Lots of people talk about having a rock and roll weekend. Sammy Hagar actually does something about it.
St. Louis' love affair with the Red Rocker, revisited Wednesday night with a surprise concert at the Side Door club, continued Friday night at Riverport Amphitheatre with a show that was long on pounding rock tunes, long on references to the singer's favorite drink (his own brand of tequila, naturally), and just plain long.
Hagar and his four-piece band played about 30 songs over the course of two hours and 45 minutes. But it seemed to go by quicker than that. Nearly every song played was up-tempo, keeping fans on their feet for the entire set.
The large crowd was certainly one of the rowdiest and most demonstrative of the year at Riverport. The fans roared their approval of Hagar's every move, seeming to sense that this was a very special show. Which it was, in more ways than one.
Hagar isn't actually on tour now; he planned this performance as a tryout for his fall road show, which will coincide with the release of his coming album, "Ten 13."
The concept of the show is a traveling beach party. Since not every member of the audience can visit Hagar's beloved Mexican getaway, Cabo San Lucas, Hagar has attempted to bring it to them.
Parts of the walkways around Riverport were covered in trucked-in sand, and those arriving early could participate in a game of volleyball, a strongman demonstration, or other activities.
The stage was fashioned to resemble an intimate south-of-the-border cantina. About five dozen fans selected before the show were allowed to stand on risers around the back of the stage, and Hagar interacted with them often, signing autographs, inviting them to sing along, and offering them the occasional swig of tequila. More than his material, which is meat-and-potatoes, classic rock, Hagar's generous attitude toward his fans is what makes him so endearing. All night long, he was pelted with a rummage sale's worth of T-shirts, hats, wigs and banners. Some performers would be put off by the annoyance, but Hagar thrived under the barrage. He gamely donned some of the clothing, and held up many of the signs and T-shirts.
"I'm so happy, I'm going to explode," he told the crowd at one point.
The fans responded in kind as Hagar played many of their favorites, including "I Can't Drive 55," "Red," "Three Lock Box," "There's Only One Way to Rock," and, of course, "Rock and Roll Weekend." He reached deep into the past for a couple of songs he recorded with Montrose, "Space Station #5" and "Rock Candy." He also played some hits from his more recent stint with Van Halen, including "Why Can't This Be Love" and "Standing on Top of the World."
There were also some songs from the coming album, including the pop metal "Deeper Kind of Love" and "A Little Bit More," which he played by himself on acoustic guitar. The music's so new, the band doesn't know it yet.
If the show had any weakness, it was a certain lack of variance: One rocker pretty much led to another, and there were only two slow songs to provide a change of pace. Of course, it's Hagar who holds "There's only one way to rock." For him, that's enough.
This review appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, written by Daniel Durchholz.