Artpark Rocks it out of the park with a grand slam season opening double bill featuring: Sammy Hagar & The Circle and Night Ranger.
Review and photos by Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
Lewiston, NY – Tuesdays in the Park presented by M&T Bank concert series kicked off in full party mode when Sammy Hagar’s “Full Circle Jam Tour” with special guests Night Ranger performed at the beautiful outdoor Artpark amphitheater. Although the weather in WNY recently has been rainy, and a bit unseasonably cold, this evening was perfect for the 5500 music loving fans in attendance.
Rock music legend Sammy Hagar is still an energetic musical force at the age of 71 years young. His current band, The Circle, features all-star musicians: bassist Michael Anthony (Van Halen, Chickenfoot) drummer Jason Bonham (Led Zeppelin 2007) and guitarist Vic Johnson (Busboys).
Sammy Hagar & The Circle, formed in 2014, just recently released their first studio record together, an ambitious concept album entitled – “Space Between.” This brilliantly crafted record sold 40,000 copies during it’s first week of release, and debuted at No. 4 on the US Billboard 200. This record addresses the current political environment in America, and Hagar’s frustrated with the black and white nature of the political parties.
Hagar, also affectionately known as the Red Rocker to his fans, is one of the most business savvy musicians on the planet. He is an entrepreneurial genius who has the natural ability to turn practically every thing he touches into gold. He is hard-rock’s version of Jimmy Buffet. Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Tequila brand and restaurant chain, as well as Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum, has made him a multi-millionaire. However, Hagar still remains down to earth, engaging, and very fan friendly, which may very well be a big part of the secret to his success.
Sammy & The Circle hit the stage a bit after 8pm and absolutely crushed the audience with a great hard 2 hour long rocking set that consisted of classic material from Hagar’s solo career, new material, plus many Van Halen (1985-1996) hits and more.
Hagar and his partner in crime, Michael Anthony, have an undeniable chemistry together. Just like they did in Van Halen for many years together, they are really fun to watch as they interact and occasionally trade off lead vocals. They have truly taken their musical brotherhood to the next level. It’s a shame that the Van Halen brothers can’t get past their bitterness and get together with this duo for one more go around.
Hagar, who claims never to play the same guitar solo twice, improvised nicely through the evening. He traded leads with guitarist Vic Johnson, who remained seated during the show due to a recent injury to his leg. At one point, Hagar joked that it was ironic that Johnson, who doesn’t drink, was the one in the band that fell off the stage.
Through out the performance, Hagar and Anthony kept the party atmosphere going by knocking back a few. Hagar explained, “It’s my job to party, so I have to drink.” But he was quick to responsibly add that he doesn’t drink all day long. Even so, a backstage pop up tent with a bar featuring complimentary shots of Hagar’s latest tequila, Santo Fino Blanco (which he created in partnership with TV chef Guy Fieri) was available for all backstage guests.
Night Ranger’s Jack Blades may have taken advantage of a few of the bar’s samples as he joined in for backup vocals on the Van Halen classic, “Finish What Ya Started.” Blades did some goofy dance moves and tossed his empty paper shot cup into the audience as he left the stage laughing.
Midway during the show, a Buffalo Sabres jersey with the number 55 and Hagar on the back was tossed onstage. Hagar put it on, to the approval of the crowd and wore it for several songs afterwards. He later signed it and tossed it back into the crowd.
A stunning version of the Van Halen classic Right Now, with an updated video similar to the original Van Halen video of this track playing on the video screen behind, was one of the many highlights of the performance.
“This is the song that started it all for me,” Hagar declared before performing the 1974 hit, “Rock Candy” that he wrote and recorded with his first major band, Montrose.
Afterwards, drummer Jason Bonham took the microphone and talked about his late father, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and thanked the audience for all the years of love and support. Bonhan explained to the audience that he was very fortunate to be in this band and that it was a dream come true to be in a band with people that you had idolized and listened to when you were young. He told the audience to never give up on your dreams. Bonham then led the band through an intense version of the Zeppelin classic, “Rock n’ Roll.”
Another highlight was Hagar’s passionate version of “Eagles Fly,” which he stated was one of his most requested songs, and that he has just recently brought back into his live set. This song was dedicated to his mother and all the mothers in the world.
On this evening, there was no other place in the world to be if you were a fan of classic rock music. Hagar and The Circle sounded amazing and truly provided an incredible and unforgettable performance. They could very well be the best rock band in the world right now.
Sammy Hagar & The Circle setlist 06/04/2019
Trust Fund Baby
There’s Only One Way to Rock
Three Lock Box
I Can’t Drive 55
Finish What Ya Started
Devil Came to Philly
Full Circle Jam (Chump Change)
Why Can’t This Be Love
Rock and Roll
Best of Both Worlds
Opening the show was the multi-platinum 80’s hard rockers, Night Ranger. The current line up consists of original members Jack Blades (bass, vocals), Brad Gillis (guitar), Kelly Keagy (keyboards, vocals) plus new members Keri Kelli (guitar) and Eric Levy (keyboards).
The last few times that Night Ranger performed in the WNY area, they played shows which were free admission. This band is criminally under-rated. Their 45 minute set was filled with fun, powerful hits, and proved that they are certainly worthy of headlining big arenas.
Check out our interview with Night Ranger’s Keri Kelli here.
Night Ranger -setlist – 06/04/2019
(You Can Still) Rock in America
Four in the Morning
Sing Me Away
When You Close Your Eyes
Don’t Tell Me You Love Me
(with part of “Highway Star” by Deep Purple)
This show was the perfect kick off to what is destined to be one of the best summer concert series at Artpark in Lewiston, NY.
For more info on upcoming Artpark shows, click here.
Special thanks to Maria Hays for her years of support and for providing Rock Music Star with press credentials to this event.