When I heard Sammy Hagar's new band, Chickenfoot was playing the Greek, I couldn't help but think to the wisdom of Joe Dirt. Van Halen, not Van Hagar. Everytime I hear Van Hagar's "Why Can't This Be Love" my only thought is, why can't this be "Jump?" When it comes to Van Halen, the Red Rocker doesn't hold a candle to Diamond Dave, but is Sammy Hagar's super group worth seeing?
Along with Hagar in Chickenfoot is Joe Satriani, the world's most famous guitar teacher. Among his students are Steve Vai, and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. Satriani is known in guitar circles as a renowned virtuoso.
Even more interesting than Satriani, is the inclusion of Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer, Chad Smith in the line up. The Chili Peppers are known for their eccentric choice of side projects. Anthony Kiedis was in Point Break with Keanu Reeves. John Frusciante, when not overdosing on heroin, spends his time jamming with the Wu Tang Clan. "Flea," no stranger to the cameo, has been in countless movies, including The Big Lebowski and even a Back to the Future movie.
Even Chad Smith was in the Academy Award winning film, Session Man. But by far the strangest RHCP side project is Smith's current gig with Sammy Hagar. It just didn't make any sense to me. Chad Smith is in arguably the biggest band of our time. Why on earth would Chad Smith want to play with Sammy Hagar? Is John Carabi busy? Doesn't Ripper Owens need a drummer? Sammy Hagar was a scab to the Van Halen picket line and everyone knows it.
But it's easy for me to forget, long before Sammy Hagar brought Van Halen to ballad hell, he was the lead man for Montrose. Montrose is pretty bad ass. And Hagar's solo stuff is tolerable. I'll listen to "I Can't Drive 55" over "Right Now" any day. But that doesn't mean I wasn't scared about seeing Chickenfoot.
In summation, the Red Rocker's career progressed from "Badass" with Montrose in the mid 70s, to "Tolerable" solo work in the mid 80s, to "Absolutely Horrible" with Van Hagar in the late 80s. This doesn't bode well for where he is in 2012. Need less to say, when I arrived at the Greek, I was more than skeptical.
While I waited in line for what would be a 12 dollar Budweiser, I had the misfortune of getting a good look at some of the other attendees. I've seen enough greatest hits tours to know that there are typically only 5 types of Classic Rock Concert Goers: bald men in shorts who spit out boring rock facts like they are Eddie Trunk, construction workers with long hair and Oakleys, retired construction workers with gray hair and Hawaiian shirts, women who were hot in the 80s, and women who weren't hot in the 80s. But what really surprised me, was the number of Sammy Hagar cover bands there must be in Los Angeles. I couldn't fart with out it hitting an over weight blonde man with curls and a bad goatee.
And my skepticism for the show only got worse when I heard the opening band, Black Stone Cherry. If you've never heard of Black Stone Cherry, consider yourself lucky. Black Stone Cherry belong to one of my least favorite genres of music, Trailer Park Rock. They are so bad, they should start The Middle America Tour of Bad Taste with Nickelback, Puddle of Mudd, Godsmack and Creed.
About half way through Black Stone Cherry's set, they played a cover of Joe Walsh's "Rocky Mountain Way." This would have been cool, if it wasn't such a desperate attempt to appeal to the 40 and over crowd who couldn't stand their music. And anyways, ripping off a Joe Walsh tune doesn't make you cool, just ask Fred Durst.
Black Stone Cherry followed this up with a song called "White Trash Millionaire." This is the equivalent to Sammy Hagar playing a tune called "Over Weight Wash Out." Needless to say, I'd had enough oratory torture for the night and decided to spend the rest of their set at the bar.
By the time Chickenfoot was set to take stage, my expectations were low, and my BAC has high. But minutes into Chickenfoot's first song, I realized I had made a crucial mistake about Chickenfoot. Sammy Hagar may be the double chinned face of the band, but Joe Satriani is the balls.
Like the guitar teacher he is, Satriani put on a clinic. I immediately forgot about Hagar and was completely captivated by the technical madness that is Satriani's guitar playing. Justin Beiber could sing for Chickenfoot and Satriani would still make it great.
I spent the next 90 minutes bowing to Satriani and yelling 'We're not worthy!!" over and over again.
And don't get me wrong, it wasn't just Satriani shredding solos. There was plenty of that, but what made Chickenfoot so good was Satriani's bad ass power riffs. Every song was just no frills, no bullshit rock and roll. Not only did they NOT play "Why Can't This Be Love," they ended the show with a Montrose classic "Rock Candy."
I'm not too cocky to admit when I'm wrong. Despite what I thought, Sammy Hagar's Chickenfoot is pretty awesome. Now, this doesn't mean I'm sold on the Red Rocker. But if he leaves Van Halen alone and plays with Satriani, I'm in.
This article can also be seen on Nuvox Radio.
Edit: See Black Stone Cherry's response (and the backlash from their fans) here: Black Stone Cherry Doesn't Like Mike Gamms