Not that it’s surprising, but nobody has any idea what’s happening with Van Halen at the moment. The group has been completely inactive for the past three years and there’s not even a hint of anything on the horizon besides a Wolfgang Van Halen solo album that’s supposedly complete after years of work. In an era when most bands communicate with their fans on a daily basis via social media, Van Halen thrives in keeping their devotees in a state of constant suspense where wild rumors flourish (“Sammy is back! David is out! They’re going to tour with both of them! Michael Anthony has been re-hired! They’re cutting a new album!”) that never lead to much of anything besides disappointment and confusion.
The last time they played in any capacity was in the summer of 2015 when they hit the amphitheater circuit in North America. As usual, they pretended that the Sammy Hagar era never happened, but this time around they at least brought out many Roth-era rarities like “Light Up The Sky,” “Feel Your Love Tonight” and “In a Simple Rhyme” that hadn’t been touched in decades. Fans groused about the state of David Lee Roth’s vocals and the absence of Michael Anthony, but they still showed up in droves. After all, 75% of the classic Van Halen lineup is better than nothing.
The tour ran for 41 shows and wrapped up October 4th, 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. Since it was the end of the line, David Lee Roth got uncharacteristically sentimental. “The best years of my life, high points of all of my life, onstage with you, homeboy,” Roth told Eddie Van Halen midway through the night as he gave him an actual hug. “I will always do the half jesus towards you, Eddie Van Halen.” Here’s fan-shot video of “Jump,” the final song of the night. At the end, Roth made one final karate kick, grinned like The Joker, took a final bow with the band and walked off.
At this point, the group is facing the same dilemma many bands face years after a big reunion. They’ve already done the first tour in decades and the first album in decades. They could keep doing the same old show every few years, but each time it becomes exponentially less exciting. The obvious big move is a farewell tour. If they want to bring that into stadiums and earn a ridiculous fortune, they could invite Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony along for the ride. It’ll be an unprecedented move in rock history where a band tours with two iconic lead singers, but that will probably remain in the realm of classic rock fan fiction. The politics of sorting all that out make the mess in the Middle East seem simple by comparison. Then again, we live in an era where Slash and Axl Rose are back together without a hint of friction, so we guess anything is possible.