It took 41 years for Van Halen to release a live album with original singer David Lee Roth. Tokyo Dome Live, from 2015, was the band’s second concert LP, after 1993's Live: Right Here, Right Now, made when it was fronted by Sammy Hagar.

The first record was accompanied by a home-video edition, but that and 1987's Live Without a Net remain Van Halen’s only forays into the visual format. The only time fans have seen official live footage featuring Roth was when the cameras rolled during the Fair Warning tour in Oakland in June 1981.

But only three songs ever surfaced – "Unchained," "So This Is Love?" and "Hear About It Later" – and while it’s known that audio tapes exist from the first of those three nights in California, doubt remains on whether there’s video, too.

If there is, Van Halen News Desk has called it the “Holy Grail," noting that "some fans consider the Fair Warning tour at the pinnacle of Van Halen’s powers, based on what previous little footage has circulated from the David Lee Roth era.”

Watch Van Halen Perform ‘Unchained’ in 1981

Several speculative stories have circulated over the years. In one, the crew stopped shooting after three tracks because filming was expensive and the band needed only those songs for MTV airplay. Another story – supported by comments Roth made in 1982 – notes that the rest of the show was shot, but it turned out to be a “dismal disaster,” according to the singer. And another claims the concert exists in full and in good quality, and all that remains is for the band to cut a deal with Warner Bros., which co-owns the material because the company co-funded its creation.

In a 2020 interview with Eddie Trunk on SiriusXM, Wolfgang Van Halen was asked about what video material might exist in the vault. “I have no idea, unfortunately,” he said.

“I know a big thing for the fans was that Oakland ’81 show. I did ask my dad about it a couple of times, because I was curious. What he told me was … what was out there is what was recorded. It wasn’t the full show, it was those songs for a promo. It was like, ‘Let’s record the first three or four songs and then dip out’ kind of thing. That’s what he said. I don’t know how you could argue with that. That’s what I heard on that legendary concert that everybody loves.”

Watch Van Halen Perform ‘Hear About It Later’ in 1981

That would seem to be the last word on Oakland, and perhaps the entire first Roth era. The next question would be whether Van Halen had cameras rolling during their final incarnation, when Roth and Wolfgang both took part in three tours.

When UCR asked the question of Wolfgang, he replied, “I have no idea. That would be a question for [drummer] Al [Van Halen]; I was never behind anything like that. Not to my knowledge, but I could totally be wrong. I don't want to give you a wrong answer – I'm not sure.” Pressed on whether a live DVD had ever been discussed, he said, “No, no ... if there were any discussions for that, I wasn't a part of it. I just worked on the set list.”

With Eddie Van Halen’s death in October, Van Halen will never take the stage again. It’s near impossible to believe that, somewhere out there, no official live footage lies waiting to be unleashed. It’s equally difficult to believe that there will never be any more visual evidence of what the band delivered live.

Could it really be that Van Halen’s live legacy with Roth will ever be acknowledged only with three short video clips? It looks like the answer won’t be coming soon after Wolfgang ruled out the idea of raiding the vault in the near future. “That’s not the priority right now,” he said. “I don’t want people to be sitting there with their watch. Mark my words, there will be a time that we go through it. Just not right now.”

Watch Van Halen Perform 'So This Is Love?’ in 1981

 

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