Van Halen unchained anew

Roth is back for tour, possible album

So long, Sammy, the new old Van Halen is back.

"This is the press conference that you never thought you'd see," David Lee Roth said Monday at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. "Certainly not while we're all young, skinny and good-looking."

In announcing a long-anticipated North American arena tour, famously battling bandmates/ ex-bandmates Roth and Eddie Van Halen repeatedly stressed that the planned jaunt is just the beginning.

"We are a band," Van Halen said succinctly. "And we are going to continue."

The quartet — including original drummer Alex Van Halen and Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie's 16-year-old son, the group's permanent bassist — announced 25 dates, launching Sept. 27 in Charlotte, N.C., and running through Dec. 11 in Calgary, Alberta. Stops include Nov. 3 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J., and Nov. 13 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Tickets will be available at beginning Saturday for some dates. There was no mention of prices.

And there was no sign Monday of the decades-long rancor between Roth and Eddie Van Halen, both 52. A few minutes into the event, the erstwhile Diamond Dave said, "I'd like to start off with this." He turned and gave his guitarist an initially awkward but seemingly genuine embrace; Van Halen responded with a peck on his once and current frontman's cheek.

Van Halen said later, "To be making music with my son, my brother, my new brother — it's the shit."

It will be the first time Roth has toured with the band since 1985. Led by Eddie Van Halen's virtuoso guitar and Roth's sex appeal, shrieks and high-kicking physicality, Van Halen was one of most popular rock bands of the era when Roth abruptly left for what turned out to be a spotty solo career.

Van Halen replaced him with Sammy Hagar, and the band went on to its greatest commercial success, scoring its first No. 1 album with "5150" (1986) and following with two more chart-toppers.

But the band hasn't released a studio album since 1998's "Van Halen III," a poorly received one-off with former Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone.

"There's a whole lot of change going on — the same way they moved the Mustang into the future," Roth said, adding that everything is going to he "high speed, low drag."

Asked about staging a reunion without original and longtime bassist Michael Anthony, Roth was borderline indignant.

"This is not a reunion; this is a new band." He added that most re-formed bands these days tend to be "rockers with walkers — this is anything but. … Meet us in the future, not the pasture."

Smartly coiffed and looking fit, the loquacious Roth predictably dominated the 15-minute Q&A session, deploying his renowned sneaky wordplay and snarky barbs, aiming a few of the latter at a certain U2 frontman. ("Saving the world is Bono's job," he said. "We just want to save a hundred cities.") Monday's presser was the antithesis of Roth's embarrassing appearance with the band at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, during which he was either off his game or slightly out of his mind.

He spent plenty of spotlight time Monday playing up Wolfgang Van Halen's talent and contributions to the band, saying "the sound is better than it's ever been."

For his part, the teenage Van Halen displayed little personality, offering terse replies to the handful of questioned posed to him.

The band was reminded about the tour plans that were aborted in March as Eddie Van Halen entered rehab for alcohol-related treatment. A reporter asked why the guitarist feels he's at his best right now.

Van Halen half-sneered, "Because I am."

Roth jumped in: "None of us wants to give you less than our best — and we are at our best."

He added that the band has been planning the comeback since October and is plotting a new album. But as for the tour, Roth said: "You'll know every single song, you know every guitar lick, every woo, every kick, every jump, every drum lick."