Sammy & Dave Live In Cleveland, OH

By Sefany Jones, Contributing Editor
Friday, June 14, 2002 @ 3:09 PM

The ‘Ex-Wives’ Rock Out Cuyaho

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REVIEW BY: Mick Stingley

The Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett of AOR made music history last night with their rock and roll “Roshamon” as they burned up the sweet suburban air of “Blossom” in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Billed in ads in the Cleveland Scene Newspaper as “Song For Song The Undisputed Heavyweight Champs Of Rock And Roll!” This show was all that and way more. This is THE MUST-SEE CONCERT EVENT OF THE SUMMER! A foot-tappin’ fist-pumpin’ pulse-pounding heart-stopping white-knuckle inverted-roller-coaster thrill ride from kickstart to sparkling finish! But a traveling show this stellar needs a better name -- so I call it “THE EX-WIVES CLUB.” (I like it.) And I saw it. And I live in New York City. I’m Mick Stingley… and this is my story.

With no East Coast dates scheduled, I wasn’t going to sit around and bitch that I couldn’t see my favorite band’s ex-lead singers duke it out: I did something about it.

I went to Cleveland. I have an entirely too-long tale of my going-to staying in, and getting back from this event: but I will save that for another time, another place. Maybe we’ll have a beer someday. Suffice to say, as someone who had never been there before, Cleveland is awesome. The city is clean, the architecture is cool (Federal Reserve Bank, The Arcade, the much-maligned R&R HOF) people are friendly, and the girls…OH MY GAAHD! And Cleveland loves it’s “Happy Hours” I can assure you. But you guys need to get the RTA or Metro to step up on transportation to Blossom, since there is none. That would eliminate a hell of a lot to traffic in getting off the exit to Steels Wheel Road or whatever it’s called. Way too much traffic, dudes. Maybe I should have let that girl I met at The Galleria take me down to Cuyahoga Falls to see the show… but she wasn’t getting off until 8PM, and I didn’t want to miss a goddamn thing. Besides, I planned on getting off all night…


The Blossom Music Center (“Blossom”) is in the sweet-smelling suburb that Chrissie Hynde sang about in “My City Was Gone”- the scent of the fresh-cut grass of horse farms and lilacs is not something we get a lot of in NYC, so I’m diggin’ it! It’s an open-air venue in a giant park, and boasts a summer home to the World Renown Cleveland Symphony Orchestra. Set at the bottom of a hill, it’s a serenely beautiful oasis from life; a covered amphitheater with a triangle-like roof that extends out over the audience, and was obviously designed to carry sound like an outdoor Carnegie Hall. On any other day, I picture old ladies and WASPS from wherever, cooling their heels and sipping lemonade while some Eugene Ormandy-type shakes his baton to Shostakovich. BUT TONIGHT- This little oasis was overrun with rock fans and radio stations and more rock fans and moms and dads and kids and beer stands and hot dog stands and merch stands and tequila stands and…and -- “WHOA, YEAH.- BEAUTIFUL GIRLS!” I ain’t lyin’ to ya… Seriously, I am thinkin’ about movin’ to Cleveland… you see, while waiting in line for an $8.00, 24-ounce Coors Light, I met these two girls from some bar or restaurant called “Christie’s Cabaret:”

1st Girl, Tall, Brunette, Big Chest, Perfect Teeth: “You came all the way out from New York City?”
MS: “I sure did.”
1st Girl: (grins) “Wow…I’ve never been to New York City…”
2nd Girl, short blonde, bigger chest, arched eyebrow at 1st Girl “We should do a road trip…”
MS: (ear-to-ear Kool-Aid smile) “Yes you should!”
1st Girl: “Okay…give me your number…Oh look here come our boyfriends…”
Okay, less talk, more rock:

