LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After more than 20 years of bitter feuding, the principal founding members of Van Halen hugged each other on Monday during a news conference to announce a rebirth of one of America’s premier rock bands.
Flamboyant singer David Lee Roth, 52, has returned to the fold for a 25-date North American arena trek that will kick off on September 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. International dates and a new album are also in the planning stages.
Roth quit the band in 1985 for a disappointing solo career, and he spent the subsequent years sniping at his old bandmates and their replacement singer Sammy Hagar.
But as excited reporters cheered them on, the garrulous “Diamond Dave” embraced his old antagonist, guitarist Eddie Van Halen, during the gathering at the Four Seasons Hotel.
“My new brother,” said Van Halen, also 52, as his 54-year-old brother, drummer Alex Van Halen looked on.
It is indeed a family affair, with Eddie’s 16-year-old son, Wolfgang, replacing Michael Anthony on bass, to the chagrin of some fans hoping for a reunion of the classic lineup famed for such hits as “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “And the Cradle Will Rock” and “Panama.”
Asked about Anthony’s absence, Roth said: “This is not a reunion. This is a new band. ... Usually when a band comes back like us it’s rockers with walkers, and this is everything but. Meet us in the future, not the past.”
Roth said Van Halen was “plotting and planning” a new album, his first with the band since 1983’s blockbuster “1984.”
“Saving the world is (U2 singer) Bono’s job. We just want to save a hundred cities,” Roth said. “Then we want to save Europe, then we want to save Japan, Australia and ... Hong Kong. Then we make an album. Lots of big dreams here, lots of ambition.”
Added Eddie Van Halen: “We are a band and we’re gonna continue.”
The band has been on the rocks since 1996, when Hagar acrimoniously left. That year, Roth reunited with his old bandmates to record two songs for a hits album, and to present an award at the MTV Video Music Awards. He had assumed this would lead to a full-blown reunion, but later claimed he had been duped by Eddie Van Halen.
The band, instead, cast its lot with a new singer, Gary Cherone, the former vocalist with soft-rock band Extreme. His one album with the band, 1998’s “Van Halen III” was a flop, and he left the following year.
The Van Halen soap opera entered a bizarre phase in 2002, when Roth and Hagar launched a co-headlining tour, despite Roth’s description of his replacement as a “mediocre talent.” Also that year, Eddie van Halen underwent cancer treatment, and the band was dropped by its longtime label, Warner Bros.
In 2004, Hagar and his old bandmates embarked on an unhappy reunion tour, with Anthony and Hagar claiming that Eddie Van Halen had alcohol problems. The guitarist, a recovering alcoholic, entered rehab earlier this year.
Observers are hoping for better things this time around.
“The real question is whether Eddie and Dave can peacefully co-exist,” said Matt Blackett, associate editor at Guitar Player magazine. “For the sake of their die-hard fans let’s hope so, because it was that pairing that created the band’s most groundbreaking music. Eddie never played better than when he was with Dave.”