Wolfgang Van Halen nails Panama at LA Taylor Hawkins tribute concert – after promising he'd never play the track live

[L-R] Justin Hawkins, Dave Grohl and Wolfgang Van Halen
(Image credit: Jonathan Cohen/YouTube)

After performing dead-on versions of two classic Van Halen tracks at the first Foo Fighters Taylor Hawkins tribute show earlier this month, Wolfgang Van Halen appeared at the second last night at LA’s Kia Forum to once again honor Hawkins as well as his own late father, Eddie Van Halen.

Like his performance at London’s Wembley Stadium on September 3, Wolfgang again appeared alongside Dave Grohl on bass guitar, Josh Freese on drums and The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins on vocals to deliver renditions of two classic Van Halen cuts.

The motley crew of musicians again played Hot For Teacher, from Van Halen’s 1984 album, 1984, but this time swapped out On Fire for one of the band’s biggest-ever tracks, Panama.

Wolfgang was once again on unshakeable form. Channeling his late father with eerie accuracy, the guitarist recreated the tapping intro of Hot For Teacher and natural harmonic-laden riffs of Panama with enviable precision, in a performance akin to the studio recordings of both 1984 tracks. Check out fan-shot footage below.

The multi-instrumentalist called upon a pair of EVH electric guitars for his brief set: his prototype relic’d EVH semi-hollow, unveiled earlier this year on the road with Mammoth WVH, for Hot For Teacher; and a natural-finished model for Panama.

The Panama performance was an apparent U-turn for Wolfgang, after he not only said he’d never recreate his father’s music onstage – “I refuse to tread the same ground as my dad,” he said last February – but also told Total Guitar last year: “I’m not doing covers of Panama and going, ‘If you want Van Halen, come to me!’”

Reposting a comment he made on social media after the passing of his father – in which he said: “I’m not fuckin’ playing Panama for you guys” – Wolfgang light-heartedly addresses his apparent hypocrisy, adding a small addendum: “twice*”.

Of course, it’s probable that Wolfgang’s stance on playing Van Halen material live, at least with his band Mammoth WVH, remains unchanged, and he simply made exceptions for the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts, as the late drummer was a fan of Van Halen.

In October last year, Wolfgang noted that it was “fucking exhausting” to keep reiterating that Mammoth WVH would never play Van Halen songs.

The second Taylor Hawkins tribute concert played host to a massive selection of guest artists, including Joan Jett, Travis Barker, James Gang, Def Leppard, Josh Homme, P!nk, Stewart Copeland, Rush, Lars Ulrich and oh so many more.

Notable highlights from the hours-long event included a performance of Heart’s Barracuda by Nancy Wilson, Pink, Foo Fighters members and Jon Theodore, and a pair of Soundgarden covers by Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Taylor Momsen, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Dave Grohl.

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Sam Roche

Sam was Staff Writer at GuitarWorld.com from 2019 to 2023, and also created content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.