Red Rocker Sammy Hagar ‘Circles’ back to Lake Tahoe


During his annual visit, Sammy Hagar rocks Harveys on Aug. 26, 2016.
Photos by Jim Grant/ Harrah’s and Harveys

An honorary South Shore resident, Sammy Hagar and his band The Circle rocked 5,000 Redheads at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys on Friday.

Las Vegas rock band The Garage Boys opened the evening’s entertainment, playing a handful of original and cover tunes. The group closed with “Black Betty” by Ram Jam, as the last rays of sunset began to fade over the Tahoe basin and thronging fans poured into the venue.

All eyes turned to the stage as a montage of music videos and interviews from Hagar’s career roared over the sound system, heralding the arrival of the well-known frontman and guitarist. The Circle strode out minutes later, Hagar introducing Michael Anthony (bass), Vic Johnson (guitar), and Jason Bonham (drums).

The high-energy group opened with a torrent of power chords, swelling bass, and crashing drums that quickly swelled into Hagar’s hit “There’s Only One Way to Rock.”

The Red Rocker was full of life, as always, running back and forth across the stage in black shirt and sunglasses, hyping up the crowd.

“I love you guys,” he called. “Same time and place every year. Now we know what we’re doing, now we know what we’re here for, you know what I mean?”

Fans roared, hands and Smartphone cameras held high to the sky.

The Circle put on a tour de force performance of ’80s era hard rock, filling the night air with overdriven guitar arpeggios, underscored by Bonham’s high octane drums and Anthony’s thumping bass.

These cats know what they’re doing, as well. Longtime Van Halen bassist, Anthony also plays with Hagar in Chickenfoot, his other supergroup. Johnson played with rock and soul band the Busboys, as well as with Hagar’s Waboritas. Bonham is the son of famed Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, and has filled his father’s role with the legendary rock group on a number of occasions, as well as recreating their music with his band, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.

The group paid homage to Led Zeppelin, cranking out  an uptempo version of “Good Times Bad Times,” with Johnson tearing through Page’s cascading guitar notes in guitar tones of Van Halen’s era.

The night featured Hagar’s playful musings and banter with the audience. The Red Rocker paced the stage at one point with a red plastic cup pinched between thumb and forefinger, as a red balloon bounced on the outstretched hands of fans below him.

“Remember last time, I lost my voice (two years ago)? I’m going to redeem myself this time. I’m going to redeem myself. I’ll drink to that. Oh wait, that’s how I fucked up last time,” he said, as the band launched into the opening notes of Van Halen’s “Poundcake.”

Hagar’s country pal Toby Keith, who is on a golf vacation with family and friends, made a surprise appearance for two cover songs, Bob Seger’s “Fire Down Below” and The Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”

“Toby Keith showed up last minute,” Hagar said on his blog. “Oh Lord, let there be rum. … And there was.”

At one point, the gregarious frontman began to delve into family matters, before veering away from the topic. His son Aaron, who lives in town, also made a surprise appearance and sang an acoustic duet with his dad of “Eagles Fly.”

Aaron Hagar said he had no idea that he would be called onstage.

“Dad can be very spontaneous and generous with such invitations,” he said. “I was running around filming and documenting his show when Vic motioned for me to come onstage. I thought a GoPro got bumped or something. Then dad gave me that glance. It’s such an honor to entertain the fans and sing at Dad’s side. I’m not sure it gets any better than that.”

The Circle played a wide variety of vintage stadium rock, with the audience throwing up a wave of cheers as well-known guitar riffs announced each new tune. Hagar grabbed a burgundy-red Gibson Les Paul for a rendition of fan favorite “I Can’t Drive 55,” as vintage music video footage played behind him.

All told, it was an excellent night of high energy rock, delivered in Hagar’s signature style.

“As the night goes on and I get a little drunker, I’ll tell you a little more,” he said with a chuckle.

As it always does, the after-party continued inside at Cabo Wabo Lake Tahoe.

“Phew. Tahoe you rock!” Hagar noted.

Related story: Garage Boys set up shop in Lake Tahoe. LINK

Related story: Tahoe family jam with Sammy Hagar, Kris Kristofferson. LINK

  • Sammy Hagar & The Circle
    Aug. 26, 2016
    Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena
    Stateline, Nevada
  1. There’s Only One Way to Rock
  2. Rock Candy (Montrose cover)
  3. Good Times Bad Times (Led Zeppelin cover)
  4. Poundcake (Van Halen cover)
  5. I Can’t Drive 55
  6. Runaround (Van Halen cover)
  7. Right Now (Van Halen cover)
  8. Little White Lie
  9. When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy cover)
  10. Why Can’t This Be Love (Van Halen cover)
  11. Fire Down Below w/ Toby Keith (Bob Seger cover)
  12. Keep Your Hands To Yourself w/ Toby Keith (The Georgia Satellites cover)
  13. Heavy Metal
  14. Mas Tequila (Sammy Hagar and The Wabos cover)
  15. Eagles Fly (with Aaron Hagar)
  16. Finish What You Started (Van Halen cover)
  17. When It’s Love (Van Halen cover)
  18. Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin cover)

    Sammy Hagar

    Sammy Hagar and the Circle: Sammy Hagar, left, Michael Anthony, Jason Bonham and Vic Johnson.
    Jim Grant / Harrah’s and Harveys

    Sammy Hagar

    Jim Grant / Harrah’s and Harveys

    The Garage Boys play the Cabo Wabo after-party. @GarageBoysLV @GarageBoys

    The Garage Boys play the Cabo Wabo after-party.

About Josh Sweigert

Josh grew up on the California coast with a deep appreciation for bluegrass and string band music as well as the great outdoors. A guitarist and singer, he plays solo acoustic gigs in South Lake Tahoe.

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