It seems like only yesterday that I saw the man affectionately known as the “Red Rocker,” Sammy Hagar live for the first time. The year was 1986 and it was during his first tour with Van Halen when they played the now defunct Exhibition Stadium. Shift over to present day to the other side of Lake Shore Blvd. where Hagar brought his Four Decades Of Rock tour to town, to the Molson Canadien Amphitheatre, Tuesday evening.
As Hagar’s song “Sam I Am” finished playing over the venue speakers, the lights dimmed and three huge video screens took over. The screens located at the rear of the stage depicted video images while it played various songs that combined to give the fans a little documentary of Hagar’s career.
Hitting the stage with a very fresh sounding medley of his Montrose days including “Space Station #5,” “Rock Candy” and “Bad Mad Scooter,” was just what the doctor ordered as Hagar started off by keeping the songs for the most part chronologically. Up next was “Red” the song that led to his nickname.
Hagar’s band has remained the same over the past few years as guitarist Vic Johnson, bassist Mona Gnader and drummer David Lauser are also known collectively as The Waboritas. Lauser has been on board with Hagar for all of his solo albums recorded in the 1980s.
Hagar would sometimes call out the year before breaking into song as he shouted out “1991” the band launched into “Right Now,” the first of many Van Halen songs he would play. As the song ended the lights went out and Johnson broke into the familiar chords of Van Halen’s highest charting song under Hagar, “Why Can’t This Be Love.” As the lights came on bassist Michael Anthony, his former Van Halen and current Chickenfoot cohort appeared and the crowd roared in approval. What else would you expect? By most accounts, the best song of the evening from a performance standpoint. Anthony even took a turn at the microphone for a quick verse during the song. Anthony remained out as they delved into more Van Halen material that saw “Best Of Both Worlds,” “When It’s Love” and a sprightly “Finish What You Started.”
It has been over nine years since Van Halen themselves played any of these classics. The 2004 tour was the last time Hagar and Van Halen played together thus making a Sammy Hagar show as the only place you can see live performances of these treasures.
The band ran through the classic “Heavy Metal” which saw Hagar, Johnson and Gnader all take turns singing portions of the song. Streamers flowed through the air as the party anthem “Mas Tequila,” quickly followed by new song “Knockdown Dragout” which closed out the bands set.
Hagar appeared back on stage alone as he strummed out the first two verses of his ballad “Eagles Fly” before the rest of the band joined in. Closing the set with new tune “Bad On Fords And Chevrolets” from his forthcoming album Sammy Hagar & Friends. As the band came to center stage to take their bows Sammy and Band broke into a quick a cappella version of “Cabo Wabo” before leaving for the night.
It has been an amazing career for Hagar as it seems no matter what he touches turns to gold or platinum. Just how many more tours or shows Sammy has left in him at this point is anyone’s guess. He has done a great job in taking care of himself which is why he still sounds and looks amazing. The fans are rewarded with fabulous shows even as Hagar has reached the ripe age of sixty-five. Analyzing the situation one thing is for sure, the Red Rocker will keep cranking up his Les Paul in your face for as long as he is able to.
Opening the show on Hagar’s invitation was current Q107 radio jock Kim Mitchell. Mitchell no stranger to the stage as he fronted Max Webster and then went on to a successful solo career.
Joining Mitchell were his longtime bassist Peter Fredette who has played with him on every solo release. Drummer Chris Sutherland and former Honeymoon Suite keyboardist Ray Coburn rounded out the band.
“Rock N’ Roll Duty” got things underway for the forty minute set that also featured Webster’s “Battle Scar,” “Patio Lanterns,” “All We Are” and closer “Go For A Soda.” The latter perhaps being an answer to the old Hagar tune “Cruisin’ & Boozin.’”
Space Station #5/Rock Candy/Bad Motor Scooter
I Can’t Drive 55
There’s Only One Way To Rock
I’ll Fall In Love Again
Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy
Three Lock Box
Why Can’t This Be Love
Best Of Both Worlds
When It’s Love
Finish What Ya Started
Bad On Fords And Chevrolets