What’s Wrong With Van Halen?

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The short answer is: David Lee Roth. The long answer begins with a  question. What the hell happened to Diamond Dave? It’s clear he can’t hit those high notes like he did back in the 80’s, but I really expected him to sound better than he did for the band’s recent performances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

For many aging classic rock fans like myself, it was kind of exciting to hear that Van Halen was reuniting with DLR to go on tour, but I don’t think the call they made to Roth was the right call. Unless he manages to whip his voice van-halen-tokyo-domeback into shape enough to sound a little more like he did 35 years ago before the tour starts. That may be a lot to ask for him since he turned 60 back in October. But, do you know who’s seven years older than that and still getting it done?

You knew I was going to say Sammy Hagar didn’t you? Once again Van Halen is planning to hit the road for a tour and once again they are doing it wrong, just like back in 2007. That sad part is that all the ingredients that could make it a damn good tour are available, but they just aren’t being used. I admit I have no idea if Sammy Hagar or Michael Anthony would be willing to go on tour with the Van Halen brothers. We all know there was a lot of friction in the group back in the Van Hagar days, but it would be nice to think that people grow up – even if they do it way behind the curve.

I still maintain that Van Halen was at their very best when Hagar was fronting the band. The guy was always a better vocalist than Roth and he plays guitar, too. Now that Roth seems to have lost the vocal chops he once had, Hagar looks like an even better choice. There’s no doubt that the Van Halen-Roth combination used to tear it up pretty good. Their first album was a true game-changer and Eddie Van Halen has been considered one of rock’s most highly regarding guitar players ever since.

The problem is that what was once great is not always great. Just like your first car. It may have been a great old car and provided you with a lot of good memories, but when the wheels fell off you stop driving it. At this point in time it sounds like Van Halen’s wheels have indeed fallen off. If you didn’t take the time to check out the group’s recent television appearances, I’ve embedded the videos below. For comparison purposes, I’ve also included a recent video of Sammy Hagar and his latest band, The Circle, performing Van Halen’s “When It’s Love.”

As you can see, and more importantly, hear, David Lee Roth just isn’t getting it done. On the Kimmel show I thought perhaps he deserved a bit of slack after busting himself in the nose with that section of microphone stand, or whatever it was he was twirling around like a majorette on meth. And that’s another thing. Did his performance make anyone else just feel a little uncomfortable? Like watching someone’s 80-year-old grandma trying to show the kids she can twerk with the best of ‘em?

I didn’t find any fault with what I heard from the band members whose name happened to be Van Halen, although I’d still rather see Michael Anthony up there. But Roth seemed to drag the whole performance down into the muck where is singing voice appeared to be coming from. Why the rest of the group is pretending that he’s up to the task is a mystery. You can smile like a runway model and gyrate around the stage doing karate kicks all night long but if you can’t carry a tune any more, it’s time to hang it up and live off the royalties and fond memories of the old days.

It may be hard to believe after all this, but I really would have been thrilled to see Van Halen come out of the gate again and kick ass. That just didn’t happen. If you want to see what that sounds like, check out 67-year-old Sammy Hagar’s performance below. That’s how it’s done. A Van Halen reunion tour with Hagar in front is probably a pipe dream, but it’s probably the only shot Van Halen had at blowing the roof of a few venues. The way this is going, they’ll be lucky if they are able to generate a light breeze. Good luck, Van Halen. I’m afraid it’s not worth leaving the house unless you’ve got somebody up there who can keep up.

Here’s Van Halen performing “Panama” on the Jimmy Kimmel and “Jump” Ellen DeGeneres.

And here’s Sammy Hagar and his new band The Circle performing Van Halen’s “When It’s Love” the way it should sound. Listen and make up your own mind.

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