Better than: A Van Halen reunion with Diamond Dave failing to sing his own parts and Eddie's son playing bass.
No one is having a better time than Sammy Hagar. Period. The singer-songwriter, guitarist, alcohol tycoon, good-guy-to-know has managed to turn his career of late into an excuse for a gigantic party and you're totally invited.
Last night was Hagar's triumphant return to Hollywood's Hard Rock Live and the room of Red Heads (as Sammy's fans most zealous refer to themselves) and casual fans alike basked in the glory of mega hits hits and deep cuts from Hagar's illustrious 40 year career amidst an unhinged party that no doubt sent more than a few fans to work this morning with a secondhand hangover and a case of tinnitus.
Rock journalist and host of VH1 Classic's That Metal Show, Eddie Trunk, appeared on stage in his finest pair of cargo shorts to provide Hagar with a most rousing introduction, however, it was for naught as Hagar himself juggled the master of ceremonies role (along with shredding the guitar and screaming the hits) better than anyone else could have hoped to.
"Thursday night? Bullshit. We're going to turn it into Saturday night!" was the ever jubilant Sammy Hagar battle cry of choice as he and his band, the Waboritas, kicked into the full tilt bombast of a string of Montrose classics. As the group ripped through "Space Station #5," Hagar ran about the stage while howling those inimitable smokey screams that are his trademark. All the while he looked like a rock 'n' roll version of The Dude from the Big Lebowski. Hagar introduced songs with the year it was released, soliciting a roar from the crowd each and every time. Unlike much of the acts we see these days, the Red Rocker still requires volume to rock, something that made all of the difference on songs like "Rock Candy" and "Bad Motor Scooter," which thumped and rumbled through the hall with the spirit of the '70s. Hagar performed with a grin which remained intact for the entire night.
Hits like "Red" blended perfectly with Hagar's recent material, which included "Bad on Fords and Chevrolets" from his most recent release, Sammy Hagar & Friends, and flowed perfectly into "I Can't Drive 55," arguably Hagar's biggest hit outside of the Van Halen canon. The song was a tipping point for the evening. The party hit high gear when a slew of comically large police lights rolled in from different stations around the stage as the iconic video from 1984 played on the screens above. The band was killer, featuring guitarist Vic Johnson adding his own flare to the Van Halen songs, and swapping blistering solos with Hagar throughout the night.
The show had a true feeling of spontaneity to it, with Hagar joking between songs in his genuinely unassuming manner, fist bumping bandmates and audience members, and drinking deeply from a bottle of the rum he is now producing (and subsequently hawking from the stage). Unfortunate bits of Hagar the businessman included a shout out to alcohol distribution kingpin, Southern Wine and Spirits, and a small bit about his new rum company in the revised video for "Right Now." It'd been updated to include a PSA about hunger and food bank programs -- Hagar's philanthropic cause of choice. However, the night had more to do with the good times than just the liquor sales.
The spontaneity of the night included local resident Jason Bonham making an appearance to bruise the skins on "Poundcake," "Finish What Ya Started," and Led Zep's "Rock 'n' Roll," which was a particular treat as Van Halen alum Michael Anthony was on hand and on stage to provide some gut-rattling bass thump during Bonham's appearance. Hagar's interactions with Anthony (who is also in the supergroup Chickenfoot with Hagar) were also a pleasure to witness: The two obviously share a deep bond and it added a lot to the show.
The night ended with a high energy encore romp through Hagar's cover of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus," which was introduced with an anecdotal recounting of how the cover came to be, and ended with a sweat soaked Sammy Hagar bidding a fond farewell to the audience, which was now intoxicated by both volume and alcohol, and covered in yellow streamers that had exploded from a set of party canons.
Personal Bias: Fan. Perhaps not a "Red Head," but a fan.
From the Stage: "Hollywood? This ain't Hollywood, this is fuckin' Florida, man!" - Sammy Hagar
Random Detail: Michael Anthony has successfully updated the mullet to sort of function in 2013. Nu-Mullet?
But Why?: Is the Red Rocker's Ferrari BLACK in the vid for "I Can't Drive 55"?
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