Last year when Chickenfoot came to Chicago, they entertained the locals in the tight squeeze of the popular Metro. This weekend, as they tour in support of their new album, 'Chickenfoot III', their fans have not occupied every single seat in the opulent Chicago Theater, but the huge draw was still impressive.

This is a band that knows how to party. The audience is friendly, from the get-go and the prominent peace symbol morphed webbed foot, which comprises the Chickenfoot logo is hard to miss at the busy, merch table. Their usual drummer, Chad Smith, was not with us, as he was working with his regular group, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but Keith Aronoff, Joe Satriani, Mark Anthony and Sammy Hagar took to the stage casually after a short set from the opening act, Young Distractions.

Hagar commenced with ‘Lighten Up’, a perfect opener, which unleashed the band’s sublime harmonies, and throttling rhythm section. It set the stage for the congenial mood that would guarantee a memorable night.

Not missing a beat, Hagar invited the audience to sing along to ‘Alright, Alright.’ Once the predictable hook got repeated by all, Hagar had a chance to concentrate on wooing his fans, and this is something that the blonde, almost 65-year-old has always done exceedingly well, whether it was with his early Montrose or later Van Halen days.

The large screen visuals played a big part in the festivities. When ‘Big Foot’ came on, the in-your-face clips began really rolling. Hagar kept the mood jovial also by pitting Detroit and Chicago fans against each other, much to the delight of the natives.

There was an obvious connectedness between the members. Satriani’s more serious nature contrasted former Van Halen bassist Anthony’s ever-present grin. Hagar enjoyed prancing between the two and even picked up an electric guitar towards the end of the show.

Hagar’s voice remained remarkably strong and often sounded like John Paul Jones. In fact, during several moments in the show, that voice paired with Anthony’s whipping bass and Satriani’s speedy runs and psychedelic riffs recalled Led Zeppelin.

‘Sexy Little Thing’ was another playful rock and roll arrangement that is highlighted by an exotic riff. “I want to roll all in it,” Hagar writhes, making full use of his still steel range. Fully aware of the fans, he made sure to touch base with both sides of the stage; grasping random hands and grinning between phrases.

When performing the riff heavy, 60s soaked ‘Soap on a Rope’, he had his chance to rant this human observation: “Got it all, still want more…”

In between numbers Hagar seemed to delight in arousing chants from the crowd. “Get your buzz on,” he urged. He talked about settling into his hotel room and catching a view of Lake Michigan. Comically he shared that when he woke up, after a gruelling night, and witnessed the water, he thought he “was in Cabo for about 15 minutes.”

Hagar is famous for his birthday bashes in Mexico. One couple, who go there annually later bragged about being one of 800 guests at his cantina last year where Hagar schmoozed for hours, while passing around copious shots of his acclaimed tequila.

The neon lights that swept through the room were at their most stunning when they formed an upside down pyramid that spawned a hazy, lime green halo. The lyrics of ‘Last Temptation’ soared beyond the garden-variety blues lyric and told the familiar story of the forbidden fruit in a unique way.

Hagar reminded the crowd at one point that he’s been performing for years; he admitted enjoying fame and money, but, as he eyed his colleagues, he explained that this lineup is a dream team.

In his memoirs, Hagar explained how his touring with Van Halen was rife with woes, due to Eddie Van Halen’s rampant alcohol abuse. Before that, Hagar had sowed his oats with guitarist Ronnie Montrose of the Montrose band. In fact, Hagar and Satriani recently paid musical tribute to the late rock star.

To that end, he made comments about his own colourful history. In a tongue and cheek manner, Hagar exclaimed, “Seems like I’m always getting thrown out of bands…”

‘She’s My Girl’ was accompanied by slides of girls going through all phases of life; marriage, divorce, and child raising. It stood out as the bona fide pop ballad, which Hagar delivered with an unbeatably appealing, we’re-all-in-this-together manner.

Over the last few years, Satriani and Hagar have become songwriting soul mates. On some YouTube videos, Sammy and the band discuss the inspiration behind many of the new tunes.

On this tour, many of those written for ‘Chickenfoot III’, of course, are being featured, as well as the classics that propelled Hagar to fame, but the song, ‘Different Devil’, linked with this tour of the same name, is a perfect example of this good and exciting fit.

It’s the kind of tune you swear you’ve heard before; it’s thankfully not too verbose, but with a solid rock message. Hagar also seems to want to tell us how he’s grown tonight and over the years. He’s older, more committed to doing the kind of music this band empowers him to do and, though he still enjoys a rock and roll lifestyle, he’s happy to come home to his woman, a story that the ‘Different Devil’ makes clear.

A deteriorating relationship gets undone in ‘Down the Drain’. “She used to wake me up for breakfast/Force feed me with a single spoon…” sings the exasperated front man, after his “whole world changed.”

Though most of the fare is light, tonight, ‘Something Gone Wrong’ shows the world going haywire, both visually, as disaster footage rolls on, and technically. Tall, cool Satriani gives his all, delivering a piercing display of sounds, while displaying his unrivalled ear for melody. Aronoff and Anthony get a “big-footed” chance to show off at this point as well.

A contrastive folk acoustic feel embraced ‘Future in the Past’, but the flourishes refused to wane. ‘Different Devil’ rocked on towards a mysterious sounding outro, although the powerhouse Satriani could sink a ship with just one note.

The last song was a tribute to Montrose, ‘Rock Candy.’ The “hot and sticky” hook makes it one of the most fun-filled, yet simple arrangements. More than one fan grumbled that there wasn’t an encore, yet, as the house lights went on, no one stayed to complain. Stray comments from passersby revealed this consensus: that this still newly formed quartet, performing even without Smith, worked super hard and left us eagerly wanting more.









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