How Sammy Hagar Regrouped Onstage After Eddie Van Halen’s Death
Eddie Van Halen's death coincided with Sammy Hagar's annual Birthday Bash this year, and the singer recently described the difficulty in trying to perform the Van Halen songs the two wrote together at the show.
As Hagar explained on Eddie Trunk's SiriusXM show, he and his band the Circle were rehearsing on Catalina Island when the news of Van Halen's death broke. A pall was instantly cast on the sessions. It became too emotional for Hagar and bassist Michael Anthony to play those songs. "So I started shuffling the songs," Hagar said. "I started taking songs out of the set, trying to make a set list."
Then came the dress rehearsal, which was filmed so in case there was some problem during the real show, it could be seamlessly edited into the performance. But the set was, in Hagar's estimation, "unusable. It was lifeless. You could just see it."
Backstage, Hagar and Anthony realized time was running out, and they had no choice but to focus on doing as good a job as possible. It wasn't until the piano part for "Right Now" started and Hagar called for a moment of silence that everything fell into place. After hearing the boats go silent, Hagar said, "I just fucking looked at Mike, he looked at me. I just said wow."
Hagar continued: "We had work to do, and that was carry on the music And we did it ... and it was one of the greatest performances of the song 'Right Now' and 'Good Enough' and any of the songs that we played - the Van Halen stuff - that was as good as it's ever been, maybe better than the Circle was playing them before. It had purpose. Sometimes, that's what happens, though adversity and stuff you get stronger. You dig in to some other place and we did it."
Hagar added that comedian George Lopez, a mutual friend of both Hagar and Van Halen, was the one who brought the pair back together. In February, Lopez told Hagar he had just seen Eddie and that his health was getting worse; it was time, he told Hagar, for a reconciliation.
Lopez gave Hagar Van Halen's phone number, and the singer took it from there. Eddie had talked about the two of them getting together to "make some noise" again when his health improved; Hagar joked that, at 73, he may not be able to sing a Van Halen set anymore. "I just can't believe that I'll never play with that guy again," Hagar said. "I thought it was inevitable once we patched everything up at the first of the year. Eddie and I were definitely talking a lot and texting like teenagers."
Fans who missed the original pay-per-view stream of Hagar's Birthday Bash - where fans were placed on boats to social distance - can purchase a Nov. 25 rebroadcast at nugs.tv in HD and 4K. You can preview it below with the set's opening song, "There's Only One Way to Rock."
Hagar is also participating in a benefit for those affected by the CZU Lightning Complex Fire in Santa Cruz, Calif. Joining him for the streaming event on Dec. 5 are Bonnie Raitt, Joe Satriani, Boz Scaggs, Kevin Cronin and Los Lobos. You can find more information at the benefit's website.