St. Louis Post Dispatch By: Michael Kuelker
So Sammy Hagar got thrown out of Van Halen. Big whoop. We knew he'd come back, like Rocky Balboa or Richard Nixon or the battery bunny. What'd you think he was going to do? Change his name to Haggard and pitch to a country audience? Not this Red Rocker. Hagar returned to St. Louis for the first time since his departure from Man Halen, playing for nearly three hours to an enthusiastic audience at Riverport Amphitheatre Friday night.
Helped by over-the-top promotion from KSHE radio, the show was a sell out. The love-lock between Hagar and St. Louis rock fans dates to shows he played as support on tours with Boston in the 1970's. Smiling and spirited from the word go, Hagar came out in red velour pants(it wasn't the only emblem on the 70's) and a red-and -white striped Rugby jersey and rocked to "Marching to Mars," the title song to his new album. He moved on to a signature cut, "There's Only One Way to Rock". From there it was another 20 songs or so of "heavy metal noise" until a lengthy encore sequence that didn't finish until shortly before midnight. Nothing is subtle, nothing is done without heart in a Hagar performance. It was in fact a faultless Hagar concert.Whatever Hagar period you like- and this crowd seemed to like them all - you got. Montrose, old solo Sammy, "Van Hagar" and new solo Sammy: The man sang and sang until he was done. He broke it up with chummy stage patter, repeatedly thanking St. Louisans for their support lo, these last 20 years and draping himself in the "Sammy Rules" banners which were repeatedly proffered to the stage.
Hagar's tight band, led by guitarist Victor Johnson, gave his material brawn and kick, and the light show was active but simple, just like the star, with strobes, fans of lights and heavy spots to punctuate and decorate. Radio standbys like "Red," "I Can't Drive 55," and "Right Now" were revisited with gusto.
Still, several of the new cuts the band performed demonstrated that Hagar is not simply rewriting his past. Taking a chance at being dubbed a wimp, he sang a ballad about the birth of his daughter as well as one that comes out against the death penalty. Even the flub on the old "Rock and Roll Weekend" worked in Hagar's favor. Dropped from his repertoire since 1980, the song was performed Friday night on a dare - and rather turgidly. Midway in the song, Hagar called it off and invited boos, if only to indicate, once again, that Sammy-in-St. Louis is not just another cookie-cutter performance. Hagar's whole show is about feeling like a teenager. In other words, a show bulletproof and impervious to criticism. It would seem silly rock - critic pomposity to approach it any other way.)
Thanks to Jane Steffens for transcribing this review.
Thanks to Chris Farrow for the set list!