I’m convinced there is nobody cooler than Sammy Hagar. You may have followed him from his start in Montrose, jumped or board during his successful solo career, or maybe only discovered him during his Van Halen days. Or maybe more recently with his formation of his previous supergroup, Chickenfoot, and time with the Waboritas and his current group, The Circle. Perhaps you only know him from the four seasons of his popular Rock N’ Roll Road Trip series on AXS TV. However you were introduced, I’m sure you agree that Sammy is one genuine and cool dude.
What a treat to have my all-time favorite musician stop here again right in my town of Prior Lake, Minnesota just a week after the release of The Circle’s new album, Space Between. It was fun to get a group of tickets and attend with many of our best friends. We saw plenty of others doing the same. This was an outdoor concert at Mystic Lake Casino, held in their temporary amphitheatre with chairs set up on the grass of their Meadows Golf Course. May weather in Minnesota is unpredictable and the sunny and upper 70s weather of Thursday would unfortunately not hold on through Friday. In fact, Friday evening’s forecast called for rain by concert time and possibly heavier storms by the end of the evening. While we packed rain gear, one of my wimpier friends bailed and sold his tickets. Luckily for us (and not so much for him), the rain ended up holding off until the very end of the concert to allow us to enjoy a great night of Sammy Hagar.
First, it was the opener Vince Neil, lead singer of Motley Crue. Having recently watched the entertaining Netflix movie “The Dirt” it was great to hear Vince sing about ten of the band’s big hits after getting a hankering for some Motley Crue. We only caught the last half of the set, coming in hot from a baseball tournament. For several of the songs we heard, he invited fans to sing along or even take over the singing by themselves. While it certainly wasn’t like the full-band, full-pyro, arena shows that the Crue was famous for, it was still fun to hear their lead singer in person. Vince isn’t as young or as thin as he was in the heyday, but neither are your or I. It’s great to see him still playing music for us Motley Crue fans. (Note: No photographs were allowed for Vince Neil’s set.)
SAMMY HAGAR & THE CIRCLE
“Trust Fund Baby”, the first single from Space Between started the show with its music video playing behind the band. The video screen would be a key part of the concert as they would continue to use to enhance songs with both flashbacks to MTV-day videos or other entertaining backdrops.
Sammy next took us back to 1982 for the rock anthem “There’s Only One Way To Rock” and then 1983’s personal favorite “Three Lock Box” which both got fans singing along boisterously. A skinny Hagar in a red and black striped shirt was seen in the background during “Three Lock Box” and Sammy raised a toast to everyone here tonight during those same lyrics. During the show fans threw various items on stage and Sammy pretty much signed any item and threw back. I’m just not sure who all got their signed items back.
The journey made its first stop in Van Hagar-Land with the drilling guitar sounds of Vic Johnson tipping off fans to 1992’s “Poundcake”. This was from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, the third of four #1 albums during Hagar’s time with Van Halen. We had a request from our melt-from-a-raindrop friend to send video of this song, and begrudgingly did but mostly to point out the beautiful sunset and dry conditions. Meanwhile, during the “just an average guy” lyrics Sammy teasingly pointed out Michael who responded by flexing and kissing both biceps.
Sammy told the crowd that they were happy to be back (after last playing Mystic Lake in March 2018, indoors of course). He said he didn’t know this was a big outdoor show until he got here, but that we would make our own sunshine. Next, we went back to 1984 to the song I was telling my son about on the way from our baseball game to the show, “I Can’t Drive 55.” While I don’t think he appreciated it based on my description, I glanced over to see him rocking out with his friend as he enjoyed the hit song. It was so fun to relive the music video for the song with Sammy being handcuffed and arraigned in a comedic courtroom. Michael Anthony also sang one verse of the song and cleverly revised the lyrics to, “It took 16 hours to get to Mystic Lake Casino to party with you!” Sammy teased a female police officer near the stage, “What will you do when you pull me over? Hand cuff me? You will? Well I’ll be speeding about 20 minutes after the show so you better pull me over. I’ll see you then. Even the cops are cool around here!”
