Celebrating 40-plus years on the rock scene, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sammy Hagar hit the stage in San Francisco on Saturday night before a crowd of thousands of enthusiastic fans.
Playing the America’s Cup Pavilion, the Red Rocker blazed through a set spanning most of his career, starting out with Montrose songs, then on to his solo material, through his stint with Van Halen, and up through his current output.
Sporting his signature shaggy hair and shades look, Hagar kicked off his set with several tunes from his first successful band, the Bay Area-based Montrose, for whom he sang back in the early 1970s.
Taking to the stage with two of his former Montrose bandmates, Bill Church and Denny Carmassi, along Y&T guitarist Dave Meniketti, who was filling in for the late Ronnie Montrose, Hagar ran back and forth, pumping up the audience with classic cuts like “Rock Candy” and “Bad Motor Scooter.”
When his current backing group took over, Hagar wasted no time in getting to some of his early signature solo hits, running through “Red” and then “I Can’t Drive 55,” which got fans — many of whom looked to have been following him since the beginning — singing along and dancing around, much to the chagrin of the bouncers, who seemed intent on keeping people firmly planted in front of their assigned seats.
The seating situation was one of the drawbacks to the temporary venue, or at least how it was configured for this particular show; you could tell lots of fans wanted to dance around and let loose, which is hard to do when you’re surrounded a sea of metal folding chairs and security forces keeping a watchful eye on everything.
Otherwise, the outdoor amphitheater located along the city’s waterfront was an ideal location for the concert — it definitely helped that it was one of those great late summer/early fall days and nights in San Francisco, where the sun was out all day, and the fog held off rolling in until the show was nearly over.
Landmarks like the the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower provided a stunning backdrop to watching Hagar traverse the stage, at times bounding around and encouraging the crowd the yell or sing along, at others picking up a guitar and reminding concertgoers that he is also a formidable six string slinger in addition to being one of the best known singers in the realm of classic rock.
And that voice still sounds as strong as ever, belting out more hits such as “There’s Only One Way To Rock,” “Why Can’t This Be Love,” and “Heavy Metal” among others.
Hagar’s old cohort in Van Halen, Michael Anthony, joined in on bass for several tunes, eliciting a roar of approval when he appeared on stage and bantered back and forth with Hagar, who plied him with a bottle of liquor and tried to convince him to move out of LA to join him here in the Bay Area.
While playing one of Van Halen’s hits, “Right Now,” a video montage appeared on a giant screen behind the band, culling parts of the vintage video clip and adding a few newer additions. One said, “Right Now…People are hungry in San Francisco,” with the words “You Can Help” and shared the website for the San Francisco Food Bank — keeping with the fact that Hagar himself had previously announced that he would donate money to a couple of local charities when he made this tour stop.
Although it seemed he needed no extra help in winning over the crowd’s admiration, Hagar also scored some hometown points when he took a moment to tell everyone how he had “moved to San Francisco back in 1968 with a suitcase, a guitar, and about $5 in my pocket — and I’ve lived here ever since!”
He then added that in recent interviews everyone has been asking him, “When are you going to retire?”
“I tell them I retired when I moved here and started playing music!”