Rick Beato debunks claims that Wolfgang Van Halen was playing to a backing track of Eddie at Taylor Hawkins tribute

Wolfgang Van Halen performing live
(Image credit: Samuel Willis/YouTube)

Last weekend, Wolfgang Van Halen took to the Wembley Stadium stage in London for the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert, and was one of the many musicians who did so to celebrate the life of the late Foo Fighters drummer, who passed away earlier this year.

Like most others, Wolfgang had a short setlist to play with and, to the surprise of just about everyone, he filled the slot with two classic Van Halen tracks.

With his upcoming EVH SA-126 electric guitar in hand, Wolfgang Van Halen absolutely nailed both Hot for Teacher and On Fire, harnessing his inner Van Halen power for two knockout renditions that were perfect in just about every department.

It was a performance for the ages, one that served as both a fitting tribute to Eddie Van Halen fan Taylor Hawkins, and an emotional homage to Wolfgang’s late father, who the Mammoth WVH man channeled with eerie accuracy.

However, Wolfgang’s tone, timing and delivery was so good, it turns out a small handful of people couldn’t quite believe how perfect the two renditions were.

As such, Wolfgang was apparently subjected to accusations he had been playing along to a backing track of Eddie – claims that have been debunked by YouTube music guru Rick Beato.

Responding to an email in which a viewer said Wolfgang’s performance sounded suspiciously “too good”, Beato shot down any implications, reasoning that his lifelong experiences with Van Halen and his natural musical prowess contributed to the flawless execution.

“Wolfgang Van Halen started playing in Van Halen in 2006 when he was 15. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, he plays every instrument incredibly well,” Beato countered. “He’s known for being able to play everything. He’s played Hot for Teacher probably hundreds of times in Van Halen.

“Did you notice that his vocals were exactly dead-on? Well, maybe that’s because he sang the background vocals with Eddie when he was replacing Michael Anthony. He was in Van Halen.”

To further emphasize his point, Beato showed a clip of a young Wolfgang shredding Eruption with, again, an eerie level of accuracy.

“He’s playing it and it sounds like his dad, right?” he commented. “Well, of course it sounds like his dad – he played guitar with his dad all the time.”

The Gibson signature artist then went onto discuss the nature versus nurture argument, and noted that Wolfgang was an example of a guitarist who picked up musical skills from an early age.

He also observed that, owing to Wolfgang’s experiences playing drums, his rhythm and timing is also a force to be reckoned with – something that came into play when Wolfgang performed an almost-pinpoint playthrough of Eddie’s original solo on Hot for Teacher.

“He has such great natural feel, it sounds just like his dad,” Beato commented. “Well, that’s the thing that you just can’t learn. That’s the nature part. That’s the genetic part of it, which is why he can nail that.”

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The inclusion of Hot for Teacher and On Fire on Wolfgang’s setlist came as a surprise to many, after the Mammoth WVH leader had previously said on multiple occasions he would never perform Van Halen tracks live.

Speaking to Guitar World in 2021, Wolfgang noted, “I think Dad would rather have people not try and sound like him but sound like themselves. I’m not milking off the legacy. I’m sure that’s up for debate for some people that hate me, but I’m being myself.”

In October last year, he was forced to reiterate his stance, telling fans it was “fucking exhausting” having to repeat he’ll never play Van Halen songs with Mammoth WVH.

Sunday’s occasion seems to have been an exception to the rule, though, with Wolfgang writing after the event, “Thank you for everything, Taylor. That was for you, and for Pop.”

During the Taylor Hawkins tribute event, Wolfgang Van Halen shared the bill with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee – who reunited to perform Rush classics –  and Them Crooked Vultures, who performed their first gig in 12 years.

James Gang also reunited for the occasion, and reformed for their first gig in 16 years to perform Walk Away, The Bomber: Closet Queen / Bolero / Cast Your Fate to the Wing and Funk #49.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.