After decades in the trenches of arena rock, the members of the all-star Sammy Hagar & the Circle decided a good way to move forward was to look back.
The group, which features hard rock stalwart Sammy Hagar, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Jason Bonham, son – and stand-in for – the legendary Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham and Hagar’s regular guitar man Vic Johnson, has built a reputation around energetic sets that pull equally from each member’s musical history.
The band will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, at Bell Auditorium. Tickets are $45-$75 at georgialinatix.com, (877) 428-4849 and at James Brown Arena’s box office.
Anthony, who also played in the supergroup Chickenfoot with Hagar, said the Circle originally started as a one-off act organized for a Hagar date in Florida.
“It was so much fun that we decided to do some more shows,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “Things just sort of went from there.”
Those initial dates led to a live album and tour. And while the Circle began as a very personal cover band, playing songs by Hagar’s old band Montrose, his solo work, Van Halen hits and the occasional Zeppelin tune, Anthony said the band has also started to write.
“We went down to Sammy’s place in Cabo (the nightclub Cabo Wabo) and did 10 nights,” Anthony said. “And while we were there we were able to work some new stuff up. We’ll be doing something with that soon.”
Until then, Anthony said, the band will focus on playing songs that aren’t being played anywhere else – at least not by musicians with the kind of relationship with the music they have. Jason Bonham was the last drummer to play with Led Zeppelin and Van Halen hits from the years both Hagar and Anthony were part of the band.
“You aren’t going to hear that stuff from them,” he said, referring to his former band. “They avoid that stuff altogether.”
Anthony said looking at the back catalogues and playing songs that proved foundational to the band’s members hasn’t been a chore, but a real pleasure. It is, he said, a celebration of accomplishments and occasionally the rediscovery of a once well-loved song.
“Besides, I’ve always thought that unless you are prepared to play a song for the rest of your life you shouldn’t have written it in the first place,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to have done this for as long as I have and that’s what this is about.”
And while the Circle is surrounded by the trappings of a touring rock band, Anthony said the experience has proved far from business as usual.
He said playing with Sammy Hagar means never doing the same thing twice and that approach to performance feels an awful lot like the first times he strapped on a bass and provided the low end for a rock band.
“The one thing that has always appealed to me is the live show,” he said. “That’s how you start. It’s what fuels everything else.”
“Besides, we’ve all been doing this so long we feel like we can allow ourselves to have some fun at this point,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve earned it.”