St. Louis, MO March 13, 1999

'The Red Rocker,' Sammy Hagar stopped in St. Louis in the middle of his mini-tour of Hard Rock Cafés across the country; and the select few who were packed inside (the concert was only open to contest winners and members of the press) witnessed a monster of an event. Hagar and his band worked their way through his entire career--from the early days with Montrose, through his brand new solo album, Red Voodoo--even a few Van Halen tunes.

From the minute he and his band, The Waboritas, took to the stage, he could do no wrong. The enthusiastic crowd sounded like an audience on the Jerry Springer show, shouting "SAMMY! SAMMY!" at the top of their lungs between songs. After opening with "Cabo Wabo," the band launched into the song that's sure to be the party single for the summer, "Mas Tequila." The CD wasn't even due in the stores for 10 days, and the crowd knew every word.

There would be two more songs before Hagar would stop and talk to the audience--"There's Only One Way to Rock" and "I'll Fall in Love Again." The crowd loved every second; singing along, sometimes actually drowning out Sammy's vocals. St. Louis has always been a big town for Hagar, but even he wasn't ready for this kind of response. After the low point of the night, "Three Lock Box," Hagar kicked it back into high gear with the only other new song in the set, "High and Dry Again." The vocals on the first chorus were a bit off key, but the song rocked.

The first surprise of the night was a stripped down version of the Van Halen tune, "Right Now." With just piano, vocals & percussion, this was the beginning of a long string of highlights. As expected, "Rock and Roll Weekend" was the big crowd pleaser of the night--and the source of a good laugh too. Hagar told the crowd it was the first time they played it since the last time they were St. Louis, and aside from the problem with the intro, it sounded pretty good. Guitarist Victor Johnson couldn't quite get the opening riff down; so Sammy laughingly pushed him aside, picked up his guitar and showed him how to do it right.

Over the next 8 songs, the band never stopped. Hagar started playing the riff to "Who Do You Love" and it soon morphed its way through a medley of "Bo Diddley," "Mona" (in honor of Hagar's powerhouse bassist, and "the first lady of rock," Mona), and finally "Willie and the Hand Jive." By the time Sammy got to the Montrose classic, "Rock Candy," he was unstoppable. The crowd sang along on two more Van Halen tunes, "Why Can't This Be Love" and "Poundcake"--once again, drowning out the band. After "Poundcake," almost defying the crowd to cheer louder, Hagar launched into a blistering cover of "Whole Lotta Love."

Based on the crowd's reaction, song after song, you'd think they would be worn out by this point. Not a chance. "I Can't Drive 55" had everyone in the place jumping, and the air-guitarists at the Hard Rock were having the times of their lives. For the encore, Hagar went back to his eponymous solo album for a killer version of "Red," with a fierce solo by drummer David Lauser. At the end of the song, Hagar apologized for the short show and said, "We were only supposed to play for an hour, and I'm sure we've gone past that. When we come back next time, I'm sure we'll be back to our regular three-hour set."

Hagar's full-fledged tour starts May 1. After more than 25 years in the business, Sammy Hagar shows no signs of slowing down. Some may argue that the newer material doesn't compare to the older stuff, but you'd have a helluva time convincing the crowd at the Hard Rock. If you're already a fan, you're probably kicking yourself if you were unable to catch one of these 'pre-tour' shows. If you're one of the few people who haven't witnessed Sammy in concert, be sure to check him out on his upcoming tour and find out what you've been missing.

© 1999 Steve Marshall
Photographs - © 1999 Lauren Marshall