Heart and Sammy Hagar. Between them they have sold nearly 100 million albums, not one of which was sold to me.
I knew Heart was from Seattle, and was famous for such hits as "Barracuda," and "that one song" and "you know that other song, the one, with the singer."
Hagar, "The Red Rocker," I knew from Van Halen, of course, but I have always been more of a Metallica guy. I can honestly say that I liked the Hagar incarnation of VH more than the David Lee Roth incarnation, but that isn’t really saying much.
Sammy seems like he’d be a lot of fun to hang out with. Diamond Dave seems like he’d do all your drugs then leave with your girlfriend.
Heart and Sammy "co-headlined" a benefit show at Raley Field on Sunday night, and I decided to check out these two rock icons firsthand, and to see who’s been buying all these albums.
I got to the show around 7 p.m. and surveyed the scene. And what a scene it was. I’d say the demographic was 85 percent 40 to 60 years old, all dressed as they would have been 25 years ago. Maybe the highlight was being on hand to witness a Sammy Hagar look-alike meeting a Brett Michaels look-alike. It was a powerful moment. Like the meeting of two heads of state. Except very, very different.
The rest were mostly the children of the 85 percent, and, to their credit, none of them seemed at all embarrassed by their parents outfits.
The vibe was overwhelmingly positive. The entire show I only saw one negative interaction: A woman cut in front of about 40 people in line for cocktails. When a man in front of me confronted her about it, she said that for 20 dollars a drink, he could cut in line too. He offered a guess at what she might have done to procure that 20 dollars. For her sake, I hope he was wrong.
Other than that, people could not have been friendlier or more upbeat. While the opening act played, I struck up a conversation with a woman and her college-age son. I asked Tammy and Wes if they had seen Hagar or Heart before. Turns out they had seen Sammy a half-dozen times, including twice in Cabo.
"You just happened to catch him in Cabo twice?" I asked.
"Nope," Tammy said. "We went to Cabo twice specifically to see him."
To say that The Red Rocker has devoted fans would be an understatement. I met another gentlemen named Jim who estimated he had seen Sammy 35 times, with and without Van Halen. He was there with his 12-year-old son. It was his first concert.
"This is a day he’ll never forget," I offered, thinking back on my first concert. I saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Nirvana at the Cow Palace in 1992. I went with my mom and stepdad. Never were my parents cooler than they were that night.
Heart took the stage to raucous applause at 8:10 p.m. They received immediate bonus points from me when Ann Wilson came out playing a mean flute. Heavy metal flute is a powerful instrument when in capable hands. Ann proved more than up for the challenge. Ian Anderson would be proud.
The song was also noteworthy for being the only one in Heart’s 70-minute set that I didn’t immediately recognize, other than two songs from their upcoming album, "Red Velvet Car."
I could only name one song from the Seattle rockers going into the show, but it turns out I could sing along with just about every song they played.
They followed the flute song with "Heartless," (hey, I know this song!) "Never," (oh yeah, they play this) and "Straight on For You" (how did I forget this one?) before bringing the house down with Ann’s sister Nancy on lead vocals for "These Dreams."
The beautiful love song was played in honor of Robert and Juanice. Or possibly Robert and Lanice. For Robert and his lovely date.
They followed that with the two songs from their new album. Otherwise known as "the bathroom/beer-run break." I hung around for both songs and thought they were quite good. The album drops Aug. 31.
Then they started playing their big hits. "Magic Man" into "Crazy on You" into "Barracuda" to finish off the set. Hit after hit, the crowd loving every second of it. They sounded great. The band was tight. Nancy displayed the chops that have made her one of hard rock’s most formidable guitarists, and Ann belted out song after song, sounding just as she had in the band’s mid-’80s heyday.
When they exited the stage, I mentioned to a fellow audience member that as co-headliner, Heart would probably come out for an encore.
"But they already played "Barracuda." What would they encore with? I think they’re done."
Though he made a good point, I was soon proven right when Heart retook the stage to thunderous applause. And to answer his question, they opened with a Led Zeppelin cover, "What Is and What Never Should Be," which soon turned into "What About Love," finishing it off with another familiar hit.
The lights came on and the crowd prepared themselves for the Rooster’s arrival (read: ordered drinks, two at a time).
At 9:45 p.m. the lights went down and the big screens on either side of the stage awoke. A video montage began playing, party scenes in both Mexico and the United States, with a variety of stars welcoming us to Cabo Wabo. ("This is Toby Keith… welcome to Cabo Wabo!" "This is Kenny Chesney… welcome to Cabo Wabo!" "This is Emeril Lagasse… welcome to Cabo Wabo! " Wait… what?)
The former Van Halen frontman took the stage, and the crowd went bananas. He opened with "There’s Only One Way to Rock" and then brought his fans to a fever pitch with "I Can’t Drive 55" and "Why Can’t This Be Love?"
After the opening stanza he bantered with the crowd and with a host of waitresses who were on stage with him. "Waitress, I need a drink! I drove here, but I got someone else driving me home!" Throughout his set he had waitresses bringing him cocktails, many of which he shared with folks in the crowd.
He is a quintessential frontman, and I can now see how he has developed such an adoring fan base. His charm resonates to the back of the house, and that’s no mean feat when you’re playing a packed baseball stadium.
After a song I didn’t recognize, he went into my favorite portion of his set. Meaning, he played songs that I both knew and liked. Following Heart’s lead, he covered some Zeppelin, playing "Whole Lotta Love" into "Kashmir" back into "Whole Lotta Love." He then played probably his biggest Van Halen hit, "Right Now," which I remember as the music video that made me read. If I wanted to read, I wouldn’t be watching music videos, now would I?
After politely requesting a refill ("Waitress, can I have another cocktail please? Make it a double!"), he continued with a bunch of songs that sounded vaguely familiar. "Best of Both Worlds," "Mas Tequila," "Heavy Metal" and a few others that I’m not sure of. He commanded the stage with a youthful exuberance that belies his age. The cat is 62 years old, parties, well, like a rock star, but he looks and acts on stage like he’s in his 30s.
Someone should do a study on the age reversing properties of Cabo Wabo tequila. All I’m saying is that if one were going to go looking for the fountain of youth, they might want to start in Guadalajara.
He closed his set with Van Halen’s ode to sexual frustration, "Finish What You Started," and thanked the crowd for a great night. There was an 11 o’clock curfew, and he followed it to the letter. It was the only time he acted his age all night.