Sammy Hagar, the “Red Rocker” and former frontman of Van Halen, may have created more so-called “supergroups” in recent rock memory than any other musician.
He is bringing his latest — Sammy Hagar & The Circle — to the AVA at Casino del Sol on Friday, June 10.
Hagar joins former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, long-time Hagar guitarist Vic Johnson and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
“Jason sounds like John Bonham. He sounds exactly like him to the point that it’s scary when my back is to him and he kicks off Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll,’” Hagar said during a phone call from California last week. “It is not only the exact same feel and same tempo, it’s the sound of every drum and the way he hits the cymbals.”
John Bonham continues to influence and inspire legions of drummers long after his 1980 death from a drug overdose.
“You ask any drummer who they admire the most and they all say John Bonham. All of them try to sound like John Bonham,” Hagar said. “(Jason) really understands drums; he’s a great, great drummer and he’s come a long way to become Jason Bonham, not John Bonham’s son.”
The Circle is the follow-up to Hagar’s 2008 project Chickenfoot, a group that featured Hagar on lead vocals, Anthony on bass, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani. The group is still together and performs occasionally, including a pair of Nevada shows in early May and a show in 2012 at the AVA.
“What happens is when I get bored being Sammy Hagar and doing everything my way and I get stagnant in my creativity, I put together a bunch of guys who inspire me and I have to tighten my belt to keep up with — someone like a Joe Satriani or Chad Smith. I was running to keep up, and I like that. It makes me grow and makes me a better musician,” explained the 68-year-old Hagar, who has been on Tucson stages in almost every incarnation of his career.
That includes performing with his band the Waboritas in late 1999 at the Arizona Sunset Pavilion parking lot venue (at the former New West and Gotham in Marana) and the final two shows of the Van Halen reunion tour at the AVA in 2004.
The Circle draws from Hagar’s solo repertoire and his early band Montrose, as well as from Van Halen, Chickenfoot and Led Zeppelin. The set list could include “Mas Tequila,” “Heavy Metal” and “I Can’t Drive 55” from his solo catalogue; covers of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and “Rock and Roll;” Montrose’s “Rock Candy;”and a handful of Van Halen songs, including “Poundcake,” “Dreams” and “Right Now.”
“When you’ve got Led Zeppelin, Sammy solo, Chickenfoot, Van Halen, Montrose all on one night — it’s a rocker’s dream set list,” Hagar said. “If there is one song on that set list that you go, ‘Ah, that’s boring,’ I’ll give your money back. There ain’t no fat on this show; all classic hits.”
Friday’s show is the second of 2016 for The Circle, which will do another eight shows between now and summer’s end. Hagar, who early in his career clocked 120 or more shows a year, said the schedule is not so much him slowing down as him taking stock.
“I only go play when I really want to play, and when you really want to play, that’s when you have the most fun,” said Hagar, whose other interests including making his own Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, which he will likely be drinking during Friday’s show. “I pay my band really well so that they are happy, and I just go out there not for the money but because I really want to do it. I gotta tell you that’s the reason at my age I’m still good. I hate to say the word good; I wanna say the word great. ... You see somebody doing 120 shows every year, and they’re worn out. At my age, you can’t do that and be great every night. You can’t.”