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Sammy Hagar on Raiders halftime gig: ‘I’m actually nervous’

Updated November 18, 2021 - 12:15 pm

Sammy Hagar leaves no venue unturned. He’s performed at his Cabo Wabo club at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, on the roof of Beer Park at Paris Las Vegas, and for six shows at The Strat Theater. And that’s just in the past two months.

The Red Rocker is donning the silver and black Sunday for his biggest Vegas crowd yet, at Allegiant Stadium during halftime of the Raiders-Cincinnati Bengals game.

“I’m actually nervous. I’ll tell you that now,” Hagar said in a phone chat Monday. “When they asked I said, ‘Yes!’ Then I went to my manager, ‘Wait, what am I going to do?’”

Hagar answered his own question, “I’m going to scream my (butt) off.”

Hagar and guitarist Vic Johnson from Hagar’s band The Circle will jam with David Perrico and the Raiders House Band.

“I’ve had a great conversation with Dave and I know that band is great,” Hagar said. “Who knows, after this, we might have to add some backup singers.”

Hagar plans to play some of his “stadium songs,” among them “Right Now” and “There’s Only One Way to Rock.”

“I’ll be playing to about 100 times more people than I’ve been used to playing for in Vegas,” Hagar said. “Who knows? I might feel a little weak in the knees. But I know what the team wants, and they want a rock show.”

Perrico is writing two new arrangements for the Hagar hits. The band leader spent 16 hours Wednesday re-charting the classics.

“It goes to the vision of the Raiders, it’s been their vision of how the house band can be integral to the game experience,” Perrico said. “It’s very much like the Doc Severinsen ‘Tonight Show’ band scenario, in that we are ready to play whoever they bring in.”

The team has brought in Carlos Santana, Ice Cube, Steve Aoki, Ludacris, Too Short, Marshmello and Grambling’s “World Famed Marching Band for pre-game and halftime shows. Criss Angel has performed an escape stunt 100 feet above the field. Gladys Knight, Marie Osmond, Yolanda Adams, Tinashe and Journey’s Neal Schon have been among the national anthem singers.

But Hagar is the first artist to actually perform with the Perrico band. This also is his first halftime show with the franchise.

Hagar has known Raiders owner Mark Davis for years and has followed the team through its history in Oakland, Los Angeles, back to the Bay Area and finally Las Vegas.

“The Raiders are a bit of an underdog in the NFL,” Hagar said. “I can relate to that.”

The “Sammy Hagar and Friends” concept has been a hit at The Strat. Hagar has welcomed such collaborators as Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead, Rick Springfield and Stephen Pearcy of Ratt. Hagar, Springfield and current Encore Theater headliner Bryan Adams partied at Cabo Wabo after last Friday’s show.

“I am so grateful that Las Vegas has accepted me into the community, that’s what’s really great about this,” the 74-year-old Hagar said. “I really feel like I’m part of the city, and these shows make me feel like I’m 26 again.”

Hagar plans to return to residency in Las Vegas in 2022. The details are to be sorted out, as Hagar wiped out The Strat Theater performances. The room’s seating was nearly doubled to 900 for his shows, and even that couldn’t match demand.

The former Montrose and Van Halen front man says he’d be in favor of returning to a tented structure, similar to the defunct “Celestia” show that closed and hauled out during COVID. Or, he’d be up for an evolved Cabo party experience in if the existing theater is expanded.

“The have all that room in the lobby, near the entrance, and we could take over a lot of that space,” Hagar said. “If they did that, I would never leave Las Vegas.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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