Does David Lee Roth ever sing live?

** Correction 8/15 at bottom 
*** update 5/31/2015 - bottom

It’s that shit eating grin that drives me nuts.  Van Halen is resurfacing again.  This is where Ed announces a world tour and then pulls out after two weeks.  That isn’t my concern.  I am not even going to talk about Eddie destroying the band over and over.  It’s Eddie’s band, and it’s not my business.  If he wants to take off 15 years in between tours… that is his own business.

My concern here is Roth.  The great David Lee Roth.  Roth is a showman.  A great one.  That is my concern.  I am watching re-union footage (anything in the last ten years with Roth fronting the band.  Has short hair, shit eating grin).  There is one thing I can’t find him doing in the last ten years – singing.  Note, I am not saying he lip syncs.  I wish.  I am not sure what you would call it he does on stage... but it isn't singing.

Go ahead, poke around youtube.  You see him smiling, and kind of talking through lyrics in a smarmy and patronizing way.  You never see him sing, though.  It is patronizing to the fans; Roths’ take seems to imply ‘listen, I know these songs so well… they are ingrained Americana. Heck, you know these songs even better!  Why even bother singing them like they sound on the recordings?  We are here, together.  Isn’t that good enough?  Tell me if I am missing something, please.

When I watch Roth, I see a guy doing ten things. Singing isn’t a single one of them.  We know he can sing like a mofo.  Listen to this isolated audio of ‘running with the devil’.  He just exudes charisma and power and lead singeriness.  Most importantly, though, he sings.  I went back.  The great academic question is this, did Roth EVER sing live?  I mean did he ever really put his heart into a great vocal performance?  Did he ever set aside 3 minutes of a concert to just sing his dick off… and not be DLR?  Um… no.

Watch for the part where he forgets to be a sex god and just loses himself in the music.  Just kidding.  It doesn’t look like it ever happened once.

Here is the most bizarre thing about Roth’s performances… all of them.  He isn’t ever ‘phoning it in’.  He is fully present in every sense at these shows.  He isn't checked out, or not caring. He is just too busy being DLR for a living that singing doesn’t make it on his list of things to do.  Go ahead, prove me wrong.  Find me a live performance, even from 30 years ago... where he knocks it out of the park singing.  Please.

*** update - I was Correct.  Roth's singing it terrible on the new live disc.  Sammy Hagar said so.  Don't think Sammy is just being bitter apples.  He was just concerned that they let those tracks loose.  Don't worry, Sammy can't be too bitter.  He is a zillionaire.

My buddy Diamond (Roth) said it was something about a quality issue. I laughed. I'm cracking up. You know, sometimes the guy says the wackiest things. But there's a lot of truth in that. A quality issue — you think about that. Think about them with Diamond, singing this next song, it would definitely be a quality issue, okay? [Chuckles] It would definitely be a quality issue."

Subtext - Roth can't sing.  Doesn't even try to sing.  He is just busy being himself.

** update 8/15

I went back and listened to a lot of old Van Halen.  I was wrong about the no singing.  There is singing in those old albums.  There is great singing - high harmonies, and the works!  It is from Michael Anthony, though.  You don't know it, but he is the sound of VH on many levels.


Michael Robins said…
Hey, I was thinking this exact same thing the other day after watching a few tracks from the new(ish) VH Tokyo which Dave aptly demonstrates that has both major tone and timing issues. I had previously watched a lot of old videos featuring Eddie's guitar work, but I don't think I had ever seen an old live performance featuring Roth specifically.....after reviewing such material I must say your were spot on in your evaluation! Van Halen fans are a funny bunch....I'm a huge fan of both Roth and Hagar material...I often find myself wondering exactly how many people in the whole world are mentally wrestling with questions concerning Van Halen drama at any given moment.

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