By Niki D'Andrea Three sources have now confirmed the latest Van Halen hype: the band is reuniting with original singer David Lee Roth and embarking on a 50-date tour this October. (The sources are Web sites Melodicrock.com, BillBoard.com, and MSN.com).
While some fans' initial reactions will no doubt be orgasmic joy and a rabid hunger for tickets once the dates are announced next week, my reaction holds about as much enthusiasm as a death row inmate walking to the gurney for a lethal injection.
I hate Van Halen, all incarnations. I think the band is second only to U2 in terms of bloated and largely undeserved accolades. Both bands are tired dinosaurs still feeding off the fauna of their glory days. Van Halen hasn't had a platinum album since 1995's Balance, and hasn't had a top 20 single in the U.S. since “Finish What Ya Started” in 1988. Hell, they haven't even recorded an album of new material since 1998's Van Halen III. That's almost a ten-year lapse. And while Roth has been invited back into the fold again, there have been no rumors of a new album in the works. So why tour?
Money, of course. The band's last tour (in 2004 with Sammy Hagar) grossed almost $40 million. With Roth back on the mic, Van Halen will probably make an even larger roll of dough with this upcoming tour. The novelty of this tour being Roth's first shows with the band since its 1984 epoch will undoubtedly spur many fans to shell out for tickets. And really, I don't blame them. They wanna hear the VH classics and see the legendary Roth showmanship. Fair enough. But there are two things to consider before cracking open the ol' wallet for Ticketmonster, er, Ticketmaster.
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I'd like to start by taking bets on whether or not this reunion tour will even happen. Remember in 1996, when Roth strode onstage with Van Halen at the MTV Video Music Awards, and everybody got all excited because he'd recorded two songs in the studio with the band? That whole incident smacked of a reunion that never happened, with Roth claiming he'd been led to believe he was going to rejoin the group but had been used for a publicity stunt, and Eddie Van Halen claiming something to the effect that Roth was an egotistical attention whore. That's like Cher accusing Michael Jackson of having too much plastic surgery. Does anybody really believe that Roth and the Van Halens are going to get along for more than a week? Hell, all the bitching between the two factions in 1996 happened backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards, mere moments after the group traipsed offstage. If these guys' egos can't co-exist for 50 minutes, how're they going to stand each other for 50 tour dates?
Secondly, David Lee Roth is the only member in this reunion whose last name is not Van Halen. In addition to brothers Eddie and Alex, original bassist Michael Anthony has been replaced by Eddie's teenage son, Wolfgang. The circumstances surrounding Anthony's departure do not appear to be amicable -- in a March 2006 interview with Japanese rock mag Burrn!, Anthony claimed that Eddie and Alex would only allow him to be involved with the 2004 Van Hagar reunion if he agreed to a sizeable pay cut. Who knows how much (or even if) Wolfgang Van Halen is being paid, but anybody who says his skill as a bass player is even remotely comparable to a vet like Michael Anthony's has been taking too many hits off Eddie Van Halen's pipe dreams. With Eddie and Alex continually demonstrating their musical megalomania and kicking anybody to the curb who doesn't bow down to their wishes, it's pretty obvious why Wolfgang's filling Anthony's spot: Eddie Van Halen is his father, and therefore, he will do as he's told in every matter. And if David Lee Roth thought he was outnumbered before, he's in for an even harder time now.
But the worst thing Van Halen could do here is hike up ticket prices for its shows, which they will undoubtedly do (they did it for the '04 reunion with Sammy Hagar). Most people look at Van Halen and see a legendary band whose first three albums should be included in any list of "Great American Rock Albums." I look at Van Halen and see a band that's been desperately seeking relevance for the last decade. But perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe it's not contemporary relevance Van Halen is seeking, after all. Maybe it's just the money.
David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen: They'll be back at each others' throats soon enough.