the video and can give you a better idea of what particular equipment was used in the show.
No Band Interviews
Band interviews can offer insight into problems that occurred during the production, performance, and filming of the concert. It’s great to get inside info directly from your favorite players, and it’s one of the first things any true fan looks for in a music video.
Beware Of Poorly Recorded Copies
There are a fair number of pirated or bootleg copies of this video available for purchase on various websites.
The video and audio are typically substandard, and in some cases too poorly done to be worth a look and listen.
Also, it is illegal to purchase these copies and it could cheat the performers out of well-deserved income.
Some disks are unauthorized imports and will not play on all DVD players.
Is This Concert Worth Purchasing Or Streaming?
Even though this video has some technical limitations regarding its audio and video quality, it is a must-have concert for any Van Halen fan, even if you do not care for the Sammy Hagar lineup.
Although the video is still available, it can be difficult to find a new copy at a reasonable price. You may be able to purchase a used copy or stream it on some websites, like YouTube.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most popular questions and facts about Van Halen, and Eddie, in particular.
What Is The Eddie Van Halen “Brown Sound?”
Eddie coined the “brown sound” to describe the sound he used to record the Van Halen I album. He accidentally discovered that by lowering the voltage of a 100 Watt Marshal Plexi, he could get it to saturate more aggressively, but still musically, with the amp’s volume knob turned up to 10.
He made this discovery by plugging a Marshall amp set for 220 Volt use into a 110 Volt electrical outlet. When the amp’s tubes finally warmed up, it made this incredible sound when he plugged in the guitar.
Eddie started using a Variac as a “master volume control” to lower the amp’s voltage to somewhere between 60 and 100 Volts AC, depending on the size of the room he was playing.
So, the brown sound essentially refers to the sound created by an amp operating at a lower than normal voltage, as it would during an electrical “brown-out.”
Although Eddie’s sound evolved over the year, it always remained distinctively his.
Did Eddie Van Halen Invent The Fretboard Tapping Technique?
Although Eddie was the first player to popularize one and two-handed tapping and tapped harmonics in a Rock format, he was not the first to use it in a musical performance. For example, jazz guitarist Roy Smeck used tap playing way back in the early 1920s!
Eddie perfected the tapping technique in the Rock and Heavy Metal genres with his instrumental “Eruption.”
How Many Van Halen Concert Videos Are There?
There are only two pro-shot and commercially available Van Halen concert videos for the home market. In addition to “Live Without A Net,” the band released Live: Right Here, Right Now on DVD in 1993.
Their “Video Hits Volume I” release is a compilation of performances from the other two videos.
Is Eddy Playing His Original Red And White/Black Striped FrankenStrat Guitar On The “Live without A Net” Video?
In this concert video, Eddie is playing his “5150” FrakenStrat. For more information about the 5150 guitar, see the section on Musical Equipment.
Van Halen Discography
|Van Halen||1978||David Lee Roth|
|Van Halen II||1979||David Lee Roth|
|Women And Children First||1980||David Lee Roth|
|Fair Warning||1981||David Lee Roth|
|Diver Down||1982||David Lee Roth|
|1984||1984||David Lee Roth|
|For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge||1991||Sammy Hagar|
|Van Halen III||1998||Gary Cherone|
|A Different Kind Of Truth||2012||David Lee Roth|
|Live: Right Here, Right Now||1993||Sammy Hagar|
|Tokyo Dome: Live In Concert||2015||David Lee Roth|
|Live Without A Net||2004 (DVD)||Sammy Hagar|
|Live: Right Here, Right Now||1993 (DVD)||Sammy Hagar|
Final Thoughts About The Van Halen Live Without A Net DVD Review
Live Without A Net is Van Halen’s first commercially recorded live concert performance. It was filmed on August 27, 1986, in New Haven, Connecticut, during their 5150 Tour.
This video showcases the raw power and energy of Van Halen at the top of their game. The setlist is excellent, emphasizing their 5150 album, but with a good balance of older tunes. If you’re a guitar player, this is one concert you don’t want to miss!
As with many rock concerts recorded in the ’80s, the audio and video have some quality issues, as noted above. Despite these shortcomings, the show is still a delight to experience, and it will most likely become an essential part of your video collection.
The DVD can be challenging to locate, but to experience the best possible audio and video, home theater owners will want to obtain a copy. The concert can be streamed on the Internet, but the quality does not do it justice.
Eddie Van Halen was a phenomenal guitar player in every sense of the word, and his death was a real blow to me. He changed the way the guitar is played in the same way that Les Paul and Jimi Hendrix did. Enjoy the grand musical legacy he left us and strive hard to honor his memory by taking his playing to the next step.
For more info, see MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive Review – Simply The Best!
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this article, have any questions about this video, or want to give your critique of the concert. I will be happy to help you.
- Have you seen this video before? What do you think of the setlist and audio/video quality?
- Which song do you like best? Least? Why?
- Do you prefer the “Live Without A Net” video over the “Live: Right Here, Right Now” video?
- Would you buy this video after reading this review?