Partying with Sammy And The Circle

By on May 8, 2015


Sammy 01

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Sammy Hagar and the Circle played Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Wednesday to a sold out crowd who were treated to a party and a night of nonstop hits. Not only hits from Sammy Hagar’s solo material and his catalogue from Van Halen, but from another member of “The Circle.”

Everyone knows Sammy Hagar but not so much “The Circle,” but you will be familiar with the other names that make up his current super group. Along with Vic Johnson, who has played with him for years since the days of the Waborita’s, Sammy is joined by his former Van Halen teammate, bassist Michael Anthony, and drummer Jason Bonham. With the inclusion of Bonham in the band, a few surprises in the set were well received by the crowd, and with the party-type atmosphere prior to and during the show, it was a special evening.

Michael & Jason & Vic

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

The band stepped out on stage in casual dress with Sammy in his Red Rocker attire and surprised everyone who didn’t already know the setlist, with the 1981 hit “There’s Only One Way To Rock.” With a smooth transition to a Sammy Hagar set staple in the Montrose classic “Rock Candy,” the first surprise of the night would be next in the Zeppelin classic “Good Times Bad Times.” Breaking into the first verse, fans in the stands looked at each other in amazement and many “wows” were seen throughout the crowd. This wouldn’t be the only time that a Led Zeppelin song would be played as “Whole Lotta Love” and “When the Levee Breaks” would also be included later in the set.

Jason Bonham01

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

The first Van Halen song of the night would be started by the power drill ripping through the sound system as the opening notes of “Pound Cake” were played. The tightness of the band was evident and as usual with a Sammy Hagar led band, you never have to worry about missed notes or poorly sung or forgotten lyrics.

Michael & Sammy & Vic

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

With red and blue lights flashing and the classic MTV music video in the background on multiple digital screens, “I Can’t Drive 55” showcased the vocal range of Michael Anthony as he took the lead on vocals during the second verse. As the whole band would join in for the chorus, they were overpowered by the packed house. This would happen throughout the night and not only would songs be sung but smiles starting on stage, would be infectious.

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As the opening notes of “Right Now” were played next, I looked back once again at how important this song was at a particular point in my life. Others may only remember “Right Now” for the music video that accompanied it or the Pepsi commercial, but that song helped me “live in the moment” and move forward in my particular station in life during a cross country drive in 1991. I believe that this song relates to so many others on the same level as it does to me and the social message that the band uses during the video montage continues to help it evolve and stay relevant throughout the years.

Sammy 02

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

The two aforementioned Zeppelin songs would lead into a couple more Van Halen songs including “Why Cant This Be Love” and “Runaround.” Throughout the night Sammy would interact with individuals in the crowd and pour them drinks like a celebrity bartender and ultimate party provider.

Sammy 03

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Another top moment of the night was when The Circle performed the title track from the sci-fi classic film, “Heavy Metal.” The song and the movie are synonymous with each other and take you back to your youth and the first glimpses of animated violence and nudity with a kick ass soundtrack. Most of the guys that grew up in the 80’s will remember the first time they saw this movie and were confused and intrigued by it on many levels.

Michael & Vic

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

Throughout their set, you couldn’t help but be impressed and gain further respect for Vic Johnson on guitar. Inspired by the greats like Jimmy Hendrix as a youth, Johnson handled the lead guitar duties and played the songs previously written and played by Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen flawlessly while providing his own touch. This was evident when Sammy Hagar and Vic reworked the classic Van Halen song “Dreams,’ in a stripped down fashion. The original version of “Dreams” is a great and you can’t help but remember the jet fighters from the video, but tonight’s version would inspire a different level of emotion from the crowd.

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Once again as he did throughout the night, Sammy talked to fans specifically as individuals and then as a group to really make tonight an intimate setting. Another level of happiness and excitement traveled through the crowd as Sammy toasted to and announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning won their playoff game. Afterwards, instead of taking a break prior to the encore, Sammy stated that there wouldn’t one and they would continue with their set instead of trying to fool the crowd.


(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

More drinks were poured as the opening notes of “Mas Tequila” rang out and a cannon filled with Red Rocker paper streamers exploded from the stage to encompass the fans and their hair. Closing out the night would be the crowd chorus singing “Rock and Roll” with all members of The Circle showcasing their talents. Jason Bonham would not only do his father justice on the drums but he would also take his turn on lead vocals during the song. It is evident watching this band that they all check their egos at the door and that the sum is greater than its parts. Fans can see that and appreciate it and its one of the reasons that Sammy Hagar has been so successful. He also knows how to throw a party and put on a show and tonight at Ruth Eckerd hall in Clearwater, Sammy Hagar and The Circle, did just that.

Michael Anthony

(Photo: Travis Failey RSEN)

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