Hagar, Roth: And the winner is ...

June 18, 2002

June 18, 2002

Hagar, Roth: And the winner is ...
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

Settle into your seats, fight fans. The heavyweight matchup to decide who is
the greatest former lead singer of Van Halen is about to begin.

From the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion under a gorgeous night sky, the
8,000 fans of classic pop metal in attendance Sunday couldn't have asked for
better conditions.

In one corner was "Diamond" David Lee Roth. The original Van Halen frontman,
Diamond Dave's bravado helped make the group a mid-'80s rock giant. His most
lethal weapons are roundhouse kicks and arrogant smirks.

In the opposite corner is "the Red Rocker," Sammy Hagar. Hagar had a
well-established solo career prior to taking over the Van Halen microphone.
He led the band through its most prosperous decade before finding the exit
in 1995.

This co-headlining tour is the first time Roth and Hagar have gone
head-to-head. As the $32 T-shirt at the concourse booth asks, "Who will be
left standing?"

Round 1: Even before the match began, there was chaos on the stage. The two
performers each boasted a 90-minute set, and had been flip-flopping who
opens and closes in each city. Houston was supposed to feature Hagar first,
but the drum roll beat of Hot For Teacher was definitely the calling card of
Diamond Dave.

Roth drew first blood with a solid three-song combination to open the show.
Hot For Teacher was followed by Panama, another gem from his Van Halen swan
song 1984. The crusher was the battle cry of early hit And the Cradle Will

Hagar appeared a little intimidated by Roth's powerful opening. He avoided
his best Van Halen punches early, starting his set with Red and Three Lock
Box, two early solo anthem staples. Still, Hagar appeared afraid of the Van
Halen mystique -- giving the round to Roth.

Round 2: It turned out Hagar was just lulling Roth into a false sense of
security. Beginning with perhaps his greatest gear-shifting, solo
sing-along, There's Only One Way to Rock, Hagar unleashed a series of Van
Halen haymakers.

The bubbling bass and drum beat of Why Can't This Be Love? stirred the crowd
into a frenzy of electric nostalgia. The drill press melody of Poundcake
could have made for an early TKO, but his scratchy screams on Runaround were
like smelling salts for Roth.

For playing his own electric guitar (something Roth only tried for a few
minutes to introduce Ice Cream Man) through most all these songs, Hagar took
the round.

Round 3: With the exception of the schlocky Yankee Rose, Roth's post-Van
Halen solo career was ignored in favor of early Van Halen (the decision to
skip Just a Gigolo was looked upon favorably by ringside judges).

His pomp and swagger were briefly well-served on Dance the Night Away and
the dark sulking tempo of Runnin' With the Devil. Roth took this round for
strategic song selection.

Round 4: Hagar looked in trouble, dredging up the overlong solo ballad
Eagles Fly, but Roth countered meekly with the beer commercial catcalls of
Beautiful Girls and second-rate cover of the Kinks You Really Got Me. Round
to Hagar.

Round 5: In desperation, Roth unfurled a striking Ain't Talkin' Bout Love,
followed by the synthesized pomp of Jump. He threw his first roundhouse kick
to get off the ground.

The Red Rocker pulled out his secret rock 'n' roll weapons: fast cars and
alcohol (not to be used together, of course).

Pouring himself a Blue Curacao "Waborita," he toasted the crowd with recent
party jam Mas Tequila, then slammed them with mid-'80s solo rebel salute, I
Can't Drive 55. The Houston crowd, which drove 25 miles to The Woodlands,
could relate.

The knock-out punch was Hagar's own set ending, synth-laden Van Halen
heart-tugger Dreams. It left Roth writhing in his spandex and the crowd
partying with Sammy.
Ladies and gentleman, the greatest former lead singer of Van Halen is: Sammy
"the Red Rocker" Hagar.