Written by General Jabbo
Sammy Hagar brought the Cabo Wabo Cantina to Detroit on Friday as he and his band, the Waboritas, rocked the Fox Theatre. The tour, which includes fellow ex-Van Halen member Michael Anthony as both an opening act and member of Hagar’s band, made its Detroit stop less than two weeks after Van Halen played its two reunion shows in the area.
Billed as the Mad Anthony Express, Anthony’s group, which included guitarist Vic Johnson and percussionist J.D. from Hagar’s band on drums, opened the show with a half hour set of mostly David Lee Roth-era Van Halen classics, including” “Runnin’ With the Devil,”
“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love,” “Light Up the Sky” and “D.O.A.” – the last two being songs Van Halen hasn’t performed on their current tour. The instant Anthony sang his harmony parts to the songs it became apparent what was missing from the Van Halen reunion. Wolfgang Van Halen held his own on the Van Halen tour, but he is no Anthony. The band also included a cover of the ZZ Top song “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers,” with Johnson and Anthony trading lead vocals.
After a short break, Hagar’s band came out, opening with “Sam I Am” from 2006’s Livin’ It Up! album and delivered a set featuring two new songs – the Van Halen-sounding “Open” and the country-flavored “When the Sun Don’t Shine.” The show featured plenty of Hagar classics as well, with three songs from 1981’s Standing Hampton, including his cover of “Piece of My Heart, “The Girl Gets Around” from the Footloose soundtrack,
and, of course, “I Can’t Drive 55.”
Anthony returned to the stage to perform a short set of Van Halen songs with Hagar, including “Best of Both Worlds,” “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You,” and “Why Can’t This Be Love.” He later returned for an acoustic version of “Dreams,” as well as an a cappella version of “Cabo Wabo.”
Hagar in recent years has reinvented himself as sort of a hard rock Jimmy Buffet, attempting to recreate the atmosphere of his Cabo Wabo Cantina at each of the stops on his tour. A mariachi band greeted fans when they entered the theatre while girls in bikinis served drinks. It is an interesting shift, as while the Roth era is generally considered to be more of a party band than the Hagar era, their show was all business, with little talking in between songs. Hagar’s show was like walking onto the middle of a giant New Year’s Eve bash. A different approach for sure, but both shows were great
and fans should be ecstatic both groups are still performing at this level given their history and their age – Hagar recently turned 60.
Hagar said he planned on doing this the rest of his life and thanked the crowd for giving him the opportunity to do so. He seemed genuinely elated to be back in Detroit – a stronghold of his – and it came through in his performance.