Sammy Hagar & The Circle - Live In Oklahoma!

Sammy Hagar & The Circle
7 Clans First Council Hotel & Casino
Newkirk, Oklahoma
June 9, 2017

By Jeb Wright
Photos by K.C. Wright

Sammy Hagar & The Circle Set List:
There's Only One Way to Rock | Poundcake | Good Times Bad Times | Rock Candy | I Can't Drive 55 | Big Foot | Right Now | Why Can't This Be Love | Little White Lie | When the Levee Breaks | Top of the World | Heavy Metal | Mas Tequila | Dreams | Rock and Roll

Andrew Hagar Set List:
Dead Awake | Handy Heart | Hibachi Holiday | Don’t Think Twice

“When we drove out of Tulsa today…and kept on driving… I said, ‘Where in the hell are we playing tonight?’  This is in the middle of nowhere.  Then the promoter tells me it’s the third time we’ve played here.  Is that really true?  You know, there are reasons I don’t remember this kind of shit!” Sammy Hagar smiled after addressing the capacity crowd as he proposed a toast to the 7 Clans First Council Hotel & Casino.  While it’s true…Sammy was making his third appearance at this venue…this time around, however, he was not alone.  Accompanying him on this trip was his band The Circle.  The Circle may not be a well-known band, but trust me; they have sold a lot of records!  On bass guitar is Sammy’s Van Halen alum Michael Anthony.  Behind the kit is the iconic Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin’s bash-master John.  Guitar duties are split between Hagar and Vic Johnson from Hagar’s solo band The Waboritas.  The Circle obviously has a strong pedigree, but so did tonight’s opening act, newcomer Drew Hagus…AKA Andrew Hagar…AKA Sammy’s son.

Drew took the stage as the crowd wondered who this dude with an acoustic guitar was…and why he was playing folk music.  Aside from a few drunken redneck-rocker comments, most of the crowd checked him out.  The opening number “Dead Awake” is a damn fine song with a good hook.  “Handy Heart” is a more atypical folkie-with-a-broken-heart ballad…nothing wrong with it, but the style was out of place in a room full of 50-year-old drunks who were clamoring to hear songs titled “Heavy Metal” and “I Can’t Drive 55.”  Hell, this kid wasn’t even born when the speed limit was 55 miles per hour! Next, Andrew introduced the next song as “Hibachi Holiday.”  The younger Hagar may want to see if Neil Young would like a song for his next studio effort, as this would fit comfortably on such a record.  For his fourth and final number, Hagar went with the maestro of folk rock Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.”  Hagar changed the tune and made it more up-tempo than the original. This slight shift in speed took the melancholy hopelessness out of the original and gave the tune a devil may care attitude, which was pretty cool.  As quickly as he took the stage Andrew said ‘farewell’ and told everyone The Circle would be out soon.  He wasn’t kidding, it seemed that before he was even off stage the lights dimmed and The Circle appeared to thunderous applause.  It was quickly apparent that there would be no more Bob Dylan mentions on this evening.  Instead, from here on out, it was all Sammy Hagar, Van Halen, Montrose, Led Zeppelin and Chickenfoot.

Before we kiss The Red Rocker’s ass too much, let’s get the biggest negative out of the way.  The damn concert was too short.  I’m not even sure this sucker went an hour and a half.  Other than that it was killer.  “There’s Only One Way to Rock” opened the set.  Hagar was all smiles, even when his voice took a verse or two to warm up!  The stage was adorned with partially full liquor bottles and the band was rocking like it was 1978. 

After a fist-pumping version of the Van Halen classic “Poundcake” rocked the house it was time for drummer Jason Bonham to kick things up a notch.  His dad was the drummer for Led Zeppelin and this band paid homage to Zep with the number “Good Times Bad Times.”  Vic Johnson tore up the classic riff and Hagar, now warmed up, blasted a searing vocal.  Sammy took the band back to the early 1970s with his first band’s most well-known song “Rock Candy.”  It was Montrose time!  The video screen that hung above and behind the band showed Hagar as a young rocker singing with Montrose as an older Sammy sang live below the screen.  Sam’s best known solo tune, “I Can’t Drive 55” had the crowd singing along to every word.  Michael Anthony stole the lead vocals halfway through, something he would repeat throughout the night. As fun as Hagar is to watch, and listen to Anthony is the best natural singer on the stage.  Unfortunately for Mike he tends to get in bands with lesser talented vocalists who are amazing front men.  Such was the case twice in Van Halen and such is the case here!

