This had to be the most short notice concert that I have ever been to. A friend and I had wanted to go to the show but were unable to get tickets (we decided the night before). Miraculously, my uncle happened to text me the day of the show saying that his friend received two comp tickets from the Borgata Casino for the show that night and asked if I wanted to go. Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Atlantic City! What great luck we had, as this was not a show to miss. Sammy Hagar has lost nearly nothing in regards to his voice, and the set was out of this world. Additionally, the Borgata Event Center is a beautiful venue with fantastic acoustics.
Sammy Hagar took to the stage around 8:15 to the blistering “There’s Only One Way to Rock.” Surrounding Hagar was a true band of all-stars. It is amazing to think about how much talent he has played with through the years, from Montrose, to Van Halen, to Chickenfoot, and everything in between. Up there on this night was original Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony (who still belongs in Van Halen – sorry Wolfgang), son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, Jason Bonham, and guitarist for Sammy Hagar and the Wabos, Vic Johnson. With this fantastic lineup, the crowd was treated to songs from many different bands. After the opening number, there was a 1-2-3 punch of Montrose’s “Rock Candy,” Led Zeppelins “Good Times Bad Times,” and Van Halen’s “Poundcake.” Very few shows provide such a diverse array of brilliant music. And this here was arguably the greatest aspect of the show, you never knew what was coming up next! That opening beat to “Good Times Bad Times” sounds just as fresh today as it did in 1969.
The recognizable opening riff of “I Can’t Drive 55” was up next, leading to a great audience sing-a-long. 2500 people screaming out 55 is just an amazing sound. There’s nothing like the energy of a crowd singing together. After a bass solo from Michael Anthony, the audience was treated to another sing-a-long for the Van Halen classic “When It’s Love.” Diamond Dave may be the most recognizable singer for the mighty Van Halen, but the music Sammy did in the band was simply brilliant as well. Up next was probably my favorite number of the night, “Whole Lotta Love!” It was pretty surreal seeing Jason Bonham up there playing this number, and Sammy’s pipes allowed him to execute it perfectly. “Waayyyy down inside…WOMAN…youuuuu need…LOOOOVE!” What a great verse, executed perfectly.
A bit later, Jason Bonham was left alone on the stage to pay tribute to his father with Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.” On the screens behind him was his father, pounding away at his own drum set. What a cool thing to watch, father and son going at it. Can’t say I ever imagined having the chance to see this solo live. As the solo finished up, everyone returned to the stage to conquer the Van Halen hit “Why Can’t This Be Love.” Once again the audience was treated to a wonderful display of Sammy’s pipes. Next up was “Finish What Ya Started” which led nicely into “Heavy Metal,” another great audience sing-a-long. Another classic song that was definitely one of the highlights of the night. For some reason, hearing this song made me think back to James Durbin performing it with Zakk Wylde on American Idol. Vic Johnson’s guitar solo leading into “Best of Both Worlds” was next. He is a very underrated guitar player, flawlessly executing all of Ronnie Montrose’s, Eddie Van Halen’s, and Jimmy Page’s riffs and licks. I enjoyed his solo very much as well as his playing throughout the whole night. Walking off the stage before the encore, Jason Bonham proclaimed, “The louder you are, the longer we play!”
Returning to the stage the band broke into “Right Now,” my friend’s (who came to the show with me) favorite song from Van Hagar. The screen portrayed a kind of “spin-off” of the music video (which I think is brilliant) by saying things like “Right now people are starving in Atlantic City – and including a number to a local food bank.” I thought it was really nice that the guys did that. Next up was the Zeppelin number “Rock and Roll,” which was executed perfectly with the entire audience singing along to the “lonely, lonely, lonely time!” The show was finished off with an acoustic version of my personal favorite Hagar era Van Halen song, “Dreams.” I am pretty sure that Sammy himself has said that this is his favorite song he did with Van Halen as well. I personally prefer the electric version, but this was a nice way to round off what was a fun-filled, two hour show. That is pretty notable as well; usually at the casinos acts tend to play shorter sets.
I am so happy that I was able to get the opportunity to attend this show. It kicked off my three concerts in three days lineup (next up Billy Joel, then Kiss/Def Leppard). I would also love to point out how classy of a guy Sammy Hagar is. Every single hat, poster, etc. that he could grab from the crowd he would sign, often wearing people’s hats as well. Very few acts do this, and I think it was really awesome that he is in that exclusive group. It makes me respect him even more than I already did. I also cannot stress enough how great his voice still is, he was screaming the entire night and did not miss a beat! Michael Anthony also has an amazing voice still, often trading off verses with Hagar. Jason Bonham’s playing would certainly make his father proud, his grooves really helped set the mood for the whole night. Finally, I must say again that Vic Johnson is an outstanding guitar player that did all of the night’s songs justice. I would definitely recommend checking out the Journey Through the History of Rock Tour; you will be treated to some of rock’s greatest songs, executed flawlessly.