Two hours before Chickenfoot took the stage at New York City’s Webster Hall Tuesday night for their last show of a six-date club tour, lead singer Sammy Hagar was complaining about a sore throat – so he traded his trademark glass of Cabo Wabo tequila for a bottle of orange Gatorade.
Because of prior commitments, Chickenfoot has changed their live line-up to include drummer Kenny Aronoff in place of Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. “There were a couple challenges early on which were, Kenny didn’t know the songs that well so he would go by the charts,” Hagar told Rolling Stone. “I had to tell him, ‘Kenny, look, you’re playing the same songs, you’re not being Kenny, you’re not letting go and you’ve got to get off the hook. Don’t play the parts, play the fucking song. That’s what it was, playing the parts and only a drummer would understand that.’ [Aronoff] went, ‘Wow, I’ve never had a guy tell me that before.’ So, we went in and it’s been great.”
Recently the Grammy Foundation tweeted, “Who do u predict the reuniting band will be @ #GRAMMYnoms? Does this hint make u wanna ‘Jump’ & ‘Dance the Night Away’?” – a not-so-subtle hint about a Van Halen reunion at the Grammy nominations concert. But Hagar said any reunion wouldn’t include him. “If Van Halen play, it will be Dave [David Lee Roth], Eddie [Van Halen], Alex [Van Halen], and Wolfie [Wolfgang Van Halen], his kid – it wouldn’t be Mike [Anthony] and I. First of all, we wouldn’t be invited and second of all, if we were invited, we probably wouldn’t do it. If Eddie is in the same condition he was the last time I saw him, I don’t want to step onstage with him.”
Hagar has also been enjoying the success of his new Book, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock. “It really did put me up, elevate my stature I think,” Hagar said. “It made me a little bit more a part of the rock fabric. Of course, I already felt a part of the rock fabric but some people ignore that, or don’t respect what I do. It really changed a lot on that level.”
As the band prepared to take the stage, Joe Satriani and Hagar traded guitar licks as Aronoff finished off a game of touch football with a loaf of bread, tossed around among crewmembers. A red light flooded over the crowd and the band walked on, Hagar with his hands over his head. He reached down to the crowd, grabbed a marijuana leaf lei and wrapped it around his mic stand before breaking into “Lighten Up,” one of the 10 tracks off Chickenfoot’s new album, Chickenfoot III. Hagar lifted a bottle of Brooklyn Lager and announced, “Don’t get me wrong. I don’t own this company. I just want to get my buzz on.”
The band played “Alright, Alright,” “Big Foot,” and “Sexy Little Thing” to an crowd of raised fists and head-bangers before the lighting shifted to a soft white and Hagar teased the audience, saying, “The next song was supposed to be the first song on our new CD but that’s the difference between being a solo artist and being in a band – they wouldn’t let me put it there. Joe does the hiring and the firing in this band. He fired me over the order I chose at first but, every band I’m in fires me at least four times.”
Then Hagar screamed, “Got to have me some love,” paused, and slowly swooned in a suddenly sensitive voice: “But it’s all gone done the drain.” Not to be overshadowed, Satriani moved into a gripping guitar solo and the band transitioned into what Hagar refers to as the band’s “grown-up song.” “Come Closer” is as mellow as Chickenfoot gets. The song, which was the closest thing to a ballad on the set, didn’t go over as smoothly with the largely male, heavy-rock fan base gathered in the packed venue. Mostly, the audience keeps their arms crossed and waits for the pace of the music to catch back up to the pace of their drinking.
As the concert wrapped up, Chickenfoot went into a rendition of “Three and a Half Letters.” “This song,” Hagar said, “is the second of two protest songs I have written in my life – the first being, ‘I Can’t Drive 55.'”