“Big Foot” from Chickenfoot was accepted by the crowd, yet only the most ‘in the know’ fans in the event center knew the song.  “Right Now” is a great song and went over well.  The crowd was partying like it was New Year’s Eve at Sammy’s house and didn’t even notice there was no keyboard player on stage!  The ghost keyboardist stuck around all night and gave a great performance! “Why Can’t This Be Love” was next. While it is a solid tune it was the following “Little White Lie” that brought the house down.  While this is not Hagar’s biggest hit, it is one of his best.  The song was originally released in 1997 on his album Marching to Mars.  Hagar then took a moment to introduce Jason Bonham, giving him center stage and a microphone.  The drummer looked around as Hagar and Anthony were drinking right from the bottle like teenagers on prom night. Jason looked into the crowd and said sternly, “This is a terrible band to be sober in!”  The crowd laughed and The Circle kicked into the Zep classic “When the Levi Breaks.”   This song performed by this group of musicians on this night literally brought the house down.  The tone, the drums, the solos…YOWZA is all I can say!

Hagar addressed the 7 Clans First Counsel Hotel & Casino audience by asking, “If seven clans built this thing…you’d think it would have been bigger!”  When someone in the front row responded Sammy looked down and asked a question. “So…you’re saying it takes seven clans to make up one tribe?  That’s interesting.  I learned something.  So…as of right now…I am renaming this place ‘One Tribe Casino’.”  Everyone laughed as Sammy repeated the name several times before ending his diatribe by stating, “Well…I will probably never be asked back here again!”

The band pumped out another VH classic in “Top of the World” before Hagar yelled out, “Let’s go back to 1981.”  Every Red Rocker fan worth his weight in vinyl knew what that meant!  “Heavy Metal” filled the air.  Anthony and Hagar shared lead vocals while Vic bashed out one hell of a guitar solo.  This is one of the best Sammy tunes ever released.  The song sounds as powerful in 2017 as it did when the movie soundtrack of the same name hit theaters in 1981!  The main set ended with the predictable and somewhat redundant “Mas Tequila.”  As tired as I am of this tune I suppose Hagar has to play it as it does get the drunks fired up!

Hagar told the crowd he hates leaving the stage before an encore and that “my ass will leave the stage when I am done.”  While he was talking, everyone but Sam and Vic left the stage. Hagar introduced the Van Halen classic “Dreams.” Sammy delivered a few heartfelt words to the crowd on how grateful he is to be able to live his dreams before two men delivered an emotional and slowed down version of the song.  After the poignant song, Anthony and Bonham returned to their places.  Jason whacked out the famous drum riff to “Rock and Roll” and The Circle played the classic Zeppelin tune balls-to-the-wall leaving the crowd on their feet and shouting for more!

A cool moment during the show occurred when a fan held up a sign stating it was something like his 600th Red Rocker show.  The sign listed solo shows, Van Halen shows, and even how many times shows he had tickets to that were cancelled.  Sammy took the sign and read it to the crowd.  He seemed outraged when he got the part about cancellations.  Sammy said in a matter of fact voice, “Eleven cancellations?  No way I cancelled eleven times.”  Michael Anthony raised his hand and smiled as he said, “That was Eddie!”  Everyone laughed while Sammy poured some Sammy's Beach Bar Rum in a cup and handed it to the fan, even autographing his sign!

Sammy Hagar remains an inspiration to anyone who has dreams.  He remains a rock star despite pushing 70 and he remains down to earth despite living a life of wealth and luxury.   The songs, the band, the attitude and the bazillion red streamers that flew from the sky were all part of the biggest rock ‘n’ roll party to hit Newkirk, Oklahoma since…well since the last time Sammy came to town…you know…that time he can’t remember!