Sammy Hagar and the Circle proved there was only one way to rock at the Rose Music Center in Dayton, Ohio
If there has ever been a person that is truly a staple in the world of rock music it would have to be the Red Rocker. Sammy Hagar has been an ever present figure in music to me for my entire life. From my early discovery of hard rock music that included Montrose, with gritty anthems the likes of “Bad Motor Scooter”. I continued to grow up with Sammy as he went solo. He taught us that there was only one way to rock and how 55 was an unacceptable speed limit.
He invaded the big screen. First he provided the superb title track to the 1980’s classic Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Then he offered background noise with “I’ll Fall In Love Again” while Otto and Louden had their lunchroom altercation in Vision Quest. Joining Van Halen after the departure of David Lee Roth, Sammy, Michael Anthony and the Van Halen brothers churned out hit after hit during my high school and college years. Even in recent years, Sammy was ever present in the form of the supergroup Chickenfoot.
Sammy Hagar and the Cirlce
I have literally grown up with Sammy Hagar. His music sometimes acted like a big brother or best friend. The songs gave you a reason to carry on after a breakup. His hard rock was the encouragement to get that one last rep in the gym. Or, Hagar simply just gave you a reason to party with your friends and enjoy life to the fullest. For those reasons, I was ecstatic when I got to experience Sammy’s newest incarnation, Sammy Hagar and the Circle.
The Circle is every singer’s dream band. Vic Johnson, formerly of the BusBoys and the Waboritas, on guitar, Jason Bonham, son of legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and with too many accomplishments to list here, on drums and Michael Anthony, whose rock solid bass lines and harmonious background vocals were a rock, the solid anchor, for Van Halen, on bass.
The night was opened by Andrew Hagar, Sammy’s son, on an acoustic guitar. The folk-rock Dylanesqe type music was short lived, maybe 4-5 songs. But it showed that the Hagar legacy will continue on, just maybe in a slightly less party-oriented rock format. We wish the best to Andrew and look forward to what he will bring us in the future.
It was now time to party! The large video screen above the stage began showed album covers, photos and video clips of a stunning four decades of Sammy Hagar’s career.
Coming out with “There’s Only One Way To Rock”, the band was explosive and full of energy. They were out to prove that if there is more than one way to rock. The best way was right here, right now, with them. Jumping right into the next song, “Poundcake”, the party atmosphere at the Rose got going full swing.
Going into “Good Times Bad Times” you could feel Bonham’s drum beats punch through the air. I have noticed that whenever I have seen Jason Bonham play a Led Zeppelin song, his drum beats seem to take on new life. They are harder, louder and you feel them go through you straight to your primal core. Sammy did crack on Jason a little asking him if he’d learned American English yet as no one understands his English accent. Jason simply greeted the crowd and asked how they were doing and the sold out audience erupted with cheer. A couple of jabs, draw your own conclusions at who, most notably when Sammy stated money doesn’t make you happy, then looked at Michael and said that he knew a couple of millionaires who were miserable motherfuckers.
Going back in time a little, the Montrose classic “Rock Candy” was next. But when the opening riff for “I Can’t Drive 55” began, the crowd went wild, singing along with probably one of the catchiest and best known songs in the Sammy catalog. Taking up the second verse so Sammy could play guitar, Michael Anthony let loose on vocals. Slyly looking over at Sammy after delivering the first line he said, “don’t worry, I got this”.
Michael Anthony’s vocals are so good it leaves you scratching your head as to why he was never a lead singer. Chickenfoot’s “Big Foot” followed before dipping back into the Van Halen stream. They performed a double shot of “Right Now” and “Why Can’t This Be Love”. This was the only time I noticed the video screen since the beginning of the show as it played parts of the classic “Right Now” video overhead.
“Little White Lie” followed and then the party atmosphere darkened a little as the drums then got heavier, thicker and more ominous and the opening of Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” hammered out. It was truly a magnificent rendering. The mood was once again lifted as “Top Of The World” and “Heavy Metal” followed leading into the closer of “Mas Tequila” while confetti cannons shot seemingly unending strings of red across the crowd.
The Red Rocker
As the rest of the band left the stage, Vic returned. Sammy soon followed and said that he and Vic always play this song in the studio and rehearsal. Vic wanted to do it. The duo then launched into an emotional rendering of “Dreams”. That single song showed how much Sammy Hagar was still on top of his game. Also the song is a testament to how much this song and his legions of fans meant to him. The whole band returned and made Zeppelin’s “Rock And Roll” their own. They gave this last song everything they had, making it impossible to follow with anything else.
All through the show, the entire band was really engaging with the audience. The Rose Center was filled to capacity. Whenever Sammy wasn’t playing guitar he’d reach out to the audience and sign whatever was offered to him. After the show, other band members did the same. If you have the opportunity to see this band, do it. Seeing this band is like seeing your beer drinking buddies (or mezquila drinking buddies in Sammy’s case) play at your backyard BBQ. They just have a way of making you feel like you are that close to them. In all seriousness, hands down one of the best shows I have ever witnessed.