Thursday, May 24, 2012

The wacky world of Van Halen...

Van Halen is one of my favourite groups, but talk about a head scratching outfit. Their latest blunder occurred last week, when 31 dates on their current tour were postponed. No explanation was given for days, fuelling speculation that lead singer David Lee Roth and guitarist Eddie Van Halen were at each other's throats once again. A story on Rolling Stone's website quoted an unnamed "source with knowledge of the tour" as saying the band members "hate each other" and "are arguing like mad". Almost four days after the announcement, the band finally spoke up via a video statement from Roth (viewable below). He dismissed the infighting speculation, saying "The band is getting along famously, better than we have in quite some time". He goes on to say that the reason for the postponements is because the band is worn down: "As usual, we bit off way more than we could chew when it came to scheduling. The band is winning, but our schedule has been sidelined for unnecessary roughness". His lack of any apology for the massive inconvenience to tens of thousands of fans was deafening, by the way.
The whole thing smells a little fishy and is just the latest mess in a long history of the band sorely testing the goodwill of its fans and making highly questionable decisions. A handful of the postponed dates had been newly announced just a few days before the postponement news and hadn't even gone on sale yet. The timing and handling of it begs the question: does this band even communicate with their management? And why did it take so long to address the issue? In a new interview excerpted here, former bassist Michael Anthony responded to that question by saying, "Maybe that's the three days you take to come up with your story?". As of tonight's show in Denver, Van Halen will have played 34 shows on their tour, which started in February. Aside from 21-year-old current bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, the members of the band aren't exactly spring chickens, but citing fatigue after a relatively small number of shows seems quite curious for a veteran band, although it's certainly plausible. And how do you feel if you're holding tickets for one of the 12 shows occurring before the tour goes on hiatus after their June 26th concert in New Orleans (Roth erroneously says twice in the statement that the band is playing until July 4th)? My enthusiasm and expectations would certainly be dampened. Conspiracy theorists can't blame soft ticket sales - the shows are playing to 95% capacity according to The Hollywood Reporter. Former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar, never a shrinking violet when it comes to tossing Eddie under a bus, expressed his lack of surprise at his former band's latest misstep in a new interview here.
All of this comes on the heels of the dubiously handled February launch of their latest album, A Different Kind Of Truth (read my review here). Armed with a mostly fantastic collection of songs, they bizarrely picked one of the album's weakest tracks ("Tattoo") as the all-important lead single, which was met with more apathy than enthusiasm. The media-adverse band members did a number of print and online interviews (done mostly by Roth) and also released a handful of their own short interview clips. But talk show appearances or performances, Saturday Night Live, or an appearance or performance on, say, the Grammy Awards, which aired the week the album came out? Nada. Their relative lack of exposure and the public's failure to warm up to "Tattoo" contributed to the album's fairly weak first-week sales numbers of 188,000 in the U.S. (as of last week, it's at 377,000 in U.S. sales, which is also pretty underwhelming). Then there was the decision to add the extremely left-field choice of Kool & The Gang as Van Halen's opening act. They've apparently gone over better with audiences than I would have ever expected, but there's still been plenty of online chatter from fans disgruntled by an r & b group opening a rock show (and it comes after the band went with the even stranger support choice of reggae artist Ky-mani Marley on their 2007-2008 reunion tour). Speaking of that tour, it had two series of postponed concert dates due to Eddie needing to go to rehab and then later also having to deal with an undisclosed illness.
I'm still pissed at the massive disappointment of driving three hours from Toronto to Darien Lake in upstate New York to see a Roth and Hagar double bill (as solo artists), only to find out the concert had been cancelled a few hours before show time...and that was a bloody decade ago. An illness was given as the reason, but it subsequently became clear that the tour imploded due to Hagar and Roth despising each other. I guess this Van Halen/Van Halen-related perpetual flakiness goes with the territory when you're a fan. It's lucky for them that they still bring the goods musically, because the rest of Van Halen's nonsense sure tests a fan's loyalty.


  1. Yep, they can be a bit perplexing with their actions. Great post by the way. It's very well written and made me laugh as well!


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