The tragic passing of guitar legend Eddie Van Halen has left a serious void in the music world. Many consider him to be the best there ever was, and few could argue. It’s inevitable that all or our heroes will eventually be gone, but this one hurts.
Van Halen was quite possibly the epitome of arena rock. With the over-the-top showmanship of the David Lee Roth-led original lineup, to the more radio friendly Sammy Hagar years, Van Halen commanded the world’s stages like no other band.
For those of us lucky enough to have seen Van Halen live, we have the memories to hold onto. But for the newer generation of rock music fans, they won’t ever be able to see the mighty Van Halen live in the flesh. Sure, there are countless YouTube videos, but nothing beats the actual live experience.
Fortunately, though, there are musicians out there who will carry the torch. There are tribute acts for many of the rock era’s most popular bands, and some of them are actually pretty darn good. If you can’t experience the actual band live, a tribute band is the next best thing, and in many cases, the only option.
We scoured the web for the best Van Halen tribute acts around, and provide here for you a little background, links, and some video to give you a taste. If any of these bands are playing in your area, and you absolutely love Van Halen, these are the ones to check out.
We’ve listed these in alphabetical order so as not to sway your opinion, but tell us which one is your favorite in the comments below.
Based out of the southeastern United States, 84: A Tribute to Van Halen focuses solely on the Roth-era’s first six albums. As you would want with any true tribute band, each member looks enough like the original guys to pull off mimicking the real thing. They dress the part, use arena sized gear (just check out this drummer’s mega-kit), and sound close enough to the original to make it enjoyable.
The singer duplicates all of the DLR screams and shrieks, and most importantly, this fella with the Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein guitar looks just like a young Edward from a distance, and plays all of the parts with respect, and a similar feel to our departed hero.
The band is active with gigs—even in this crazy 2020 Covid era. You can check out some more information and videos on the band’s website, but we chose this one because you just don’t hear it covered that often. We especially dig the multi-camera shoot that this band employed for this gig. From Van Halen II, watch 84’s version of “Outta Love Again” below.
- Atomic Punks
Arguably one of the best and most successful VH tribute bands out there, The Atomic Punks have been on the scene since 1994, and are still around today. David Lee Roth’s vocals are very distinct, and actually difficult to replicate, but singer Brian Gellar comes as close as anyone can get. Couple that with the same kicks and splits that Diamond Dave is known for, and you have yourself a perfect VH tribute band front man.
The Atomic Punks are based out of the west coast of the U.S., but play gigs all over the map to sold out crowds. Watching some of their videos is like stepping back in time to the 80’s when hair bands ruled the world, and it’s refreshing to see that musicians can still keep that spirit alive today.
The entire band is locked in with the essence of Van Halen—from the look to the clothing to the gear to the stage show—these guys truly bring it. Even VH bassist Michael Anthony is a fan. Check out the video here from House of Blues where Anthony joins the band on stage for the Van Halen 1 lead track “Runnin’ with the Devil.”
Scrolling through YouTube, you’ll find a number of great live clips of Atomic Punks, including a recent Monsters of Rock cruise show with Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt jumping up on stage for a rendition of Fair Warning‘s “Mean Street.”
But for our purposes here, the video we want you to see is a 2002 clip of “Unchained,” also from the Fair Warning record. From a distance in this venue, you’d be hard pressed to differentiate these guys from the real thing.
- Completely Unchained
Another band focusing on the DLR era music, Completely Unchained also mixes in a few Sammy Hagar VH tunes as well as some Roth solo hits. We couldn’t find a lot about the band’s history or personnel online, but the website lists dates going back to 2018, and there are videos that date back to 2012, albeit with a couple different band members. They’re also another band that remains active during the Covid-19 pandemic, with dates scheduled throughout 2020 and well into 2021.
Appropriately donning the VH stage attire, this is yet another band that brings the authentic look to the stage. These guys don’t quite go for the huge arena gear that Van Halen was so well -known for, but it doesn’t seem to affect the sound. The players and singer do a respectable job mimicking the original performances.
The band is based out of Long Island, NY, but play all up and down the East Coast exclusively. There are a few promo videos on YouTube, but not too many live clips to choose from. Of the few available, this version of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” from Van Halen 1 is the best of the lot. Watch below.
- Fan Halen
Back to the West Coast. This band is based out of Southern California, and while most of their shows are centered in and around that area, they spread things out by playing all over the U.S., as well as some shows in Japan, Canada, and South America.
