Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hagar's livin' it up with the giants of rock 'n' roll

Hagar's livin' it up with the giants of rock 'n' roll
By Kevin C. Johnson

The only mystery surrounding Sammy Hagar selling out — in two minutes — his Wednesday night concert at the Pageant is: What took him so long?

Ever since the '70s and with continued support from outlets such as KSHE (94.7 FM), Hagar and St. Louis have nurtured a long-running love affair.

"This is something you can't invent. You can't try to do this. It has to either happen or not," the long-time rock veteran of Montrose, Van Halen and solo fame says of his appeal here, which allows him to sell out venues the size of Verizon Wireless Amphitheater regardless of what he has going on in his career.

Hagar, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee this year as a Van Halen alumnus, heads to town to debut "Livin' It Up! In St. Louis," a concert DVD filmed July 22 at the then-UMB Bank Pavilion.

A review of that concert in the Post-Dispatch said: "Hagar's shows are never flawless. He's too busy to concentrate solely on his performance, swigging tequila, signing autographs, holding up banners, and donning shirts and hats thrown to him by fans. But entertainment is the bottom line for Hagar and, on that count, he was note-perfect all night."

The DVD features songs such as "I Can't Drive 55," "Right Now," "Mas Tequila," "Heavy Metal" and "There's Only One Way to Rock," as well as interviews and videos. Its unveiling, during a red carpet, Cabo Wabo-style party, will be accompanied by an acoustic concert featuring Hagar and the Wabos. He says it's his first full acoustic show outside of Cabo.

"It's just not what we do," he says. "It's harder to throw a party acoustically sitting on a stool."

And where else would he do it but St. Louis?

"There's not that many markets as intense as St. Louis. How could I say living it up in any other city?" says Hagar, who will be a special guest at the Cardinals game Tuesday at Busch Stadium. "I've been doing it so big in St. Louis for so long.

"In a recent interview, Hagar talked about living it up here, his spirited new $80 million dollar deal and, of course, the "screw up" that is Van Halen.

Q. What's it like having "Hall of Famer" in front of your name?

A. It's really exciting, being there and standing next to Keith Richards and people I looked up to my entire career. That puts my name in the same light as my heroes, and that really affected my self-confidence and how I feel about where I am and what I did in music. It was a feeling like I'd arrived.

Q. After all you've accomplished over the past few decades, how can you talk about arriving and self-confidence?

A. You'd be surprised. There's always somebody criticizing me, ever since I reinvented myself in 1996 after I left Van Halen and stopped being that heavy metal rock guy to become the lifestyle guy. I got heat from critics and fans who thought I was too mellow and sold out. I'm always taking shots. Now you can shoot all you want, but be careful. You might hit Keith Richards.

Q. How did you feel about so many of Van Halen's members being no-shows at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony? (Only Hagar and Michael Anthony showed up; Eddie Van Halen has been in and out of rehab this year.)

A. It was a shame, the one negative in the whole giant positive thing. If Ed had been capable of being there, and if the five of us, including Dave (singer David Lee Roth), had been there, because he belongs there as much as me, and we'd thrown all the crap out the window and done four or five songs, it would've been the highlight of all inductions. Van Halen is one of the most powerful bands in the world, and we wanted to accept this with dignity and do the right thing. But Van Halen has never done the right thing. Van Halen always did everything wrong and backwards, and that was the icing on the cake. To screw that up makes all the sense in the world.

Q. What do you think of the on-again off-again nature of the Van Halen tour this year (a planned reunion tour crumbled)?

A. I pay attention as much as I don't want to. It's like watching your brothers and sisters screw up. I've told Alex (Van Halen) and others I'm not interested in a Van Halen reunion at this point in my life. They need to do one with Dave for the fans first, get that out of the way. I'm having too much fun with the Wabos and how we approach our music and lives. It's so rewarding and fun, and I can't imagine doing anything else now.

Q. Do you think they'll tour again?

A. Since I left, they've only toured twice, once with Gary (Cherone) and once with me. Other than that, they've never done it. Something's really wrong. I don't think it'll ever work. They tried again and again, and they can't do it. I don't know what the problem is because I'm not there to see it, but it must be ugly.

Q. What do you remember most about the St. Louis performance the night the DVD was recorded?

A. It was the last show of the leg of the tour, and the third show in a row, and that was hard on the band. I came to St. Louis wore out. I had been out there for 40 shows or whatever and my throat was hurting. But the fans pulled it out of us. That's how it always is with the fans. They're the reason I can keep going. It was so intense that night, one of the greatest shows I ever did. I thought about whether there was anything I could've done better, but it was just perfect, the perfect performance, audience and setting.

Q. What makes this DVD special?

A. I've done DVDs before, but nothing in high-definition. We have 15 high-definition cameras on the front of the stage, behind the stage, everywhere. Everything is captured. If you came to the show, you didn't see half the stuff you'll see on the DVD. We're partying harder behind the scenes.

Q. Why did you decide to do an acoustic show at the Pageant, where you are performing for the first time.

A. I'm not geared up to do my regular show in a smaller venue, so we're going to do the acoustic show and watch the DVD. That way, I won't have any comparisons to my regular show. Because of the way we're breaking down the show, it'll be like apples and oranges or, better yet, taxicabs and pineapples."

Q. What will your acoustic show at the Pageant be like?

A. We're stripping the songs way down, changing the keys and tempos, and fans will love it. "Dreams" by Van Halen broken down on a 12-string guitar will put goosebumps on you.

Q. Is it true you sold a major interest in your Cabo Wabo tequila brand for $80 million to Skyy Spirits?

A. It's true. I took on some partners who are some of the biggest distributors in the world. I needed someone to take it to the next level, so I made the deal for worldwide distribution. They gave me so much damn money it's stupid. But I've been a rich rock star for so long money doesn't mean that much to me. It ain't about money, and I wish everyone would believe that. I already own everything I want. And if Jimmy Buffett woke up with my money he would file Chapter 11.

Editorial comment: Yeah, right - "it's not about the money". Whenever somebody says that, it is about the money.

As always, comments are welcome.


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