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Concert Reviews:
Sammy Hagar and the Circle deliver a "long, crazy trip" at DTE

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2019

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- "We're gonna take a long, crazy trip tonight," Sammy Hagar promised near the start of a concert with is band, the Circle, on Wednesday night, May 22, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

And that's exactly what the quartet delivered during the career-spanning hour-and-45-minute show.

A reliable party monster any time he hits the stage, the guy who boasts that "I Can't Drive 55" put the pedal down at the start of the 18-song set and barely let up as he steered the Circle through the night. The group pounded through material from Hagar's tenures in Montrose (a crunchy "Rock Candy") and Van Halen (five tracks), along with solo favorites such as "There's Only One Way to Rock," "Three Lock Box," "Heavy metal" and "Mas Tequila" -- renamed "Mas Mezquila" for his liquor brand with Maroon 5 frontman and "The Voice" coach Adam Levine. But the real energy of the night for Hagar and crew came from "Space Between," his latest album, which debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 to give Hagar his first Top 10 album of his solo(ish) career.

"Us old rock 'n' roll guys, we've been trying to get that chart position back -- and we...did it!" Hagar exulted before playing the new album's "Can't Hang," one of five he and the Circle performed, each accompanied by scenes from the accompanying video that also make up an arty, album-length film (directed by Joe Satriani's son ZZ) underscoring the thematic "Space Between's" ruminations on the perils of greed. Hagar and company bookended the night with new tracks "Trust Fund Baby" and the anthemic "Affirmation," while a mid-show coupling of "Devil Came to Philly" and "Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)" allowed guitarist Vic Johnson -- seated on a stool after breaking his foot in a recent stage fall -- to show off his nimble chops.

""That song will never be played twice the same way as long as I live," Hagar declared about the latter, a particularly loose jam, as the title indicates, that included a snippet of Them's bar band classic "Gloria."

Tuesday's show also gave the Circle its due as band and not just a Hagar backing outfit. Johnson and bassist Michael Anthony, Hagar's bandmate in Van Halen and Chickenfoot, sang the odd verse on several songs, while Jason Bonham was a beastly presence on drums -- never moreso than on the Circle's rendition of "Rock and Roll" from the canon of his late father John Bonham's Led Zeppelin.

But there was no doubting whose show this was, either. The 71-going-on-adolescent Hagar was, as usual, part performer and part party host, prowling the DTE stage front to press flesh, sign autographs, pour a bit of his Santo Mezquila into fans' cups and water bottles and accept gifts, including a personalized Detroit Red Wings shirt (No. 55, of course) and an odd banner from an Arizona fan who he declared "made a wrong turn somewhere." Hagar even exchanged cross necklaces with another fan, sporting the new one around his head during Van Halen's "Best of Both Worlds."

The Circle, Hagar likes to tell crowds, is "at your service." On Tuesday the group served the DTE faithful well and reminded all concerned that while there may not really be only one way to rock, Hagar's is still pretty outstanding.

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