Sammy Hagar Live in San Francisco

Sammy Hagar
America’s Cup Pavilion, San Francisco
September 7, 2013

By Dan Wall

Set List (Montrose)
Space Station #5, Rock the Nation, Rock Candy, Bad Motor Scooter, Make it Last (with Dave Meniketti, Denny Carmassi, Bill Church),

Set List: (Hagar)
Red, I Can’t Drive 55, One Way to Rock, I’ll Fall in Love Again, You’re Love is Driving Me Crazy, Three Lock Box (with Waboritas).

Set List: (Van Hagar)
Right Now, Why Can’t This Be Love, Best of Both Worlds, When it’s Love, Finish What You Started (with Michael Anthony).

More Set List:
Heavy Metal, Mas Tequila, Knock Down Drag Out.

Eagles Fly, Bad On Fords and Chevrolets. 2 hours.

Sammy Hagar is back out on the road this summer, playing an extended show that celebrates everything that is good about Hagar’s lengthy career-Montrose, Van Halen, the Waboritas, the Cabo Wabo (both the club and his signature brand of tequila) and his nutcase fan base, who would follow the San Francisco legend into the chilly waters of the bay if he asked them to go.

The current tour is billed as “Four Decades of Rock,” and that’s exactly what the crowd got, although it would be foolish to think Hagar could cram everything you might want to hear into a mere two hours. He did the best he could with the time he had, however, and would have been celebrating another total triumph in the Bay Area if the pro-sound hadn’t been so poor (more on that later).

I’ve been lucky enough to see Hagar at least 50 times, and this ranges all the way back to his first-ever solo appearance in 1975 at San Francisco’s Winterland to Van Hagar to HSAS and everything in between. Despite the fact that this wasn’t the best show out of those 50 or so times, Hagar still provides a great night of entertainment that still seems fresh each time out. The current show has been extended this year to include a set by his first band Montrose (with Y & T guitarist and fellow Bay Area legend Dave Meniketti sitting in for Ronnie on this night), the Wabos and his drinking and playing buddy Michael Anthony.

It is clearly Sammy’s show, however, and he makes the stage into his own personal playground. He is obviously the star, whether Meniketti is onstage ripping up the Montrose stuff (clearly the highlight of the evening), or Anthony is playfully bouncing around like he did in the VH days.

His backing band is as good as any, and seems to get tighter each time I see them. I’ve commented many times about Vic Johnson’s prowess, but the lanky guitarist can play the licks of all of Hagar’s former running buddies with equal aplomb (he didn’t get a chance to play Ronnie’s stuff on this night). Bassist Mona and drummer David Lauser are solid, and you’d have to be, to make the whole thing work in front of Sammy who is a constant blur of motion, energy and enthusiasm.

My main complaint with this show (and the reason it wasn’t as good as many others he’s done in this area) was the sound, which was, quite frankly, horrible. The whole set sounded like a vintage Hagar concert with a huge, wet blanket thrown over it. There wasn’t much Hagar or his soundman could do about it either, because this venue, built for this summer only on the piers near Fisherman’s Wharf, is located just blocks from actual homes, and the residents have obviously made a stink about the noise.

It was turned down so low in our section that the last two rows virtually disappeared after the second song. Did they all leave? No, I found most of them in other areas of the pavilion, trying to find a place where the sound was better. It was better near the soundboard, but you had to have a ticket to get there, so most of those with the same opinion of the sound as I had crowded around various exits and breaks in the bleachers so they could hear better. Actually seeing the show from those vantage points, well, that’s a whole other problem. Most of the comments I heard were,”… it was a great set, a fun show, and the sound sucked.” So I guess most of those in attendance (aside from those who paid over 100 bucks to sit down front) agreed with me.

It’s sad, really, because the SF Bay Area made Hagar (and Montrose). Before most of the country had ever heard of our hero, he was opening shows (with both Montrose in ‘73 and as a solo artist) for Bill Graham at Winterland. He made the leap to solo superstar and headlined a Day on the Green at the Oakland Coliseum in front of over 50,000 stoned and screaming fans, and has performed many shows with Van Halen and the Wabos at all of the area’s top venues. After seeing this show, one can only hope he returns to the amphitheaters in Concord or Mountain View, CA, where the sound is not muted and a heavy rock show is still welcome.