Concert Review: Sammy Hagar & The Circle


Rum, tequila and cover songs? Recipe for a great party and a Sammy Hagar concert.

Normal journalism rules say after the first mention of someone’s name to refer to them by their last name – however referring to Sammy Hagar as anything but Sammy seems far too formal for his tastes.

While Sammy’s name may have been at the top of the bill, this was a rock and roll celebration more about the music, the songs everyone loves, and the band rather than focusing on him. The band, The Circle, consists of Michael Anthony (from Van Halen) on bass, Vic Johnson on guitar (longtime guitarist for Sammy’s solo projects) and Jason Bonham on drums (son of John Bonham of Led Zeppelin) all of which brought their unique musical skillset and personality.

Often called the “Jimmy Buffett of hard rock”, Sammy embodied a carefree personality on stage that instantly transported the audience to what felt like a best friend’s party on the beach – where the friend was glad you showed up. Don’t let the carefree attitude fool you – he still has the vocal chops. And guitar chops too – taking lead on many songs. Empty glass? Want an autograph? Throughout the night (and throughout songs) Sammy would hand out drinks, fill up empty glasses with his rum and sign anything passed up to him (including a guitar at one point).

The setlist featured a little bit of everything from across his career – Montrose, solo work, a few Zeppelin tunes (where Bonham really shined) and of course Van Halen material. Highlights included a spot-on rendition of “When the Levee Breaks” featuring Sammy on lead guitar, and “Right Now” with its guitars and vocals sounding like it was the ’80s all over again.

Another standout of the evening was Anthony’s vocals – when discussing Van Halen and vocals it is usually all about “Dave vs. Sammy” but Anthony background vocals provide many of the soaring harmonies across the entire Van Halen career. The crowd was reminded by that every time him and Sammy harmonized creating a bit of vocal magic – and like Sammy his voice is still there.

Unlike some ex-band members of bands of yesterday, it was refreshing to see Sammy (and Anthony) embrace and talk about their Van Halen past instead of just playing one or two hit songs and then pretend it never happened. Even the night ended with the two of them forming the classic “V” logo with their hands before running off stage.

Closing out the encore with an acoustic version of “Dreams” and a powerful cover of Zep’s “Rock and Roll”, Sammy and the band appeared done but the crowd’s loud response brought the band back out to close the night with “When It’s Love” – a power ballad on paper, but surprisingly strong live.

Sometimes it isn’t about flashy production, but rather connecting with the audience as a friend in music. It’s hard to beat Sammy at that – but probably is made easy when everyone is drinking your brand of tequila and rum.


About Author

Living among the too-many-to-count theme parks of Orlando, FL, Andrew is always looking for an excuse to check out a show, buy some vinyl, modify (instead of play) his guitars, and eat food your mom would consider unhealthy.

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