Steve Vai has bad news for fans hoping to see a reunion from David Lee Roth’s Eat ‘Em and Smile-era band.

“There was a period of time where we talked about it and we considered it,” the guitarist admitted during an appearance on Dean Delray’s Let There Be Talk podcast. “But then Van Halen was back. So Dave was out doing that.”

Though Roth is seemingly more available now, Vai doesn’t envision an Eat ‘Em and Smile reunion.

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“There comes a time where you feel the train has left the station,” the guitarist explained. “I heard Dave retired. And I’m so ensconced in my solo career, all the stuff I’m doing. So you never know, but it doesn’t seem likely.”

How Close Did We Get to an 'Eat 'Em and Smile' Reunion?

While Vai threw cold water on the idea of a new Eat 'Em and Smile reunion, the respective musicians nearly came together for a performance in 2015 to celebrate the album’s 30th anniversary. The gig was set to take place at a bowling alley in Hollywood, and initially it was going to just be Vai, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Gregg Bissonette.

“I thought, ‘Well, I’ve got to ask Dave. Just in case he’s interested,” Vai recalled. To his surprise, the singer enthusiastically said yes.

“When we arrived, the line was all the way around the building and all the way down the street. I couldn’t even see the end of it,” the guitarist recalled. “The place held like 350 people and they stuffed 1,700 people in there.”

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“We’re backstage and we’re ready to go on,” Vai continued, noting that the set was going to start with the song “Yankee Rose.” “So I’m going to hit this chord, and the moment I hit this chord the curtain is going to open and we (will) kick into it and Dave (will) come out. So he’s waiting in the back. I’m standing there, Billy’s there, Gregg’s there. And I’m just about to hit the chord and this guy comes up to me and goes ‘Steve, you can’t play.’ I say, 'What do you mean I can’t play? I’m playing!’ And he goes, ‘No, you can’t. The fire marshal is here and they want to shut the place down.”

Vai said he was willing to pay the fine to let the performance continue, but balked when he was told he could go to jail and the venue could lose their license.

“My hand is (saying), ‘Just hit the chord, Vai. Just hit the chord. Forget about all this shit. Just go for it!’” the rocker recalled.

“I can’t do it. I don’t want to get people in trouble. I don’t want to get the club in trouble and I don’t want to get me in trouble,” Vai explained. “So I didn’t hit the chord, and I went back and I told Dave, ‘We can’t play.’

Interestingly, Roth saw a silver lining to the whole ordeal.

“Dave in his brilliant marketing mind said, ‘Perfect. We’ll get more press out of this than if we played,’” Vai recalled. “And by golly, he was right.”

Vai, Sheehan and Bissonette eventually performed together again in 2019, but Roth did not join them.

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Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

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