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Watch Wolfgang Van Halen nail classic Van Halen tracks at Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins tribute show

[L-R] Wolfgang Van Halen and Justin Hawkins
(Image credit: Viacom)

Foo Fighters gave their beloved late drummer Taylor Hawkins a massive, heart-warming send-off on Saturday (September 3) when they hosted an all-star tribute concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

In addition to the surviving Foo Fighters lineup of Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear and Rami Jaffee, guests included Liam Gallagher, Nile Rodgers, Chris Chaney, Omar Hakim, Lars Ulrich and Stewart Copeland, while Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee joined forces with Dave Grohl to perform a trio of Rush classics.

The night centered around Hawkins – who passed away suddenly in March this year – and the music he loved most. But the event was also a celebration of several other recently departed musicians, including electric guitar icon Eddie Van Halen. And leading the tribute was Eddie’s son and former bandmate, Wolfgang Van Halen.

Wolfgang’s inclusion on the bill was confirmed back in June, and many expected him to cover a Foo Fighters track or two; his band Mammoth WVH tackled FF classic My Hero at a gig shortly after Hawkins’ death.

But in an apparent U-turn after saying he’d never recreate his father’s music onstage – “I refuse to tread the same ground as my dad,” he said last February – Wolfgang, accompanied by Dave Grohl on bass, The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins on vocals and session maestro Josh Freese on drums, delivered renditions of two Van Halen classics: On Fire and Hot For Teacher.

“It should come as no surprise that Taylor was a huge Van Halen fan,” Grohl said while introducing Wolfgang. “Didn’t you see those tights he would wear every night? We are lucky enough tonight to have with us a real Van Halen.”

While a photo of Wolfgang and Eddie Van Halen with Taylor Hawkins was displayed on two screens either side of the stage, the patchwork band of rockstars launched into On Fire, from Van Halen’s 1978 debut, before playing Hot For Teacher, one of the band’s biggest hits from 1984’s 1984.

As can be seen in the video footage above, Wolfgang channels his late father with eerie accuracy, effortlessly blitzing through On Fire’s guitar solo and replicating Hot For Teacher’s tapping intro and fingerstyle clean riff so closely they don’t sound far removed from the studio recording.

For the performance, Wolfgang calls upon his prototype relic’d EVH semi-hollow, which he unveiled earlier this year on the road with Mammoth WVH. In a notable fashion statement, Josh Freese dons a pair of Van Halen-inspired shorts, which mimic the look of Eddie’s iconic red, black and white Frankenstrat.

"Thank you for everything, Taylor," Wolfgang tweeted after the show. "That was for you, and for Pop."

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In a 2021 interview with Guitar World following the release of his debut Mammoth WVH album, Wolfgang spoke of his desire to carve his own musical path, rather than piggyback on the legacy created by his late father.

“I think Dad would rather have people not try and sound like him but sound like themselves,” he said, adding: “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.”

The magnitude of the event – which was supporting charities chosen by the Hawkins family – and Wolfgang's love for Taylor Hawkins may have influenced his decision this time around, but it’s still probable that he’ll never play Van Halen material onstage with Mammoth WVH.

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

A second Taylor Hawkins tribute concert is due to take place on September 27 at the Kia Forum in Los Angeles. Stewart Copeland, Chris Chaney, Omar Hakim, and Hawkins’ side band Chevy Metal will appear once again, as well as Gene Simmons, Nancy Wilson, Chad Smith, Nikki Sixx and many more.

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Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating 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 (opens in new tab).