It was a quiet Sunday night at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, with modest crowds gathered at the slot machines and gaming tables around the casino floor.
Except for in the South Shore Room, of course, where super group Chickenfoot put on a high-octane performance in front of a packed house. The renowned rock band was playing its second set of the weekend of its first time onstage since 2010. Promoters of “Cinco de Foot, May the Original Foot be with You!” decided to the Sunday show after tickets to the initial Saturday gig sold out within minutes.
“Thanks for having us back for a second night; it should be a good comparison,” frontman Sammy Hagar called to the crowd, as the throaty, bluesy chords of “Soap on a Rope” tore out of the speakers.
Hagar (vocals), Joe Satriani (guitar), Michael Anthony (bass), and Chad Smith (drums) cranked every ounce of juice out of the sound system, providing a raucous and excitable crowd with a full-throttle display of virtuosity.
Satriani’s tour-de-force guitar work was spectacular; the iconic, smooth-pated, black shades and T-sporting shredder working every fret of his red and blue signature Ibanez electric guitar. He covered every trick in the book, searing and wailing arpeggios, raw and growling power riffs, and roaring dive bombs and other tremolo effects. “Satch” even busted out his tooth-picking prowess, lifting the Ibanez up to strike the strings with his chompers for a wild finale to Chickenfoot’s “Oh Yeah.”
These guys are a ton of fun to watch. Hagar was clearly enjoying the crowd, jogging and jumping all over the set, oftentimes taking up a position aside Smith on the drummer’s raised dais at center stage. His vocals were excellent; roaring, howling, and wailing, he appeared unfazed by an altitude to which he is obviously accustomed. Always a fan favorite, the Red Rocker was constantly engaging the audience, walking along the front row shaking hands, high-fiving, and teasing the crowd.
“Take two and call me in the morning,” he called out after one song, soliciting some medical advice from his drummer “Dr. Smith.”
“That guy looks like he needs some Viagra,” Smith nodded toward a concertgoer. I’ve never seen Red Hot Chili Peppers live; Smith really does look like alarmingly like Will Ferrell. And he’s funny. And he plays the drums like a madman, sticks flying over an outsized set, hammering home each beat with up-tempo alacrity. During the final encore song, Smith destroyed his drum kit.
Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony backs up the squad on electric bass, providing the thumping foundation for Chickenfoot’s aggressive attack. Anthony looked to be having a blast, covering a lot of ground onstage and lining up with band mates back to back or swaying together in time to the music.
Not being familiar with Chickenfoot’s work, I enjoyed the show immensely. The band has an awesome sound, like Van Halen with more edge and less glitz; high-caliber, head-moving rock.
“This started as a little jam in the studio,” Hagar said, introducing “Down the Drain.” “And then it turned into a song, like most of our songs.”
Hard rock and Hallmark might not always go together, but Chickenfoot made sure to cheer on the moms for Mother’s Day.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” Hagar said. “I’m having one hell of a Mother’s Day for being a dude.”
He went on to praise his wife, Kari, and wish her a happy Mom’s Day, before introducing the band’s next tune.
“This song is about mothers,” he said. “It’s about single mothers; I was raised by a single mom.”
A roar went up from the cheering audience as the opening chords of “My Kinda Girl” thundered out from the stage. The South Shore room was brimming, with a crowd that covered every inch of the room from the stage to the doors.
I know Chickenfoot’s members have busy schedules and that Tahoe was lucky to get a second show added to the weekend. But as I left Harrah’s, with Satch’s shredding and Hagar’s howling still reverberating in my head, all I could think was “damn; those guys should get together more often.”
Related story: Sammy Hagar & the Circle back in Tahoe in August; Q&A with Red Rocker, CLICK
Editor’s note: To see Larry Sabo’s images of the entire set, click HERE