Chickenfoot

June 10, 2012
Greek Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ron Lyon

Chickenfoot, the all-American supergroup with Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony and Kenny Aronoff (sitting in for original Chickenfoot drummer Chad Smith, whose commitment to the Red Hot Chili Peppers trumps all), wrapped up their 2012 Different Devil tour at the Greek before an appreciative, rock-hungry audience.

Playing behind their second record, Chickenfoot III, the group wavered between a generous selection of new tracks and songs from their 2009 self-titled debut. Much to the dismay of some, they refrained from playing anything from their solo efforts or other bands, with one notable exception they saved for the very end.

If you went to this show without absolutely no concept of what Chickenfoot is all about, but you’re a Sammy Hagar fan, or a Hagar and Michael Anthony with Van Halen fan, or maybe you love Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien…well…it really depends on how open-minded you are.

Hagar himself says he envisioned Chickenfoot, at the very beginning, as a jam band, playing 10-minute songs without the structure of a rock hit. But that’s not quite how it’s panned out. This is a real group with real fans. You could tell who the Chickenfoot fans were because they sat in the first 10 rows singing along with all the songs.

Most others seemed to like the idea of seeing these four particular musicians interact with one another. Perhaps, under these circumstances, not knowing the material doesn’t really matter. Sammy Hagar is still the yapping, tequila-drinking madman between songs that he’s always been. More importantly, at 64, he can still sing like the I-Can’t-Drive-55 Red Rocker of the 80s. While it’s hard to say the material is up to par with the talent behind it, there’s no denying the execution.

They came out strong with “Lighten Up” and green lasers to back it up. Satch’s space-age solos spent a better part of the evening squealing and squirming over a rock-solid foundation, while Hager rolled around the melodies when he wasn’t firing off his characteristic, tongue-in-cheek quips between numbers. After “Sexy Little Thing,” during which a man a few rows in front of me hoisted up a pair of slinky panties, Hagar remarked that this was the first time he’d ever played the Greek Theatre, adding that it was probably because “we’re too loud.”

“Soap On A Rope,” Chickenfoot’s catchiest tune, resonated with the crowd, while "Up Next” paid tribute to Hagar’s late manager, Carter, along with other fallen notables whose faces appeared on the backline screen, including Whitney Houston, Robin Gibb, Bob Welch and Ronnie Montrose. Hagar was quick to lighten the mood, playing grab-ass with both Satriani and Anthony whenever the opportunity presented itself.

When a double-neck guitar was rolled out on a stand, the singer told Satriani that Jimmy Page used to wear his. And, of course, he was constantly talking about drinking and boozing and getting a buzz on. Fortunately, he kept quiet about that other hometown band playing in town that he and Anthony used to work with.

Instead, during “Future In The Past,” old images of Hagar, Satriani and Anthony were projected overhead, acknowledging each musician’s rich history. Hagar strapped on his red Les Paul for the first time, admitting earlier that he didn't feel the need to play guitar that much with Satriani in the band. That didn't stop him from peeling off a few red-hot leads just to prove he still has it. Then he got all sentimental, telling the audience how lucky he felt to still be rocking with Chickenfoot at this stage in his life.

“Different Devil” has to be one of the more memorable ones from Chickenfoot III that sounds like it could have been a hit 25 years ago. While the band certainly has the chops and the ability to become more song-oriented, should they chose, it's hard to say how much of a true band they actually are. Hagar was quick to assure everyone they are indeed a band with more to come, but who can say what next year will bring.

Just before 10:30, Hagar told the audience, "We don't do fucking encores -- we play until we're done." And with that Chickenfoot dove head first into the Montrose classic "Rock Candy" to finish off the night. It was a reminder of how not only bands, but also its individuals, can change and evolve, come and go. For Ronnie Montrose, the rock candy wasn't sweet enough.

But you look at Sammy Hagar, well past his prime, yet totally on top of his game and having the time of his life. Michael Anthony, let go from Van Halen after 25 years or so of service, has seemingly accepted Chickenfoot as his new baby. Joe Satriani is finally playing in a rock and roll band, and Kenny Aronoff is a more-than-ample understudy whose shiny dome complements the guitarist’s in wondrous and musical ways. We'll wait and see if a third installment of Chickenfoot is planned. Certainly, another swing through the Greek would be nice.

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