DVD Review: Chickenfoot, “Get Your Buzz On Live”
Chickenfoot. When word of the band name of Sammy Hagar’s new “supergroup” leaked out, half the internet responded by saying “that’s the dumbest band name I’ve ever heard…..and just when I thought Sammy couldn’t get any cornier!” The other half of the internet said “you know what? That band name is pretty funny.” The official word from band camp was that “Chickenfoot” was merely a working title for the project, and the real band name would be revealed later.
But the buzz about the “name” was large enough, that Hagar and crew quickly realized that they had the attention of their audience, and when you’ve got that, you pick it up and you run with it. So “Chickenfoot,” the temporary working title, became Chickenfoot, the band.
(And for those that remember Sammy’s HSAS project from the ’80s, take note that the members of Chickenfoot happen to spell out H.S.A.S. as well. Cool!)
And what a band it is! After an aborted attempt at a similar project a few years back underneath the name of Planet US, Hagar made sure that the associated players for this new project would actually have the time to commit to a proper album and the subsequent touring. Which is important, when your colleagues in said new project are virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani, former Van Halen bass player Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
You knew that these guys could play, but could they produce an album of songs worth listening to? For anyone that’s been following along with Sammy Hagar’s recent output, that was a bit of a question. Hagar’s most recent album Cosmic Universal Fashion had moments (including the Planet US leftover “Peephole”), but for the most part, it was an uneven collection of odds and sods. All of which left me a bit skeptical as I waited for the Chickenfoot album to hit. But then I got it, listened to it, and dammit, it was actually really good. Really good.
One, it’s about time that somebody actually let Michael Anthony play on an album again. Two, and the most surprising part about Chickenfoot – Joe Satriani proves that he can step back from the traditional noodle wankfest that he’s occasionally accused of with his solo work and instead, with Chickenfoot, Satriani is just the guy that plays guitar in the band. And with Satch on board, Hagar finally has a good guitar player standing at his side, after years of playing with Vic Johnson in his solo band, someone who is without question, a good dude, but as a guitar player, merely adequate. And when you’ve spent a good chunk of your career playing with Eddie Van Halen, you deserve a guitar player that is better than “adequate.”
After hearing the album, I couldn’t wait to see Chickenfoot live, something that I finally accomplished when the band played a free show outdoors at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, after more than a year of being on tour. Starting in the clubs, and moving later to larger theaters, Hagar and the members of the ‘Foot spent plenty of time making sure that everybody in every city worldwide knew that there was a bad ass new rock and roll band to be aware of, featuring a bunch of guys that you might have heard of.
Get Your Buzz On Live tabulates the results of that touring, and unlike Hagar’s previous live DVD, which was god awful (mostly because Hagar himself was not in good voice), this new live DVD finds Chickenfoot on “top of the world” (allow me at least one gratuitous Van Hagar references) and kicking serious ass. Specifically, let’s stand up right now and give Chad Smith a medal for being a motherfucker of a drummer. If there’s one reason that you’ll want to purchase this DVD, it will be to watch Smith destroying it behind the kit for the duration of this gig, which was recorded at the Dodge Theatre in Phoenix, AZ.
This DVD proves that having a good batch of songs to tour behind, makes all the difference in the world, and not only is the set perfectly paced, it flat out burns, for nearly 90 minutes. Intro’ing “Future In The Past” (that’s such a vintage sounding Hagar song title), Hagar shares with the audience that the album was recorded over the span of 43 days. Allegedly, the group had no songs prior to entering the studio, and Hagar spent two days writing songs with Satriani prior to being joined in the studio by Smith and Anthony. If that’s truly the case, it explains a lot – why the Chickenfoot material has such a loose, off-the-cuff, yet organic feel throughout, because it wasn’t overthought – and sometimes good songs are just good songs, especially if you let them be. Which ultimately equals great, and “great” is the term that I would use to describe the Chickenfoot live show. I had such a good time at the Rock Hall show, and the Chickenfoot live experience comes as close to the 5150-era Van Halen live experience, as anything I’ve seen from Hagar (although I did also enjoy the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge VH tour immensely as well). The best thing about this show was that there was no bullshit – no drawn out and unnecessary solos, no elongated tequila commercials from Hagar – just a whole lotta rock with minimal interruptions.
Initially, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospects of a tour featuring only material from the Chickenfoot album, but after seeing the show, it was clear that they had made the right decision to stick with a set featuring the bulk of the album (sans any of the expected Van Halen material, with the only setlist bonuses being covers of Hagar’s own Montrose-era “Bad Motor Scooter” and “My Generation” by The Who), including some nice acoustic riffing from Satriani on a bluesy little jam called “Bitten By The Wolf” sourced from the vinyl edition of the Chickenfoot album. Get Your Buzz On Live is a nice memento, shot in HD using 16 cameras with a DTS 5.1 Surround Sound mix by Mike Fraser that captures the show nicely and the camera transitions that are commendably calm most of the time in comparison to some of the seizure-inducing music DVDs that are out there. The DVD also boasts a nice documentary that goes far beyond being something that is value-added, featuring additional live footage from Cleveland and Atlanta, and some humorous comedic moments and special guests, including a choice bit with Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir.
Get Your Buzz On (also available on Blu-ray) will tide you over until the ‘Foot (reportedly already at work on album #2) come back around with new music.