The music world is still reeling from the death of Eddie Van Halen on October 6 from cancer. Eddie co-founded and wrote the music for Van Halen, one of rock’s most successful acts both when it comes to recordings and live performances. The guitarist was a virtuoso who revolutionized the instrument and influenced countless guitarists across a wide spectrum of genres.
This week’s Sunday Cinema compiles five standout Van Halen covers performed by bands frequently covered at JamBase. Four feature drummers handling lead vocals, which may be a testament to how the guitarists (or mandolinist in the case of The String Cheese Incident) have a hard enough time trying to play Eddie’s parts to even think about singing.
Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready has shredded through Eddie Van Halen’s instrumental guitar solo “Eruption” at a number of shows but on three occasions the full band followed with a Van Halen classic. “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” was debuted by Pearl Jam at the Hartford Civic Center on May 15, 2010. The group returned to the venue on October 25, 2013 and gave “Eruption” > “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” another go. “The last time we played here, in 2010, we played a song and we said it was the only time we would ever play this song,” frontman Eddie Vedder told the crowd in 2013. “And it was the only time we ever played this song. But as soon as we walked into the back room tonight … I was like, ‘This is where we played that song! And, for some reason, I just really need to play that song again.’ But before we play that song, [McCready]’s going to play this song.”
Ween debuted a cover of Van Halen’s 1984 gem “Hot For Teacher” on July 27, 1997. Drummer Claude Coleman Jr. handled lead vocals on the group’s rendition of “Hot For Teacher.” The cover was played regularly by Ween through 2002 with the band performing 66 versions in total as per BrownBase.
Foo Fighters also turned to 1984 for their tribute to Van Halen and like most of the bands on this list had their drummer sing the cover. This performance of “Panama” took place at the Moda Center on Portland, Oregon on September 14, 2015. Drummer Taylor Hawkins handled lead vocals on Foo Fighters’ two versions of the song that followed its debut on January 10, 2015 at The Forum in Los Angeles, where David Lee Roth himself joined the band to belt out the tune.
Before The String Cheese Incident moved Hulaween to its longtime and current home of Live Oak, Florida in 2013, the band hosted their Halloween celebrations in various cities and venues. On October 29, 2010, Cheese played their first of two Hulaween concerts at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. The band ended the night with a debut cover of Van Halen’s biggest hit, “Jump.” Drummer Michael Travis dressed as David Lee Roth and handled lead vocals, while percussionist Jason Hann got behind the kit.
What is it with band employing their drummers to sing Van Halen covers? Yet another example comes from Umphrey’s McGee, who have drummer Kris Myers handle lead vocals on most Van Halen covers they play. One such cover is “Runnin’ With The Devil,” the second single from VH’s self-titled debut studio album. Umphrey’s McGee first performed the song on April 9, 2003 just a few months after Myers joined the band. “Runnin’ With The Devil” has been played a total of 20 times by UM as per ATU including this rendition from their All Night Wrong cover set at the Wanee Music Festival in Live Oak, Florida on April 12, 2014. UM twice honored Eddie over the weekend in Atlanta, inserting part of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” into “Utopian Fir” (again with Myers singing) on Friday night and the instrumental “Eruption” on Saturday night.