Sammy Hagar & The Waboritas

2 May 2003

Cricket Pavilion, Tolleson, AZ


This place used to be called the Desert Sky Amphitheatre, and is now sold out as the Cricket Pavilion. Nice place, though. Reserved seating, lawn seating, much like Fiddler's Green and the Mesa Del Sol Amphitheatres. Located in a Phoenix suburb, most of the reserved seating is covered by a ceiling of fans, which proves especially nice in Summer time, given that this part of the Arizona desert can get up to 120 degrees F.

Two relatively local opening acts didn't attract much of my attention. The act right before the main was Creedence Clearwater Revisited. CC[R] pretty much fulfilled my expectations completely--the band, with CCR originals Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, a John Fogerty soundalike, a John Fogerty playalike, and a keyboardist, covered a full set of nothing-but-John-Fogerty covers. So, on one hand you could say that CCR was all about John Fogerty, but on the other you can also claim that John Fogerty's solo tours lack the unique sound of the CCR rhythm section, and both arguments would be fair ones. The CC[R] set was enjoyable, and brought back some good memories. Though the sound mix had way too much bass drum, the music was nice.

On to the main act. I was pleasantly surprised by my first experience of the Red Rocker himself. A very high energy show, a very high energy band opening with a very high energy song, "Shaka Doobie". Their subsequent hard rock cover of Bob Dylan's "Everybody Must Get Stoned" showed that the Waborita band had definitely rehearsed for this tour.

Sammy mentioned that the last time he performed at this venue, he was the opening act [for David Lee Roth] commenting, "What the f@#$ is up with that s&!#?". Headlining this time, Hagar dug into all folders from his recording career, including early solo hits, "Three Lock Box", "There's Only One Way To Rock", and of course, the metaphor about social control, often taken way too literally, "I Can't Drive 55".

Most interesting was his new solo material, including "(I'd like to say it's still the same, but) Things Have Changed", which suggests that Sammy is, at least for now, returning to the more melodic rockers that gained him superstardom in the early 1980s. "Halfway To Memphis" and "Deeper Kind of Love" are two of his best songs to date.

Clad in yellow boxer shorts, a yellow-ish Carribean shirt, bare feet, sandy blonde curly hair, and an obnoxious goutee, Sammy Hagar looked like, well, a muppet, for lack of a better description. But make no mistake, his gymnastics onstage easily hide the fact that he is 55 years young--he's in awesome shape. "Top Of The World" showcased his fitness.

Behind the stage, on rafters, were about 100 fans with stage passes, who basically danced along to an excellent behind-the-scenes view of this evening's performance. To add to the party atmosphere, Sammy would often yell, "Waitress!", and one or two scantilly-dressed women in extremely high heels would bring out some kind of blue beverage.

Part of the pleasantly surprising evening was the emergence, mid-set, of former Van Halen bandmate Michael Anthony, who blayed bass and sang great on "Best Of Both Worlds", and perhaps VH's best song "Right Now". The regular bass player, Mona, graciously stood aside and played percussion during the moment.

As fans would throw articles of clothing on stage, Sammy would invariably attempt to wear each and every item, be they necklaces, togas, T-shirts, shoes, etc.

After the Rock-and-Roll-Part-2-inspired "Mas Tequila", and a two-song encore, Sammy and the Waboritas left the stage a half-hour after scheduled closing time, to a very satisfied crowd.

[****] - Steven T.

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