Of all of these VH tribute bands, Fan Halen‘s singer Ernie Berru sounds the most like David Lee Roth. He’s got the screams and the squawks down, but it’s his tone that’s really almost indiscernible from Roth, making each song sound as authentic as you can get.
They’ve got the look down as well, utilizing the 1984 tour speakers and stage wear. And bassist George DuBose could almost be a doppelgänger of Michael Anthony from a distance. He covers those high harmonies, too.
For several years there was a show on AXS TV called “The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands,” and Fan Halen was lucky enough to be a part of it. There’s a performance of Van Halen II‘s “Dance the Night Away” from that broadcast, but it’s 1984‘s “Panama” that really gets the job done. Dig the clip below, and check out more of the several videos the band has available on their website and Facebook Page.
- Nerd Halen
Definitely not your typical tribute band, Nerd Halen was born out of guitarist Caleb Rapoport’s love for Van Halen, and his desire to come up with a different way to honor his heroes. In 2019, Rapoport teamed up with comedian/singer Hal Sparks in Los Angeles, and together they formed an act that injects the playfulness and humor of Van Halen, while still honoring the music.
Although only a couple of years old, NH has a good number of gigs under their belt, a pro Bandzoogle website, and a ton of available merch (including a requisite face mask for 2020). The pandemic has slowed things down for the band, but with the recent passing of Eddie Van Halen, they’re still on the radar.
Even though this is a comedic take on a tribute band, the nerds (not to be confused with The Nerds from New Jersey) aren’t just goofing around. These guys can play. On the band’s YouTube channel, you’ll find a handful of the VH favorites, as well as a bunch of solo demonstrations performed by Rapoport. The clip we chose is a cover of Van Halen’s cover of Roy Orbison’s hit “(Oh) Pretty Woman” from Diver Down. Watch below.
- Romeo Delight
Named after the blistering 4th track from Van Halen’s third album Women and Children First, Romeo Delight hail from Eastern Pennsylvania and stick to that general area for live shows…including NY, NJ and VA. The band’s website boasts a number of accolades, including a mention from “Shock Jock” Howard Stern, various “Top Tribute Band” honors, and a selection from “Diamond” David Lee Roth himself for a program called The Roth Show.
Unlike some of the other Van Halen tribute bands, these guys don’t go all out on the look of the band they are honoring, but rely more on song selection and on-stage energy. Their song list includes a wide selection of material from the first six albums, as well as some Sammy-era and Roth solo tunes thrown in.
The vocals may not be as strong as some of their competitors, but they do well with entertaining the crowds. The band wisely includes a fifth member on keyboards to cover some of the 1984 tracks as well as the later material. Check out their version of 1984‘s “Jump” below.
There are two Van Halen tribute bands that we found that are named after the 5th track on 1981’s Fair Warning. Neither one has a website or any videos on YouTube, but they’re both worth mentioning here nonetheless.
New Jersey’s Unchained looks like they haven’t been active for a while. It’s a shame because this writer is actually familiar with the band from over a decade ago, and lead singer Ricky M’coy did a great job with DLR vocals. You can check out their Facebook Page here. Unfortunately there is only one video to view, and although the band sounds good, they put absolutely no effort into the look for this particular show.
California’s Unchained is active, but there is no information provided about upcoming shows. They do, however have a list of past shows, and a slew of videos that you can check out on their Facebook Page.
- Van Halen Invasion
Yet another interesting take on the tribute band, The Van Halen Invasion employs two lead singers—one handling the David Lee Roth era vocals, and the other covering the Sammy Hagar years. For true fans of the band’s entire career, this is a welcome idea.
Although not currently active, likely due to the coronavirus outbreak, the band is the only representation of a VH tribute band in Canada, and have played a handful of shows in early 2020. The website looks like it hasn’t been updated in a while, but their YouTube channel does have a decent amount of clips to choose from.
Since we haven’t yet represented any Sammy Hagar songs for this list, we picked the best one this band has to offer. While not a true performance video, this version of “Best of Both Worlds”does include live audio with image stills and short video clips. Enjoy.
Did we miss any? Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below. Also share this article on Facebook and/or Twitter with the buttons below for all of the world’s Van Halen fans to check out!
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To us, the music and legend of Van Halen is sacred. We tried to find the musicians and bands out there that are keeping the fun, spirit, and originality of the band alive. We’ll never have another band like Van Halen, but at least we still have the music.
(This article was originally published on Spinditty in January 2017. It has been edited here to reflect the current time passed.) I’ve been playing in
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