The Atomic Punks is an underground label that put over several Van Halen bootlegs in the late '90s; the company takes its name from "Atomic Punk," one of the gems on Van Halen's self-titled debut album of 1978. The sound quality of the Atomic Punks' Van Halen bootlegs varies; some have mediocre or inferior sound, but Tokyo Live 1978 boasts generally excellent sound and is obviously a soundboard recording. Recorded at Tokyo's Shinjuk Hall on June 17, 1978, this CD contains Van Halen's first live performance in Japan. Only a year earlier, the vast majority of Japanese metalheads had never heard of Van Halen (although the band had a devoted local following in Los Angeles in 1976 and 1977 and could easily fill Hollywood clubs like the Starwood and the Whiskey-a-Go-Go). But it didn't take Van Halen's superb debut album very long to earn the foursome a huge international following; from Toyko to Stockholm to Detroit, headbangers all over the world were exalting Van Halen as the best heavy metal/hard rock debut of 1978. Van Halen's original lineup (David Lee Roth, Michael Anthony, and the Van Halen brothers) is passionate and inspired throughout this Tokyo set, which finds the foursome performing everything on its debut album except "Jamie's Cryin'." The L.A. residents also give the Japanese audience a preview of Van Halen II, providing explosive performances of "Bottoms Up!," "Somebody Get Me a Doctor," and "D.O.A." There are quite a few bootleg recordings of Van Halen's late-'70s concerts available on CD; unfortunately, many of them don't have the generally excellent sound quality of Tokyo Live 1978, which is enthusiastically recommended to fans of Roth-era Van Halen if they're able to track down a copy.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson