Classic Rock

The Catastrophic 2004 Reunion Tour Of Van Halen

todayMarch 28, 2024 2

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Music fans crave the magic that happens when legendary bands reunite. But sometimes, those reunions fall flat, leaving audiences yearning for the good old days.

We’ve all witnessed it – the lead singer who can’t quite hit the high notes anymore, the bandmates who seem like they haven’t spoken in years, or the setlist that feels more like an obligation than a celebration.

There were some truly catastrophic reunions in the past, from the brief and strained Led Zeppelin shows to the bizarre attempt to resurrect The Doors with a hologram of Jim Morrison. 

Today, we’re turning the spotlight on another reunion that left many fans scratching their heads: Van Halen’s ill-fated 2004 tour with Sammy Hagar.

The shocking Sammy Hagar exit

Van Halen’s frontman shuffle continued in 1985 when David Lee Roth left to pursue a solo career. Sammy Hagar stepped in and the band continued to see massive success for over a decade. However, things came to a crashing halt in 1996.

Hagar, reflecting on his final days in the band with Rolling Stone, described a shocking dismissal: “Oh I was fired I was told that I quit by Eddie,” he recounted. Eddie Van Halen informed him over the phone on Father’s Day that they were reuniting with Roth.

But this reunion proved short-lived. Friction with Roth resurfaced, and Van Halen looked elsewhere. Extreme’s Gary Cherone became their new vocalist, and in 1998, the band released Van Halen III to a lukewarm reception.

The album and subsequent tour were commercially unsuccessful, leading to Cherone’s departure. Van Halen found themselves back at square one, with a revolving door at the frontman position.

The seeds of the 2004 reunion

Years after his departure from Van Halen, Hagar felt a pull to reconnect with his former bandmates. In 2003, a phone call to drummer Alex Van Halen sparked a series of events that led to a reunion.

Hagar visited Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 Studios, where they jammed together and even recorded three new songs. These tracks were featured on the 2004 greatest hits album Best of Both Worlds, which achieved commercial success, peaking at number three on the charts.

However, Hagar expressed mixed feelings about the project in a later Facebook post. He admitted that creating new music for a greatest hits album felt similar to what had caused tension in the band previously.

In 1995, he had opposed focusing on past hits and advocated for recording a new album. Despite these reservations, the success of the collaboration fueled discussions of a full-fledged reunion tour.

Eddie’s glaringly obvious struggles

Despite the initial enthusiasm, Hagar noticed a concerning shift in Eddie Van Halen’s health and demeanor. In his autobiography Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, the Red Rocker described Eddie’s appearance as disheveled, with poor hygiene and missing teeth.

The guitarist’s physical state wasn’t the only worry. Hagar detailed Eddie’s withdrawn behavior and gruff communication style, a stark contrast to his former personality.

These red flags caused Hagar to hesitate about the reunion. But his book reveals his internal conflict: Eddie’s charm and supposed potential for improvement made Hagar question his initial doubts.

Hagar expressed a desire to believe that Eddie would overcome his struggles, allowing the reunion to succeed. However, the warning signs were undeniable, casting a shadow over the future of the Van Halen collaboration.

Van Halen’s bassist blues

The reunion wasn’t just about frontman drama. Bassist Michael Anthony, a longtime member and friend of Hagar, became another point of contention.

Following Anthony’s continued friendship with Hagar after his initial departure, the Van Halen brothers soured on him. Despite Eddie and Alex’s initial resistance to including Anthony in the tour, Hagar refused to participate without him.

However, the price of Anthony’s inclusion was steep. In a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Anthony revealed significant concessions he made. He agreed to a substantial pay cut and relinquished a portion of his rights to the Van Halen trademark.

While Anthony expressed financial security and a desire to be with the fans for a potential final hurrah, the situation highlighted the internal discord within the band.

“It was the worst show he’d ever done in our lives”

Despite completing the grueling 80-date tour, the experience was far from harmonious. Backstage tension ran high, with Hagar and Anthony barely speaking to Eddie. They maintained separate travel arrangements –  buses, hotels, and even security details.

The limited interaction that did occur resulted in explosive arguments, with Sammy and Eddie nearly coming to blows on at least one occasion. The situation became so toxic that Hagar threatened to quit with shows still remaining, but the threat of legal action forced him to stay.

The tour concluded in Tucson, Arizona on a particularly sour note. Eddie’s performance left much to be desired, prompting Hagar to describe it as “the worst show he’d ever done” in his autobiography.

Hagar elaborated on the problems in a Rolling Stone interview, citing Eddie’s erratic playing and tuning issues. Hagar further explained that Eddie’s overpowering guitar volume made it difficult to sing properly. He resorted to using the bass guitar as a reference point, highlighting the complete breakdown in communication and collaboration.

Reconciliation and loss

The 2004 tour marked the end of Hagar and Anthony’s time with Van Halen. The band would eventually reunite with Roth in 2007, touring and releasing their final studio album in 2012. 

Eddie’s son Wolfgang took over bass duties during this period. Van Halen embarked on their final tour in 2015. Tragically, in the years that followed, Eddie was diagnosed with cancer, which ultimately led to his passing in 2021.

Following Eddie’s death, Hagar revealed a surprising detail on Howard Stern’s show. He disclosed that he and Eddie had reconciled in the months leading up to his passing. They reconnected via text messages, sharing a newfound appreciation for each other.

Both agreed to keep their communication private to avoid speculation about a reunion and to protect Eddie’s privacy regarding his health. Despite the late reconciliation, Hagar expressed his deep loss,  lamenting that their rekindled friendship ended far too soon.

A potential Van Halen encore

Despite the tumultuous 2004 tour, discussions about a Van Halen reunion continue to surface. In a recent press interview, Hagar revealed that former manager Irving Azoff approached him about a Las Vegas residency with Alex Van Halen, Anthony, and another guitarist.

However, Hagar remains firmly against the idea of any group using the Van Halen name without a key member.

Hagar proposed a unique exception: a Van Halen tribute featuring himself, Alex, Michael, Roth, and Eddie’s son Wolfgang on guitar. He sees this lineup, honoring Eddie’s legacy with Wolfgang taking his father’s place, as the only scenario worthy of carrying the Van Halen torch.

However, Hagar acknowledges the logistical challenges, as Wolfgang has his own successful musical career. While a temporary tribute could be “great,” Hagar doubts Wolfgang would abandon his own path to become a mere imitation of his father.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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