Jason Newsted sent minor shockwaves through the hard-rock community late last week when he told the The Palm Beach Post that he’d been invited to jam with Alex Van Halen and Joe Satriani six months ago as part of a possible Van Halen tribute tour. The former Metallica bassist said he eventually realized the idea of finding any guitarist to play Eddie Van Halen’s parts was unlikely to work. “How could you?” he said. “There’s nobody that can top it, so how do you show it honor? I didn’t want it to be viewed as a money grab. And then it kind of just all fizzled.”
That seemed like the last we’d hear about this wild idea of a Van Halen tour featuring Alex Van Halen and Joe Satriani, but then Satriani went on record with the Rock off Nations With Dave Kinchen podcast where he confirmed Newsted’s report and added in a lot more detail, including the possible participation of David Lee Roth.
“I’ve been talking with Alex and Dave for about a year about doing something — a tour, something like that — that was gonna be a true tribute to Eddie [Van Halen] and the Van Halen legacy,” he said, according to comments transcribed by Blabbermouth. “For me, it was a terrifying prospect of doing something like that, but I realized that it was something that would be a real labor of love for me. I was just so honored to take on the challenge.
“It’s very complicated,” Satriani continued. “And all I can really say about it is that if it does happen, I know we’ll make it the greatest thing ever for the fans and we’ll all celebrate together not only the great Eddie Van Halen but the legacy that that band created, the amazing amount of music and the goodwill and good vibes they created as a band.”
Satriani’s statements solved some of the mysteries around this project, but we still have several big questions about the whole thing. Here are seven of them.
1. Who will play bass?
Jason Newsted is an incredibly gifted bassist, and we mean him no disrespect, but there are two former Van Halen bassists who would be much better choices. Alex’s nephew Wolfgang played with the group from 2007 to 2015, but he’s just getting going with his solo career and probably wouldn’t be eager to do this. The obvious choice for the role, then, is Michael Anthony. He’s not only a founding member who played on every album besides 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, but his background vocals are a key part of the signature Van Halen sound. This project would have a lot more credibility if he were a part of it.
2. Is there a role for Sammy Hagar?
When David Lee Roth came back to Van Halen in 2007, they basically purged the entire Sammy Hagar era out of existence. The group didn’t play a note of the music they made with him at any of the shows with Roth. But Satriani said this possible tribute tour would be “representing all the eras of Van Halen.” The problem is that Roth simply won’t sing songs like “Right Now” or “Poundcake.” Isn’t the obvious move to just bring in Hagar, in the spirit of the Sam and Dave Van Halen stadium tour that nearly happened in 2019 before Eddie’s health made it impossible?
3. Isn’t David Lee Roth retired?
Roth briefly re-launched his solo career in early 2020 with a Las Vegas residency and an opening slot on the Kiss farewell tour. Fans and critics weren’t super impressed with the state of his voice, and even Gene Simmons compared him to “bloated, naked Elvis.” (He later apologized for those comments.) Roth announced a series of Las Vegas shows late last year that were supposed to be his final live appearances, but they were canceled with little explanation. Did he pull them because he was in touch with Alex Van Halen about this tour? We have no idea.
4. Would Hagar and Roth be down to do this together?
Back in 2002, when they were both on the outs from Van Halen, Hagar and Roth hit the amphitheater circuit with their solo bands on a co-headlining bill. The shows were a lot of fun, but there was so much tension that a backstage wall was erected at some gigs to make sure they’d never even have to see each other. They were never onstage at the same time, and they walked away from the experience disliking each other more than ever. Have things calmed down enough in the last 20 years that they’d be willing to do this to honor Eddie? Once again, we can only guess.
5. Remember Chickenfoot?
This isn’t Joe Satriani’s first time entering the Van Halen universe. In 2008, he joined the supergroup Chickenfoot with Hagar, Anthony, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. They cut two albums and toured in 2009 and 2012, but they never played a single Van Halen song in concert. “We really do not want to dilute this band and become a Van Halen cover band, or become a Sammy Hagar cover band or a Joe Satriani cover band,” Hagar said in 2012. “The idea is that we are Chickenfoot, and we will stay that.” But if Hagar and Anthony join this tour, it’ll basically be Chickenfoot with Alex Van Halen subbing for Chad Smith. That would be a little weird, but also pretty awesome. (And it’s not like Chad Smith would mind. He’s a little busy this year with a tour of his own.)
6. Is there a space on this tour for Wolfgang?
Since the death of his father in October 2020, Wolfgang has made it clear that his focus is firmly on his solo career and his original music. “I honor my dad by existing and doing what I do everyday,” he told an online fan in 2021 who urged him to add his dad’s music into his show. “I’m not fuckin’ playing ‘Panama’ for you guys.” He’d certainly be “fuckin’ playing ‘Panama’” if he played bass on this tour, but couldn’t he open up with his solo band? It would expose his music to a huge audience and add credibility to the tour by having another Van Halen on the bill.
7. Could this really work?
A Van Halen tour minus Eddie Van Halen might be a hard sell for a lot of fans, but the presence of Alex Van Halen and David Lee Roth would certainly help move a lot of tickets. Joe Satriani is also one of the few guitarists alive with the stature and chops to credibly play Eddie’s parts. If you add in Michael Anthony, you have the novelty of him sharing the stage with Roth for the first time since 1984. And if you throw in Hagar, you basically have the single best Van Halen tour possible these days. If the tour winds up being just Alex Van Halen, Joe Satriani, a famous bassist like Jason Newsted, and a ringer frontman, it would probably struggle. But add in the other Van Halen alumni, despite all the problems that would present, and the result would be something really special that would indeed honor Eddie’s legacy. Let’s just see if all the parties can somehow come together and make it happen.