Sammy Hagar brought his super group – The Circle – to The Mann Center in Philadelphia, PA on Monday, September 25th. The Mann Center is a great place to see a concert, and this show was no exception. While the crowd was a bit small, that probably was due to the show being on a Monday night in late September. For those of us that were there, Sammy and his band did not disappoint.
As a caveat to this article, Sammy’s music is not my normal genre. In the 1980’s and 90’s, I was listening to bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode, not Van Halen or Collective Soul. However, I have a deep appreciation for the musical talent that was on that stage. While I might not be familiar with all of the songs, I can appreciate a good show!
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While you might not recognize the name Drew Hagus, you might recognize his real name – Andrew Hagar. Yes, that’s right. Hagar. As in Sammy Hagar. As in Sammy’s son!
Drew describes his brand of music as “lyrics driven garage-folk”. He is normally backed up by his band, which he calls The Brothers Hagus, and includes his brother Aaron. Other members of the band include Jon “Jono” Lopez (drums, percussion), Franco Piras (bass guitar) and “Shredmaster” Scott Manthei (lead guitar).
Drew took the stage right at 7:00 p.m. He played solo without his band – just Drew on a chair with his guitar and a microphone.
Drew’s music is on the slower side. He seems to be more about the lyrics and the music, than about the performance. Unfortunately, that results in the music falling flat in a large live music venue. I think the low-key performance made it a struggle for Drew to keep the audience’s attention.
Drew mostly played his own original songs. He also did a cover of an Oasis song that I was not familiar with, as well as a cover of Radiohead’s “High and Dry”. Drew wrapped up his set at 7:25 p.m.
Seeing Collective Soul as an opening act is a little strange, when they’ve had such an illustrious career. The band is based out of Atlanta and consists of Ed Roland (lead vocals), Dean Roland (rhythm guitar), Will Turpin (bass), Johnny Rabb (drums) and Jesse Triplett (lead guitar).
After graduating from the Berklee College of Music, Ed Roland began working as a musician in the Atlanta music scene in the mid-1980’s. By the early 1990’s, Roland’s previous collaborations had fallen apart, and he recorded a demo of a song in his basement. That song was called “Shine”. The demo made it into the hands of some radio stations, and got in the regular rotation. After the song became popular, Ed Roland enlisted some fellow musicians (including his brother) and formed a band that could play some live shows. In the meantime, Atlantic Records took note of the popularity of “Shine”, and signed Collective Soul to a record deal.
Shortly after signing with Atlantic Records, the band re-released their 1993 demo – now titled “Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid” – as their first studio album.
Since that first album, Collective Soul have released eight more studio albums over the years, including their latest in 2015 – “See What You Started By Continuing”. Those albums have included a number of hits, which have helped Collective Soul remain a relevant band over the last 20 plus years. They are currently working on their 10th album, which they plan to release in March of 2018. You can download their greatest hits albums here: http://amzn.to/2yUSqO9
With Drew Hagus leaving the stage at 7:25 p.m., I was surprised when the house lights went down again right at 7:30 p.m. and Collective Soul took the stage. Ed Roland, dressed all in white, took the stage with the rest of the band, and went right into “Heavy” followed by “Why, Pt 2”. Both are recognizable Collective Soul hits, even for the casual fan.
Roland then moved over to the keyboard, and the band launched into “Shine”. Collective Soul did a good job of including all their hits into a short set. This allowed people to hear the songs they knew, even if they didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the band.
Towards the end of the set, Roland talked about the new album the band was working on, and introduced a new song called “Right as Rain”. They wrapped up their set with crowd favorites “Where the River Flows” and “Run”.
Collective Soul has been performing for decades, and you can see that in how they work the crowd. Their performance was full of energy. While the music itself was strong, I felt that Roland’s voice has lost something. He seemed to speak a lot of the words rather than sing them. They wrapped up their set at 8:30 p.m.
Collective Soul is on the road supporting Sammy Hagar this fall. For more information on the band, check out their website at www.collectivesoul.com.
Set List: Heavy, Why Pt 2, Shine, Better Now, Are You the Answer, The World I Know, December, Right As Rain, Where the River Flows, Run
SAMMY HAGAR & THE CIRCLE
So, Sammy Hagar alone is a legend in the rock n’ roll world. When you add his new super group The Circle to the mix, you have gone to rock gods level. The Circle is made up of Michael Anthony (long time bassist for Van Halen and Chickenfoot), Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin’s iconic drummer, John Bonham), and Vic Johnson (Hagar’s longtime guitar virtuoso).
Sammy Hagar (aka Samuel Roy Hagar; aka The Red Rocker) first hit the music scene in the 1970s with hard rock band Montrose. When that band broke up, Sammy launched a successful solo career in 1976, that lasted through the mid-80’s and culminated with his big hit – “I Can’t Drive 55” – in 1984.
Around the same time, Van Halen and long-time lead vocalist David Lee Roth, had parted ways. The band wanted to continue, and they began searching for a new lead singer. Eddie Van Halen was familiar with Montrose and asked Sammy to audition for the job. They hired Sammy in July of 1985. During the “Van Hager” years, the band produced four multi-platinum albums – 5150, OU812, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and Balance.
By the mid-90’s, Sammy was not getting along with the rest of Van Halen. There were several disagreements, culminating in a dispute involving the birth of Sammy’s baby, and Eddie Van Halen’s insistence that he come back to Los Angeles to be back in the studio. Sammy says he was fired. Eddie says he quit. Either way, Sammy and Van Halen parted ways in June of 1996.