At a little after 7PM, while the sun is still out and you can see the Coors Light girls in their shiny silver pants (I think they disappeared backstage when the show started), a short film begins to play on the state-of-the-art KISS-style giant video screen that remains fixed behind the stage. The film is all about Sammy and what he has to say, and is a long-form commercial for… Sammy Hagar, complete with Cabo Wabo Tequila references and pretty girls, Van Halen imagery and Sammy on Sammy. It is something of a Behind The Music, except no drugs, no one dies, and no one goes bankrupt. Soon, a Cabo Wabo hand-painted fly (curtain) drops in front of the stage…

At 7:31PM, the curtain is raised.
Sammy Hagar comes out onstage with The Waboritas.
Like an overaged frat-boy, Sammy, with trademark-red guitar, flashy surf-jams and a yellow tee-shirt that says “GOT TEQUILA?” rips into “Red.” The “Red Rocker” song, I call it. He has on red sunglasses (his own line, I was later told by Christie’s Cabaret girls), and sports a goatee. His hair is short. (Still short, I believe, since he cut it off on Jay Leno’s show and donated it to www.locksoflove.com, a non-profit group that makes wigs for children with medical-related hair loss… (the only selfless act I have ever performed -- I cut off some 20-inches of my own hair in 2000 and sent it to them… and I learned about them after having seen Sammy do it… so there).

The Waboritas are tighter than Fort Knox and worth all their weight in gold. And speaking of Jay Leno, on stage, at the left and right, are two small bleacher set-ups filled with contest-winners from a local radio promo. The stage is filled with activity and behind Sammy runs the live feed of the camera, so everyone can see everything, and no one is left out. Nice. It’s The Tonight Show, Starring Sammy Hagar. Next up is “Runaround,” and the A&F hat wearing guy in front of me (‘Browns’ tee-shirt tucked into shorts, white socks and fresh Nikes) starts “working it out” on the “air-drums”. Well, I guess people are alike all over. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this guy in New Jersey and Tampa and Las Vegas, too. He starts flailing his arms with so much gusto, he bumps into me and spills my beer. I actually didn’t care, as I was having so much fun. (Plus, the girlies in Cleveland are gorgeous…or didn’t I mention?) However, the A&F guy spilled my beer on my notes, so after ”Runaround,” when Sammy speaks to the audience about it being the first show of the tour, and that it’s still daylight… I can’t relate exactly what he said. My blurred, beer-soaked scribble looks like -- “It’s still frying daytime starstripper frenna toy allo Cleveland!”

Whatever, Sammy called out a “waitress” at the top of his lungs, and some honey in a thong comes out with a tray and a blue margarita-looking drink. Sammy toasts us, and then drinks up…and calls in the opening of “Three Lock Box.” This badass little number is followed well with “There’s Only One Way To Rock!” In the meantime, on the giant TV screen, are clips of “Girls Gone Wild.” The lighting gear for this show by the way, is worth mentioning -- like seven or eight tiers of lights. Colored lights and spinning lights and what-the-fuck-ever cool shit that has no known name.

Damn, this show is killer already. I wonder how Dave is going to do?

Now, I don’t much care for ballads, but “Give To Live” comes in, and rocks with more melody and charm than I would have ever given Old Sam credit for when he was with that band of his… that no one has mentioned tonight. “Top Of The World” is followed by Sammy calling out: “I know why those people are sitting out on the lawn… because it’s closer to the fucking bar!” And then they play “Why Can’t This Be Love?” (not the best song intro ever, I will say, but you know, everyone is having a good time...) This is followed by Sammy yelling: “It’s 5150 time!” …and the crowd… how can they possibly go any more bananas than they are going? I don’t know… but they do.

It sure is loud out here at Blossom. I wonder if the Van Halen boys can hear it back in Malibu? At this point, Sammy goes up to the bleacher stand on stage right and lets some people sing along…and by some strange coincidence, there is a life-size card-board cutout of some family-man looking guy with a goatee… OH- it’s EVH! And Sammy throws his arm around the cutout, and then punches it. Nice. That must have felt good. After the song, he calls out again for a waitress, “WAITRESS!” (Man, I feel sorry for every waitress in America when people see this show… every guy in a tequila haze is gonna annoy the shit out of every girl who works at Friday’s…) Another honey comes out and Sammy starts talking about how he’d rather be firing up a doobie or something, and when “my buddy is out here” that’s what he’ll be doing.

