Sammy Hagar Rocks the Frontyard Festival at Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando
Red Rocker Sammy & the Circle are kicking off tour dates in Florida. This is their 3rd date, a two-night gig at Orlando’s newest outdoor venue, The Frontyard Festival. Set on the grounds in front of the beautiful Dr. Phillips Center, nestled in and surrounded by the massive buildings of downtown Orlando. It is pod seating of 2, 4 or 5, table and chairs with a QR code to scan with your smartphone for a variety of food and drinks to be delivered to your pod. It was a balmy May evening with a slight breeze, perfect outdoor concert weather.
The band opened with Sammy’s original “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and Van Halen’s “Poundcake” from 1991. Guitarist Vic Johnson has the daunting task of playing Eddie Van Halen’s riffs and does it in great Vic Johnson style. He has been playing with Sammy for 25 years in one act or another. Great ax man! Of course, Michael Anthony is in the house. Michael has been playing with Sammy in various bands since their Van Halen days.
The Circle’s own single “Trust Fund Baby” starts with banter by drummer Jason Bonham laughing that he was a trust fund baby. Sammy’s shows are always full of chat and stories in between the music and a bit of drinking Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum or the new Santo Mezquila he and chef Guy Fiero teamed up on. It’s a party at Circle shows but the music is serious. “Three Lock Box” & “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy” both from the Lock Box album are on the set list. Named one of the 100 greatest hard rock songs written by Sammy, “I Can’t Drive 55” is one of the shows highlights with the original 1984 MTV video playing on the big screen. The Redheads are up and singing along. Sammy’s energy is way past 55 mph after not playing a show for well over a year.
The Van Halen portion of the show is bittersweet. One can’t help but think of Eddie. The Circle boasts original Van Halen madman bassist Michael Anthony and with Sammy’s vocal era in the band the audience wants and needs to hear “Finish What Ya Started”, “Why Can’t This Be Love” and my personal favorite, “Right Now” that plays messages of the current state of the world on the screen ala the famous 1992 video for the tune.
There is a break in the action where Jason Bonham gets up from behind his drum kit to talk for a few. Bonham lives in Florida and loves it. He talks about being sober and how much he loves playing in this band. Being a child of a rock legend as the son of John “Bonzo” Bonham of Led Zeppelin, the Circle pays homage to Zep. During this show, Sammy has a surprise for the crowd by bringing out Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil to jam on the rock classic “Rock & Roll”. People are jumping out of their seats to take photos of the two rockers together. Vince and Sammy are having a great time, a treat for the Orlando fans!
“Heavy Metal” and “Mas Tequila” close out the set. Sammy says they will play a couple more tunes instead of going backstage to make the crowd wait for an encore. The encore brings a tribute to essential workers this past year with a cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”. The Circle has added this single to their new album of covers and original music they recorded during the quarantine titled “Lockdown 2020”. The show closes with original Circle tune “Affirmation”. It is amazing the longevity Sammy Hagar has had in rock & roll. At 73, Sammy’s voice still makes the cut. Starting out in the 70’s with Montrose and having hits as a solo artist and in Valen Halen, Chickenfoot with Michael, Joe Satriani & Chad Smith, Sammy Hagar & the Waboritas and the current supergroup Circle, Sammy has long paid his dues. Whether as a solo artist or with a band, Sammy Hagar has become rock royalty!
Photos by Vicky Sullivan