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'History of Rock' according to...

Sammy Hagar throws a party at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

If there's one thing you can say about Sammy Hagar, it's this. The man knows how to throw a party.

And he did just that Wednesday night at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. To prove that, the "Red Rocker" ripped through a set that sent the crowd's arms in the air - and kept them there - for most of the night. The energy level was intense as they broke into "There's Only One Way to Rock," opening the show with the needle pinned at 10.

This stop at Hampton Beach was one of only 11 shows scheduled on Hagar's "History of Rock" tour, which featured a 'supergroup' lineup consisting of Jason Bonham on drums, Michael Anthony on bass, and Vic Johnson on guitar. In that way, one might say this show was - well, historic - too. This lineup seemed comfortable, like they were just a group of guys jamming on their favorite songs - albeit to a capacity crowd of 2,200.

The set took audiences on an adrenaline filled ride with "Rock Candy," from Sammy's early days with the 70s hard-rock band Montrose, a song that was inspired by another song that was later played, Led Zeppelin's, "When the Levee Breaks." The show then jumped from Hagar's solo career to his time with Van Halen; add a heavy dose of Led Zeppelin and you've covered musical history - at least this group's musical history - very well.

Several songs from the Hagar era of Van Halen including "Poundcake," "Why Can't This Be Love," "Finish What You Started" and "Best of Both Worlds," took crowds back to the "Van Hagar" days, when Sammy took over after David Lee Roth left Van Halen. Michael Anthony, who played with Hagar in Van Halen, played a bass solo before the band launched into the Van Halen hit, "When It's Love."

There was no shortage of Led Zeppelin songs played in homage to Jason Bonham, the son of the late John Bonham who was the drummer for Zeppelin until his death in 1980. Songs like "Good Times, Bad Times," "Whole Lotta Love" and "When the Levee Breaks" were flawless and fun. Bonham has earned respect from many musicians on his own in recent years and is currently playing in the newly formed band, California Breed. Great respect was shown and his drum solo during "Moby Dick" was a spotlight moment for the kin of one of the best drummers that ever lived. 

Hagar's solo hits also had audiences amped up. "I Can't Drive 55" and "Heavy Metal" had the crowd chanting along. Their set ended with a guitar solo by Vic Johnson, who plays in Sammy and the Wabos band and wrapped with, "Best of Both Worlds." The band took a bow before signing some autographs at the front of the stage - a gracious act you don't see very often. Sammy quipped that he was so lucky to be doing this for all these years, and it showed Wednesday night. They rolled off the stage shouting, "the louder you get, the longer we play."

And play they did. A four-song encore that began with Van Halen's "Right Now," Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" (with Michael Anthony sharing vocals) and a beautiful acoustic version of Van Halen's "Dreams." Finally, they played "All We Need is an Island," a sweet song that was written with Heart's Nancy Wilson.

It's obvious that Sammy, at age 66, is still a kid at heart, but in his unpretentious way he's just having fun - and seems grateful to be doing it. It was an energy-filled and nostalgic show and it appeared that the guys in this band enjoyed it right along with us.  You can't ask for more than that.


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