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National Beat: Sammy Hagar’s Dose de Mayo Party at Harrah’s Tahoe

Sammy and The Wabos playing their annual Cinco de Mayo gig at Harrah's.
Sammy and The Wabos playing their annual Cinco de Mayo gig at Harrah's.
all photos by Nick McCabe - Froont Row Photo

Sammy Hagar at Harrah's Lake Tahoe May 2nd 2014


By Nick McCabe with contributions from Kurt Doughty – Front Row Photo

As part of their annual Cinco De Mayo two day celebration Sammy and The Wabos played to a sold out house Friday night (May 2nd) in Harrah’s South Shore Room. It’s not hard for Sammy to sell out the South Shore Room when you consider his huge and dedicated fan base within driving range of Lake Tahoe. If you want to get a good spot you better get there early and prepare to stand in a steamy crowd of humanity, almost motionless for an hour before the show starts, and then go nuts for two more hours.

The show started with a big screen retrospect of 40 years of Sammy Hagar and his various bands. Before Sammy sang one note, or played a single chord you were already in awe of what some may consider the quintessential good time party rocker. With so many years of hits he didn't have any problem keeping the fans totally entertained and involved. Sammy’s rock solid band of many years, The Wabos (WaboRitas) were on stage with him. He did his hits flawlessly, including I’ll fall in Love Again, Heavy Metal, Rock Candy and I Can’t drive 55 and many more. He went seamlessly into the Van Hagar years, where his lead guitarist did a great job of covering Eddie Van Halen. For those of you who don’t know the Wabos, they are Vic Johnson (a Hagar pal since 1997) on lead guitar, Mona Gnader (also a Wabo since 1997) on bass guitar and David Lauser on drums ( his first choice of drummers for over 30 years). There did seem to be a lull in the show on his acoustic sets, and the vocals sounded a little pitchy at different points in the show, but overall a goodtime was had by all and once again, for the 39th time in a row they sold out Harrah’ Lake Tahoe.

Sammy Hagar knows how to throw a party! That’s what these shows are – big ass parties. He comes out loud and proud, smiling from ear to ear and getting face deep in the audience. Where other artists shy away from signing memorabilia, Sammy spends a good portion of the show at the edge of the stage signing anything and everything that he can. He put on a big floppy sombrero that was offered up, a beautiful jersey with his Red Rocker logo, his name, and ‘55’ on it, and he shared a “Mas Taquila” bedazzled bar towel that an audience member had… the list goes on and on. The Mas Tequila banner came up while they were playing Mas Tequila. Being the party song of party songs Sammy made an event out of it when he brought out a confetti cannon that filled the theater with strings of confetti in a single shot. I hope Harrah’s collected an extra large cleaning deposit, because this was the first of two confetti assaults on the crowd.

Their final song of the night before a slight break where the band usually leaves the stage and then returns to do an encore (but they did not) was “Fight For Your Right (to party)” by The Beastie Boys. It was a great rendition where he brought out a guest singer, Bling Bling (actually Sammy's tour manager, Paul Binder) to sing along. Paul, I mean Bling Bling has some good pipes on him. They finished off the show with his song, Personal Jesus.

Having read his autobiography, seen interviews of him, and attended many shows I do believe that Sammy Hagar has more fun than should be legal. I imagine he has bad days just like the rest of us, but I have never seen it impact his public persona. He still kills it live and 66 years old. If I could be a famous rock and roller for a day, I would want to be Sammy Hagar. Then I would invite me over to meet myself and party with me. Party on!

For a more complete slideshow, click here.

…and the beat goes on.

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