Next it was Chapter 3 from Space Between, “Can’t Hang”, which also featured the music video playing in the background. With Hagar referring to their songs as chapters of the album, he is referring to the songs being chapters of a complete conceptual piece meant to be listened to in its entirety. These chapters are based on concepts of money, greed, enlightenment and truth. Sammy later explained to us, “It’s not about the left or the right. It’s about the space between. That’s where the answer is.” Hopefully folks in this “Divided States of America” can learn to understand that too.
Backing up one Van Halen album to 1988’s OU812, it was “Finish What You Started” with its catchy guitar ensemble. Sammy teased Mikey that this was from 1988 not 1978 as he encouraged him to pick up the pace on his famous Jack Daniels bass guitar. And at the end, Sammy had to scream, “I want some p***y!” Hagar danced like a young kid to the intro of the next very familiar song. Anyone that’s been to a sporting event has heard “Right Now” played during crunch time. While it seems like it was written for those last-minute comebacks, the video played (which I remember being exactly the one from the 1992 concert) inspires us all to make a meaningful difference right now. It not only reminded us that right now we are surrounded by red heads but more importantly, right now someone is going hungry in our own town.
We learned now why guitarist Vic Johnson was uncustomarily seated for the show. Hagar introduced him as “Big Broke Vic Johnson” because Vic hurt his leg falling off the stage at a recent show. Hagar teased him about whether maybe he hurt another body part and when Vic said that body part was fine Sammy responded that’s not what Vic’s girlfriend said. Zing! The big Jimi Hendrix fan has been playing guitar with Sammy since joining the band in 1997 for the Marching to Mars tour. I still remember attending at Northrup Auditorium and being one of the best concerts I ever saw with its mix of Hagar and Halen songs. Sammy used to hold off on playing “Dreams” until the end as it shot his voice.
After Chapters 1 and 2 from the new album, “Devil Came to Philly” and “Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)”, Sammy took us back to where he said it really started for him: 1973, as the singer in Montrose. It was their classic song “Rock Candy” which many diehard fans were so happy to hear. Even Vic Johnson took a turn singing a verse of this before returning to what he does best. As Sammy says, “Vic can play with the best.”
Now it was back to Van Halen’s 5150 which consummated the marriage made in my music heaven of Sammy Hagar and Van Halen. I absolutely wore out this album during spring break in 1986 and for years thereafter. It still might be the one album I would take with me to a deserted island if ever forced to make that difficult decision. The song we heard was “Why Can’t This Be Love”. It was backed by some sexy skirt-lifting sketches on the video board as legal issues likely prevented any Van Halen footage or videos to be shown.
Hagar next turned to drummer Jason Bonham and asked him what was going on here. He told him the cool, soon-to-rain evening was like London weather. After disobeying rule #1, don’t give the microphone to the drummer, he did just that, saying “He’s so damn British!” After Jason thanked his famous father for blessing him with the gift of music, he thanked Hagar for taking him in five years ago when they formed The Circle. He described Hagar as the most humble and welcoming person he knows. He introduced his other fellow band members, Michael as the thunder down under and then Johnson with a proper introduction, saying, “From Red to Led, to the man that fell on his head.” Then Sammy grabbed the mike back and said, “Let’s play one for your Pop.” The cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” was a fan favorite and concluded with a fitting drum flurry by Jason Bonham.
I was happy we heard Hagar’s 1981 rocker “Heavy Metal” and then got a taste of The Waboritas with the fun party song, “Mas Tequila”. Sammy now sings it, “Mas Mezquila,” after his Santo Mezquila brand. He had the fans all chanting “Hey” to this but with it now sprinkling and heavier rain imminent, Hagar told announced they were told to stop playing and cut out their planned encore set. “But we have to play one more,” Sammy said and donned a rain coat to fight off the elements. While “Eagles Fly” and “Best of Both Worlds” got cut, the band played their most spirited song and climax of Space Between, Chapter 9, “Affirmation.” It was a fun musical journey and we all made it to our cars before anything heavier than a sprinkle. And no, we didn’t melt from a few raindrops.
Setlist: Trust Fund Baby / There’s Only One Way to Rock / Three Lock Box / Poundcake / I Can’t Drive 55 / Can’t Hang / Finish What Ya Started / Right Now / Devil Came to Philly / Full Circle Jam (Chump Change) / Rock Candy / Why Can’t This Be Love / Rock and Roll / Heavy Metal / Mas Tequila.