Nearly 40 years into a dynamic touring career, Van Halen will again take its powerful catalog to its passionate fan base on its third consecutive tour with David Lee Roth as front man and Wolfgang Van Halen (son and nephew of the bands’ namesakes in guitarist Eddie and drummer Alex, respectively) on bass with a 40-plus date tour to begin July 5 at the White River Amphitheatre in Seattle, Wash.
It’s a lineup Van Halen fans embrace, as was proven last time out in 2012 on the Different Kind of Truth tour, when Van Halen finished the year ranked No. 8 among all tours in Billboard Boxscore, grossing $54.4 million, with 522,296 tickets sold to 46 shows.
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The 2012 outing was Van Halen’s first with Roth on vocals since the 2007/2008 World Tour, which itself was the first with Roth since he left the band in 1985. The semi-classic lineup (with a 16-year old Wolfgang replacing founding bassist Michael Anthony and Roth retaking the mic after a 13-year intermittent run by Sammy Hagar) was the highest-grossing Van Halen tour ever, taking in $76,443,762 and moving 723,367 tickets to 63 shows, according to Boxscore.
The 2015 tour has no new original recorded content to support, but the band will release Tokyo Dome Live In Concert, its first live set with Roth, recorded in 2013, along with remastered versions of classic albums Van Halen and 1984. The unusual flurry of activity for one of rock’s most beloved — but sporadically active — bands begs the question of “why now?”
“The boys had some time off and they wanted to get out again,” says VH manager Irving Azoff, citing the album releases as an added catalyst, along with the fact that, “No one is getting any younger.”
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Few bands typify “arena rock” more than Van Halen, but the upcoming tour is outdoors, promoted by Live Nation and primarily playing the promoter’s amphitheaters. Asked why outdoors this time, Azoff offers, “Summer, summer, summer. Van Halen has not performed many outdoor shows, so this is something new for them.”
Despite 2012’s success, the tour ended on sour note when Van Halen pulled the plug on a scheduled 30-date final leg. Amid Internet rumors of rancor among band members, a source close to the band told Billboard at the time that “fatigue” was the reason. Now, Azoff says, “The last 30 dates were not cancelled, they were never ‘officially announced,’ and the guys were dead, beat, exhausted.”
Regardless, dates have been added to the upcoming tour for Los Angeles and New York, and Azoff says sales are “keeping with anticipations.” Bob Roux, co-president of North American Concerts for tour promoter Live Nation, says projections call for the tour to gross more than $30 million and finish as one of the company’s top-grossing shed tours of the summer. “Van Halen has one of the deepest and most revered song catalogs in the business,” says Roux, “and their concerts are just hit after hit. Their showmanship has always been legendary, and we are happy to once again be their tour promoter this summer.”
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The nature of the classic rock business and amphitheater shows overall make good day-of-show weather paramount in the show selling through, as walk-up business is critical. Roux says Van Halen remains a crowd-pleaser, owning, “one of the deepest and most revered song catalogs in the business, and their concerts are just hit after hit.”
Van Halen’s 2015 tour is a likely winner under the stars this summer, and the band’s touring legacy is assured. “Van Halen is perhaps one of the greatest rock ‘n roll bands of all time,” Azoff says, “and always will be.”
An edited version of this story first appeared in the June 27 issue of Billboard.