This is a key moment. He actually refers to David Lee Roth as his “buddy.” Wow. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since 1986-87. Seriously… that was very cool. After that moment, Sam went through some amazing renditions of crowd-pleasing favorites, which by now are all over the net. But here’s the rest of the set: "Poundcake;" "Finish What Ya Started;" "Eagles Fly;" "Little White Lies;" "I Can't Drive 55" (complete with action footage from his video); "Heavy Metal" (featuring his rad chickie bass player goofing on the second verse, and video images from the movie of the same name) and, of course… "Mas Tequila." There is an appearance from a Cabo Wabo tequila worm…. product placement more obvious than the Dr. Pepper can in Spiderman. Sammy and crew leave, and then return for an encore with -- and then a long explanation of the song-writing that brought on "Right Now," which is the last song. Show over; Sammy is awesome.

I go for a pee, grab another $8.00 24-ounce Coors Light and head back to my seat. Now, the A&F guy in front of me takes notice of the fact that I am scribbling in my notebook, and asks about it. I tell him I want to write about it for myself, for others, for anyone who wants to read it, you know, whatever. He asks what I think so far. I say I think it’s all good; I’m having a good time. Trying to be nice and not Mr. New York Attitude, I ask him if he likes Sammy or Dave better. Big mistake. He likes Sammy, and tells me why. Inside of five minutes this guy has used the following three phrases which I hate: “It’s not rocket science!” “Do the math!” and, after gesturing wildly and spilling his beer AGAIN on me (the bottom of my jeans) says: “My bad!” I hate this guy. I can’t wait for the show to start…

Mercifully, I don’t have to wait too long. The breakdown and set-up between acts is punctuated by a short film, cut MTV-style… fast and furious. A stroll down memory lane with clips from DLR’s videos, early VH pix and so on. I start to get misty and remember the many, many times I saw DAVE, with VH and solo. Look, I really like Sammy Hagar… but I fuckin’ love David Lee Roth!

Onstage… going wide, two sets of Marshall stacks, 3 long and 2 high. Bass cabinets flank the drummer, who is center-stage. Above him, the digital display. That’s it, that’s everything. Figures move about on the stage… and then… like a show-horse trotting out to collect his prizes… a long-blonde-haired black-glacier-sunglasses, copper-and-black shiny Harlequin-pants wearing black-suspender-clad shirtless Abs-Of-Steel and ‘80s-style-black-handkerchief-around-the-neck DAVID LEE ROTH appears.

It is clear from the audience cheering that he is a welcome guest here at Blossom. No shit, it’s really loud, the cheering. He says something, but I can’t hear a thing. I am guessing, having seen him a zillion times, it goes like this: “LOOKIT ALL THE PEOPLE HERE TONIGHT!” An old stand-by… but who cares when the guitarist and rhythm-section rip into the opening of “Hot For Teacher?”
“I don’t feel tardy!”
It’s all there. It all works. Totally stripped down like “Diver Down”-era DAVE. I can’t even contain my excitement. I am yelling along with the crowd to everything… it’s too late for me… save yourselves… I am gone… lost in DLR-land! After that, it’s “Panama”… and when Dave stops to let some girls in the front know that he intends to “ease the seat back”… Holy shit! Just girls screaming; and I am fourteen all over again! Nice.

