Sammy Hagar
& Michael Anthony
at Toyota Pavilion,
Scranton, PA
(2 July 2006)

Sammy Hagar loves Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, so much that he brought it with him on tour. Well, maybe not all of Cabo. Just a few palm trees, a backdrop scene of sand and sea, bottles of his personal brand of tequila and bikini-clad waitresses serving frosty glasses of liquid refreshment. For one night, he turned a Pocono mountainside into a tropical paradise. And that was before he even took the stage. Once in the house, he left no doubt that good old American rock was the order of the day.

Hagar is hands-down the fan-friendliest performer in popular music. Backed up by Vic Johnson on lead guitar, David Hauser on drums, Mona on bass guitar and Gibby on percussion, Sammy interacts with people much more than most rockers would feel comfortable with. Who else would invite 50 fans to serve as an onstage audience behind the band? Who else would autograph fan t-shirts while belting out lyrics and rarely missing a cue? (Terrell Owens' Sharpie should get such a workout!) Who else would wrap himself up in every homemade bedsheet sign that gets tossed onstage? And it's easy for the fans to give that appreciation back by bellowing along with the catch-phrase choruses of the songs, most being a testimony to testosterone: "Mas Tequila," "Three Lock Box," "There's Only One Way to Rock," "Red," "Your Love is Driving Me Crazy," "Little White Lie," "I Can't Drive 55," "Heavy Metal," "Hot, Sweet & Sticky" (from "Rock Candy") and the ever-popular crowd-pleaser, "Everybody Must Get Stoned" (a cover of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.")

The 2006 tour promotes Hagar's new album, Livin' It Up, released this year. Three cuts from the album were introduced this evening: "Mexico," which was heard just before the curtain opened; "Sam I Am," which Sammy punched out while wearing a semi-Seussical red-and-white-striped top hat with matching boa; and "I'll Take You There," a cover of the 1972 Staple Singers classic.

After a brief intermission, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony emerged out of a cloud of dry-ice mist, picking and pounding his guitar to the audience's delight. His opening solo ended when he lifted the instrument to his mouth and bit out the introductory beats of "Runnin' with the Devil," as Hagar and his band returned to join him. Together they followed up that hit with "Top of the World," "Why Can't This Be Love?" "Runaround" and "The Best of Both Worlds."

The true jewel of the evening came as Vic Johnson lightly strummed the background of "Right Now" on his guitar. Gone was the traditional prerecorded piano intro and the flashy insistent video that had accompanied the song on past tour performances. Now the music flowed with melodic tones that emphasized the lyrical message. Sammy delivered it almost entirely while lying on his stomach at the edge of the stage, autographing fan paraphernalia.

The crowd expected the concert to last for three hours, since Hagar made that prediction in a local newspaper interview and then later repeated it on stage. He even jested that running past 11 p.m. would result in a hefty per-minute fine, but one he could easily afford. So everyone was surprised when the music ended before 10:30 p.m. with the 1987 Beastie Boys hit,"(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party)." The group threw in a quick a cappella chorus of "Cabo Wabo" before taking a bow and leaving the stage. Most people in attendance were in the mood for two or three additional tunes, and they walked down the mountain or back to their cars wanting more.

And yet: Sammy Hagar still knows only one way to rock, and that's at full throttle. Concert-goers can't help but get caught up in his frenzy.

(Thanks to Tim Gaul of Scranton for supplying information for this review.)

by Corinne H. Smith
2 September 2006

[ visit Sammy Hagar's website ]

[ visit Michael Anthony's website ]