Sammy Hagar

It was a triumphant homecoming for Sammy Hagar at the Universal Amphitheatre Tuesday. Hagar rocked for three hours and proved without equivocation that there is life after Van Halen. The packed house and the fans' response to the perf also demonstrated that guitar rock and power ballads aren't dead, but just resting. Kicking off the set with the title track to Hagar's recent release "Marching to Mars," the Red Rocker ripped through 25 years of repertoire at a blistering pace, backed by a young and eager-to-please group of musicians who more than made up for their lack of roadshow seasoning with unbridled enthusiasm.

Like his career, which has seen him switch from solo artist to band member and back and forth again, Hagar’s set shifted gears often during the perf. He drew from the new MCA Records disc, solo works and tracks as far back as from his first band to gain widespread notoriety, Montrose. In the process, Hagar kept the audience hanging on his every movement, guitar lick and lyric.

Hagar, who turns 50 in October, may have been the center of attention as he whirled and mugged throughout the evening using every inch of the stage, but charismatic guitarist Victor Johnson clearly stole the spotlight on many occasions with exemplary riff work that was both fluid and raw-edged.

Sammy Hagar

Universal Amphitheatre; 6,251 seats; $29.75 top

Production: Promoted by Universal Concerts. Band: Hagar, Victor Johnson, Jesse Harms, Mona Gnader, David Lauser. Reviewed Aug. 26, 1997.

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