A big moment in Van Halen history took place Saturday night when Sammy Hagar added “Running With the Devil” and “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” into the set during his Sammy Hagar and Friends residency at the Strat Theater in Las Vegas. He sang both those songs quite a few times during his tenure in Van Halen, but this was the first time he featured any David Lee Roth-era tunes at his solo gigs.
As you can see from the fan-shot videos below, he lets Michael Anthony do a lot of the heavy vocal lifting, and that’s quite fitting since the bassist’s background harmonies played an essential part in the Van Halen sound back in those days. If you need proof of that, check out the video above of Van Halen playing “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” at a 1986 stop of the 5150 tour. Anthony beefs up every chorus and the song would sound quite different without his contributions.
Hagar’s decision to finally embrace the Roth era makes a lot of sense. The death of Eddie Van Halen in 2020 means that Van Halen is over forever. David Lee Roth briefly attempted to carry the torch when he hit the road solo before the pandemic, but he announced his retirement with a series of Las Vegas gigs late last year that he wound up canceling with little explanation.
Wolfgang Van Halen began playing solo gigs with his band Mammoth last year, but he’s made it very clear that he’ll never play his father’s music at them. “Y’all are never gonna fuckin’ stop are ya,” he wrote to fans online asking him to perform the old songs. “I’m not fuckin’ playing ‘Panama’ for you guys.”
Alex Van Halen has kept a very low profile since his brother died, but it’s very hard to imagine him putting together a group like Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets that’s devoted to playing old Van Halen songs. And while it’s possible that something like the Gary Cherone Van Halen Experience might exist one day, it probably won’t.
That leaves Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony as the only alumni still willing to fly to flag. They may not have anyone named Van Halen in their band, but they do have 50 percent of the Van Hagar lineup. That means, short of a possible Eddie tribute concert featuring all the living members, they’re the closest thing to Van Halen the world will ever see again. They have an obligation to keep the music alive.