On January 2nd, 2012 journalists across New York received an invitation to a mysterious Van Halen event at New York’s Cafe Wha?, a basement club in Greenwich Village that seats a mere 250 people. It was initially thought to be a press conference announcing their first album with David Lee Roth since 1984, but soon enough word leaked out that Van Halen would actually be performing.
On January 5, the night of the show, a line stretched clear down the block, and the club quickly filled up with record industry bigwigs, rock writers, radio folks and a handful of very lucky Van Halen fans. “Welcome to Occupy Van Halen,” Roth told the packed crowd. “The last time I stood on a stage this low I had to get the car home by midnight.”
The group already had their new LP A Different Kind of Truth in the can at the time of the gig, but the only “new” song they performed was “She’s The Woman.” The track dates all the way back to 1976, but they did re-record it for the album. The rest of the 11 song set centered around their David Lee Roth-era hits, including “Panama,” “Dance The Night Away” and “Jump.”
The venue made absolutely no attempt to restrict cellphone cameras, so every second of the show was filmed from all angles. Here’s the opening trio of “You Really Got Me,” “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “Somebody Get Me a Doctor.” After the second song, Roth rambled on for five straight minutes about Lady Gaga and his stint as an EMT. Near the end, Eddie looked like he was on the verge of firing him all over again.
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Reviews for the show were largely ecstatic, though the album got a pretty mixed reception, as did the subsequent arena tour. Roth’s vocals aren’t quite what they used to be, and many fans desperately missed Michael Anthony, both for his bass playing and his signature harmonies. Wolfgang Van Halen does his best, but it’s just not the same.
Per usual, nobody has any clue what Van Halen’s doing next. David Lee Roth has spoken about new material, but nothing has surfaced and the group makes absolutely no attempt to relay information to their huge fan base. The fact they had years and years to make the last album and ultimately went without a bunch of outtakes from the 1970s seems to suggest they’re having some issues in the songwriting department, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.