Van Halen announces tour (and, yes, David Lee Roth’s singing)

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There are some universal truths that most rock fans can’t deny, be they punkers, funkers, rockers or metalheads: That at their prime in the 1970s and ‘80s, Van Halen was one of the greatest flat-out rock bands on the planet, and that the combination of David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen was a force of nature. The band, which rose in Los Angeles in the mid-'70s, announced on Monday an extensive 2012 tour -- minus bassist Anthony, unfortunately.


At their peak, the best rock band to ever come out of Pasadena had all the bases covered: As a rhythm section, Alex Van Halen and Anthony worked as a solid but fluid unit in support of Eddie with the magic riffs and fingers, who showboated his technique but understood the importance of a solid melody. (That’s him, remember, soloing on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.’) And ‘Diamond’ David Lee Roth: There was no better lead singer in all of rock in the ‘80s than Roth at his peak, a funny, charismatic charmer whose onstage scissor kicks created a template for dozens of lesser hair metal singers who arrived in his wake.

Van Halen’s evolution has tested the limits of its fan base. There was that whole Gary Cherone nightmare of 1998; and, at the risk of taking sides in a long-running argument, the Sammy Hagar years are best left unmentioned. In 2007 three of the original members -- without Anthony, who was replaced on bass by Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen -- undertook part of a tour before canceling it midway through so Eddie, who was drinking heavily, could enter rehab. The aborted tour had been well received, and in 2010 rumors started flying about Van Halen being in the studio, and upcoming tour plans. The band signed to Interscope Records in November 2011.

No word yet on a release date for the record or specific stops on the tour. But videos on the band’s website say that tickets will go on sale on Jan. 10, and show a revived band doing their best approximation of its ‘80s peak -- absent, unfortunately, Anthony, swinging across the stage slugging Jack Daniels. And it’s a pretty good bet that Diamond Dave won’t be singing ‘Right Now,’ “Why Can’t This Be Love?” or anything else from the Van Hagar years.


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Updated: The original version of this misidentified the year in which Gary Cherone performed with Van Halen. It was 1998, not 2006.

-- Randall Roberts