November 12, 2015
Reviewed by Joseph Hett
Sammy Hagar And The Circle Show There Are Many Ways To Rock In Augusta
Sammy Hagar and The Circle came to the Bell Auditorium on Thursday night to give all of the fans in Augusta, GA a lesson in rock. It was billed as “A Journey Through The History Of Rock” Tour that featured music spanning through the career of Hagar which included his solo work, Montrose, Van Halen and Chickenfoot, along with bonus Led Zeppelin songs. It was sponsored by Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum.
The Circle consists of lead singer/guitarist Sammy Hagar with bassist/background vocals Michael Anthony (Van Halen), drummer Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham) and guitarist Vic Johnson (Hagar’s solo band).
The lights went dim – 15 minutes later than scheduled – and a video retrospective played on the projector screen showcasing the various years of Hagar’s career. Just seeing all of Hagar’s success over a 40-year period is amazing. The all-star lineup then appeared onstage and revved up “There’s Only One Way To Rock,” from Hagar’s 1981 “Standing Hampton” album.
Hagar mentioned that he had not been to Augusta since 1973 with Montrose, while opening for Foghat. Hagar apologized by saying, “I’m sorry it took so long. I’ll tell ya, I don’t know what the hell took so long. It just seems like I was here yesterday in 1973, and then all of a sudden. Not really. (Laughs) It seems like waaay to long.” And continued, “I want to make up for it. So, let’s take a trip back to 1973 with “Rock Candy.” Johnson then cranked out the power chords for the Montrose classic.
They covered Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” and it featured a little “Moby Dick” interlude at the end of the song. There would be several more Zeppelin tunes throughout the night.
During a break, Hagar told a story about Bonham getting pulled over in Florida multiple times while driving to Circle gigs. That led them to crank up the radio anthem “I Can’t Drive 55.” Anthony even got a chance to sing a verse and added a little local flare by singing, “It took me 16 hours to get to Georgia and party with you today.”
A piano track was played and everyone knew it was time for “Right Now,” a 1992 Van Halen hit. The projector screen showed some of the classic music video and some custom made ones by the Hagar camp. At the end of some songs, Hagar would say “At your service!” This was an ode to The Circle’s recently released debut live album with the same title.
Bonham got a chance to take the mic and thanked everyone for the support to him, his father and to the music of Led Zeppelin. Anthony and Hagar ribbed him about being sober – Bonham said for 14 years. Hagar joked, while taking a shot of rum, “When you work with me it’s mandatory to drink on the job!” Bonham sat back down behind the drum set, and they started the classic “Whole Lotta Love.”
Many times during the show Hagar would autograph items handed to him by fans. He wore a fan thrown St. Louis Cardinals custom jersey, ball cap and Red Rocker blanket as a bath towel – all at various times. There were even more crowd interactions when Hagar poured shots of what appeared to be his signature rum to audience members in the front row. Things even got wilder when Hagar poured rum into empty beer cans passed up to him. He was even shaking his head in disapproval and laughing as he poured.
Hagar got to showcase his guitar playing abilities on several songs, especially with an extended jam session as smoke filled the entire stage during “When The Levee Breaks.”
Another “Van Hagar” tune was featured with “Why Can’t This Be Love” from the classic “5150” album. Anthony’s background vocals were spot-on all night long, recreating the Van Halen sound perfectly. Anthony did get a few turns at lead singing throughout the night.
They did manager to sneak in one Chickenfoot song, “Bigfoot.” And no Hagar show could be complete without the riffing “Heavy Metal.”
Anthony got to play slap bass a little bit before “Mas Tequila.” A roadie handed Hagar what appeared to be a t-shirt cannon during the song, but it only shot out red streamers over the crowd. Cardboard cutouts of Sammy were also marched down the isles to the edge of the stage, and he signed them. He later admitted that it was not planned by him.
Hagar said that they don’t do encores, they just stay on the stage. Hagar then gave a heartfelt talk to the entire auditorium. “I’m getting old. But I’m not too old to do this because I love it. It’s in my heart.”
Hagar and Johnson were the only ones onstage. Hagar spoke highly of Johnson and said, “James Brown is Soul Brother #1, Vic Johnson is Soul Brother #2.” Hagar knew this was James Brown’s hometown. They even ended the night with “I Feel Good” being played through the PA system. Johnson and Hagar began “Higher” and performed an almost acoustic version of the song.
Anthony and Bonham came back out, and they finished the “encore” with “Cabo Wabo” and “Rock And Roll.” The band all gave a bow and walked off the stage
Hagar recently turned sesenta y ocho. We will use Spanish – also an ode to Sammy’s beloved Cabo – in this instance because Hagar does not look or perform like his given age. He is as youthful and energetic as ever and just wants to have a good time wherever he goes.
The show was great. Hagar just has so many memorable songs that it’s hard to make the perfect setlist. There were just a few too many Led Zeppelin songs in the set. Yes, Led Zeppelin is great, but people came to see the Hagar stuff. It would have been better if they played an extended sequence of Zeppelin songs all rolled into one.
Sammy Hagar tours are always rare and never come to this area. It was a major surprise to hear that they would come to Augusta. It has been said that Hagar has big plans to tour in 2016, so hopefully they get back on the road and keeping rocking to the masses.