After his departure from Van Halen, Sammy continued on with his solo career, backed up by his band called The Waboritas. Despite the tense split with Van Halen, Sammy reached out to Alex Van Halen in 2003. In 2004, Hagar joined the band again for a tour. They also released a 2-CD “greatest hits” album called “Best of Both Worlds”. You can download the album here: http://amzn.to/2zgdqSN
Unfortunately, things started going downhill during the tour, partly attributed to Eddie Van Halen’s alcoholism. The relationship got so strained, that they had to charter two planes to take them to each show – one for Sammy and Michael Anthony, and one for the Eddie and Alex. The tour ended with the infamous last show in Tucson, AZ, when Eddie smashed his guitar on stage, sending shrapnel into the audience. That was the last straw for Sammy, and he once again left the band.
In addition to Sammy’s solo career, he’s created two super groups. The first – Chickenfoot – was formed in 2008 and consists of Michael Anthony, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer), and Joe Satriani. The second super group is The Circle, which is the band he is currently on tour with.
I had heard from others, that any Sammy Hagar concert is a big party, and this show was no exception. At 8:58 p.m., the house lights went down and a video popped up on the screen, which covered the four decades Sammy has been making music.
In general, the show was a great mix of songs – both from various time periods as well as from the various “forms” that Sammy has taken (solo artist, Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot, and The Circle). The show kicked off with “There’s Only One Way to Rock” (which is a Sammy song) and went straight into “Poundcake” (which is a Van Halen song).
Sammy and the band cranked out the first three songs before he addressed the crowd. He introduced “Rock Candy”, by telling the crowd that he was taking us back to 1972 and his first band, Montrose. During the song, the video playing in the background showed a very young Sammy and the rest of Montrose.
Sammy spoke to the crowd about why his band was called The Circle. He explained that they love to play music, and they start all the way back with the Montrose songs, and cover everything in a big circle up to today. Sammy thanked the crowd for coming out and “celebrating Monday” with us, and then launched into “I Can’t Drive 55”. Sammy and Michael Anthony alternated singing the verses of the song, which they did throughout the evening.
One of the more poignant moments of the show was when the band played “Right Now”. During the song, the video screen showed pictures with little quips such as “Right now, people in your community are going hungry”. My personal favorite was a picture of the crowd with the words “Right now these are your memories for tomorrow”.
After “Right Now”, Sammy said it was “double shot Monday”, and the band played another Van Halen monster hit – “Why Can’t This Be Love”.
Throughout the show, Sammy was not shy about the fact that he was drinking from a bottle of his tequila. He also shared it with the other guys, as well as fans in the front row. As the show went on and the tequila flowed, it appeared that the guys were having more and more fun. Sammy, Michael, and Vic even formed a mini conga line at the start of “Best of Both Worlds”.
As the show started to wind down, Sammy got more talkative (or maybe it was the tequila!). Sammy talked about how he wrote the next song after one of his birthdays, and with his new liquor he was changing the name to “Mas Mezquila” instead of “Mas Tequila”. He asked the crowd to go along and change the words as they sang along.
At 10:20 p.m., the guys took a little break and sat down in front of the drums. Sammy talked about the birthday bash that he has every year at his place in Cabo. He said so many people want to attend, and there isn’t enough room. So this year, as it’s his 70th birthday, they are going to be making a documentary about it that will be coming out December 5th.
As Sammy introduced “When It’s Love”, he talked about how he had met a couple earlier in the day. Sammy did a meet and greet at a local liquor store. For 125 lucky fans that purchased his tequila, Sammy met them, gave autographs and took pictures. Sammy said one guy handed him a letter about his girlfriend, and asked Sammy if he would read it on stage. Sammy joked about how it was only a 2 hour show, and he couldn’t read the whole thing, but he gave the couple a shout out and pointed to them in the crowd.
Ironically, we had met that couple in the parking lot before the show. They were parked next to us and were clearly big Sammy fans. They told us how they met Sammy earlier in the day during a meet and greet, and asked Sammy if he would read a letter the guy had given him. The guy even let us read a copy of the letter. They both seemed pretty confident that Sammy had promised to read it, so he would. Our group nodded at them encouragingly, but never thought Sammy would read the letter on stage. I guess we were all wrong! So cool, and what a great memory for them!
The show wrapped up with Sammy talking about Jason Bonham and Jason’s dad (legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham). Sammy told Jason to play the next song like he never had before, and they launched into the Led Zeppelin classic “Rock and Roll”.
The high energy show ended on a slower note. Only Sammy and Vic remained on stage. Sammy talked about how he had written the next song with Eddie Van Halen, and at the time, never imagined he’d still be on stage today singing these songs. The show wrapped up with Sammy and Vic doing an amazing version of Van Halen’s “Dreams”.
This was an amazing night of music! Sammy’s voice is still very strong. The other guys on stage are rock legends/geniuses. It’s too bad that the crowd was light on a Monday night, because this show is a rare opportunity to see some of the most talented and legendary musicians in rock.
In addition to his music, Sammy is quite the businessman. You can find out about all of his products, television shows, books, and his music on his website – www.redrocker.com.
Set List: There’s Only One Way to Rock (Sammy cover), Poundcake (Van Halen cover), Good Times Bad Times (Led Zeppelin cover), Rock Candy (Montrose cover), I Can’t Drive 55 (Sammy cover), Sexy Little Thing (Chickenfoot cover), Right Now (Van Halen cover), Why Can’t This Be Love (Van Halen cover), Little White Lie (Sammy cover), When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy cover), Best of Both Worlds (Van Halen cover), Heavy Metal (Sammy cover), Mas Mezquila (Sammy Hagar and the Wabos cover), When It’s Love (Van Halen cover), Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin cover), Dreams (Van Halen cover)
Have questions about seeing a show at The Mann Center? Want to know more about the Sammy Hagar & The Circle show? Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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