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Is Van Halen's 2012 Reunion Album and Tour Actually a Reunion?

Does this name still mean what it once did?
Does this name still mean what it once did?

Van Halen's reunion with David Lee Roth has officially kicked off. There's a tour coming up, and there's the first DLR/VH album in 28 years, A Different Kind of Truth, dropping February 7. It'll be easy going for rock journalists to dig into their list idea spreadsheets today: Top Three Van Halen Singers, David Lee Roth's Lady Gaga Mixtape, or Ten Most Unlikely Artist-Venue Pairings. (Ready, go!)

From Village Voice's Maura Johnston: "Last night Van Halen tried to blow away any last traces of the rancor

and bad blood that arose again and again in the years since Roth's

long-ago departure for a solo career, and it mostly succeeded." And if you're wondering about the Gaga reference above, definitely read about Roth's lengthy monologue during the set in the review linked above.

After all of this time, turmoil, and Gary Cherone, should this 40-year-old band really still be called Van Halen?

Some would argue that this is the most "Van Halen" the band has ever been. Guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his drummer brother Alex have been the backbone of this band since 1972. With Eddie's son Wolfgang stepping in, the name quotient alone is at an all-time high.

Even with David Lee Roth on vocals, two key components of Van Halen's longevity and success are notably absent. From Rolling Stone: "Michael Anthony's backing vocals were sorely missed. They need them now

more than ever, and as talented a bassist as Wolfgang clearly is

(especially for a 20-year-old), it was a real lame move to push Anthony

out of the band." And, I'm sure some VH purists will be pissed to hear this, but the Sammy Hagar era is too damned important for this to ever feel like a full group without some choice OU812 and 5150 cuts in the set -- which will not be there.

Plus, we're already hearing that many of the components of Another Kind of Truth could be based upon old-ass demos from when Roth was still in the band. Not that Sammy Hagar doesn't have his own agenda.


The other, greater issue is just the overall feeling of any reunion. Even if David Lee Roth is far more ready to reconcile with Eddie Van Halen than Valerie Bertinelli would be at the moment, the old wounds of a divorce -- even an artistic one -- never fully heal. It's hard to control the urge of seeing Dave and Eddie back together forever, but this type of re-formation always has an odor of "temporary money grab" gripping tighter to it than a pair of snakeskin pants.

 

Perhaps you won't notice while you're screaming along with 13,000 other children of divorce at Van Halen's South Florida stop at BankAtlantic Center on April 10 or any of the rest of the dates listed below. But I've been keenly aware of the way musicians performing together despite nasty feuds tend to react to one another while onstage -- Tears for Fears, notably. And I'll be the first to say that Roland Orzabal is no David Lee Roth, but enormous egos die hard. It can be very tough to see a couple back together when they're obviously not comfy, and anyone attending these shows has a big emotional risk ahead of them -- even if some past tour go-arounds have materialized with success.

The Cafe Wha? show was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for Roth to play at his 92-year-old uncle Manny's club (where Bob Dylan notably cut his teeth as a live performer in the '60s) enmeshed in journalists who were definitely hungry for some news this time of year. But once things get out on the road, it'll be telling to see if this is a tour that is really going to be about rejuvenating a sagging brand again or just another reminder that 1984 was the last year the thing truly existed.

Van Halen. April 10 at BankAtlantic Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Tickets go on sale soon. Click here for full U.S. tour dates.


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