David Lee Roth disappointed a lot of fans earlier this week when he called off his farewell concerts at the Mandalay Bay’s House of Blues in Las Vegas. He initially only postponed his New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day shows due to “unforeseen circumstances related to Covid,” pushing them back to Feb. 11 and 12. But the entire run was yanked yesterday with no explanation.
The shows were announced in October 2021. “I am throwing in the shoes,” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “I’m retiring … I’m not going to explain the statement. The explanation is in the statement. These are my last five shows … I’ve given you all I’ve got to give. It’s been an amazing, great run, no regrets, nothing to say about anybody. I’ll miss you all. Stay frosty.”
The initial plan was to play just five shows, but he added a handful of additional nights once those sold out. “I had no idea how many of you wanted to pay to see me go,” he said. “So I’m putting more tickets on sale, instead of doing the wrong thing and pissing more people off. I have industry professionals now ringing in, telling me, ‘Dave, at your age, you should be in the middle of your third retirement. Did you watch Rocky movies? He’s on his seventh. Same guy, Rambo — fifth. He’s about 14 retirements ahead of you.’ Just when I get out, they drag me back in.”
Roth’s solo career was put on hiatus when he rejoined Van Halen in 2007, but he resumed it in late 2019 when he announced plans to play Las Vegas and open for Kiss on their farewell tour. Nobody knew the state of Eddie Van Halen’s health at the time, but Roth hinted that the guitarist wasn’t in good shape and wouldn’t be returning to the band.
“I think Van Halen’s finished,” he said. “I’m the face of Van Halen from this point on, most likely. I’m not sure what’s happening with Ed, but he’s probably not gonna answer the bell this time. And it’s not my place to guess.”
He put together a crack band capable of re-creating Van Halen songs as accurately as possible without anyone onstage actually named “Van Halen,” but many fans and critics were less than impressed with the state of his singing voice. Gene Simmons was one of them.
“It bears noting that during Dave’s heyday, nobody did what he did,” he told Rolling Stone in August 2021. “He was the ultimate frontman. Not Plant, not Rod Stewart, nobody. He took being a frontman way beyond anything. And then, I don’t know what happened to him … something. And you get modern-day Dave. I prefer to remember Elvis Presley in his prime. Sneering lips, back in Memphis, you know, doing all that. I don’t want to think of bloated naked Elvis on the bathroom floor.”
He later apologized for the remarks, but Kiss didn’t re-book Roth for the remaining dates on their farewell tour. That means the last time Roth played for a live audience was on March 10, 2020 when he opened for Kiss at United Supermarket Arena in Lubbock, Texas. He closed the set with “Jump.” Check out fan-shot video of the performance right here, and judge for yourself whether or not the headliner was justified in comparing him to “bloated naked Elvis on the bathroom floor.”
Right now, there are a lot of lingering questions regarding Roth. Why did a positive Covid test in early January mean that he couldn’t play shows in mid-February? Was he the one who had Covid? Why were the dates canceled outright rather than just postponed again? Was Roth serious about this farewell thing in the first place, or was it just a means to sell tickets? Should we consider him retired now?
We can’t answer any of these questions, but we have a strong feeling he’ll play live again at some point. Wrapping up his career opening for Kiss at an arena in Lubbock, Texas, doesn’t feel like Roth’s style. And if Rambo can have 14 retirements, so can Diamond Dave.