Dave turns to the drummer and his guitarist… and asks something… and then… the opening notes… “…And The Cradle Will Rock!” Wow. I can’t even tell you about this without gushing like a kid. At the point in the song where Dave speaks, the guitarist leads up to the last note and just sustains… we all know what is coming; we all know what DAVE is going to say, the question he is going to ask… but the guitarist just holds that last note like forever, man… and DAVE just stands, goofing, grinning, taunting, and then slowly gives a nod… and however many people fill that venue -- 5000, more? -- they all sing along…
Worth the price of admission.
Worth the price of a ride on a Russian Space Shuttle, if you ask me. This guy is only three songs in, and already you realize he is doing EXACTLY what he was put on this Earth to do, and well!. Unlike say, Britney Spears, who has a career, but in a perfect world, would be lucky to get part-time shifts at The Limited. After that… it’s all DAVE: spinning kicks, “whoops” and the always famous tongue-in-cheek ‘look of surprise.’ It all goes down, classic VH-style, no frills, balls-to-the-wall “BIG ROCK” DLR. “Mean Streets;” then… I don’t believe it -- “Dance The Night Away.” Oh my god -- all of a sudden I remember my first kiss… a girl named Kristina Cole -- a minister’s daughter… no shit… and “Dance The Night Away” playing in the background! I feel sorry for kids today whose fist kiss is, like, to, I mean, c’mon -- “Last Resort”? But…oh, man, life is sweet and getting sweeter: “Runnin’ With The Devil.” Not enough old school VH? How about “I’m The One,” complete with the “Bop Ba Da Shoo-be Doo Wah.” “You Really Got Me” is followed by a song truly meant for Cleveland, “Beautiful Girls!” Then, DLR introduces the band…J ames Lorenzo, Ray Luzier… someone else. These guys are great, and I think a couple are from a VH cover band. Good for them. When they roll into, “So Is This Love?” there are girls in the front row lifting their shirts. When the camera spots a young honey showing her boobs -- Dave, Diamond Dave, stops and looks at the girl, then up at the screen, and says, “Well, I see that nothing has changed in Cleveland!” (The true master of innuendo and onstage banter, David Lee Roth could recite the alphabet and make it sound dirty…).

“Atomic Punk;” “Little Dreamer;” and “Pretty Woman;” yield Dave’s only solo, post VH number… “Yankee Rose.” Then… after some sips from a well-placed bottle of Jack, he is given a guitar and slides into… “Ice Cream Man.” “Everybody Wants Some” (“I like the way the line runs up the back of those stockings, Cleveland!”) has Dave using the bottle of Jack to shower the front row in, shall we say, a lewd way. Was it JD or iced tea? Only the front row can say fer shure! By the way… during all this excitement of the prodigal son’s return to form… the display on the screen features some whack-ass video of DLR doing karate moves (or whatever ) as well as some shinai-stick handling. Mixed with Busta Rhymes-style slow-mo creepy start-stop moves of DAVE and girls (duh!) and midgets in a water-filled corridor with guns and weird fetishy gear. This guy is a nut, and I want to party with him. Wouldn’t you?

“Unchained” and then…”Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” Have you been to the edge lately? And then… and then… and then…

This is the payoff. Isn’t Sammy going to come out and do some song with Dave? Isn’t that what you had hoped for? Isn’t that what should come next? It doesn’t happen. No duet. No “Soul Man,” no “Me And My Shadow,” no nada. I envy the people at the show when these guys decide to get it on VH-1 Divas-style duetting! BUT STILL -- Dave comes out and for one last gasp, gets everyone going when the opening notes to “Jump” are played. His big finish --splits off the drum riser, twice.

And that’s all folks!

It’s 50-50 all the way. Sammy and Dave. No one loses in this concert, and everyone in the audience wins. And ANYONE who bitches about set lists or tells you that one or the other or both couldn’t “something”… well, check their CD collection. I’ll bet there’s some “Hall And Oates” and maybe a couple of “Wham” CDs, dig?

This is the concert event of the summer. Run, don’t walk… and bring some money. Sammy has a few cool things for sale, including a shirt That says, “VAN HAGAR.” Dave has some good stuff, too. The best shirt is for girls, a black baby doll that just says, “DIAMOND DAVE.” Nice. Wish I had a girl to buy one for, though. *sigh*

(Lastly, I hope that, God-willing, somebody bootlegged this show tonight. If so… find a way to get in touch with me… I never had such a good time at a concert!)

Thank you Cleveland!
Good Night!

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