Jason Bonham on Performing with Sammy Hagar, Michael Anthony in Wake of Eddie Van Halen’s Death
Jason Bonham, the drummer for Sammy Hagar & The Circle, took part in Hagar’s Birthday Bash 2020 on Catalina Island back in October in honor of Hagar’s birthday. The PPV saw the band, which also features bassist Michael Anthony and guitarist Vic Johnson, deliver a setlist made up of cover songs, solo Hagar tunes and, of course, Van Halen songs.
The performance took place just two days after the death of Eddie Van Halen, and in an appearance on WCSX’s Big Jim’s House, Bonham details the mood of that day.
“You have to remember that we had a rehearsal two days before [Eddie died], and we were on a high because we hadn’t seen each other for such a long time, and it was so great,” said Bonham. “And then the next day we get the news, and then we got to play. So, no matter how great we felt, we felt a huge sadness.”
Bonham adds, “Just as a fan, my sadness was there, but looking at Mikey and Sammy, and Mikey, in particular, was devastated. And so was Sam, but Mikey…I could just tell.”
Bonham continued, “When it came to showtime, they just were like, ‘This is a celebration of the music. Let’s go out and do what he would want us to do.’ And that was it. It was a very tough [show.] We wanted to be so excited at the time. We gave it everything we had. It is what it was, and I think that came across. But yeah we were sad.”
Hagar appeared on Big Jim's House back on October 15, just nine days after Van Halen’s death, and touched on how difficult it was to perform.
“When I was playing the song ‘Right Now’ during the pay-per-view and I asked everyone in the boats to stop beeping their horns and have a moment of silence for Eddie, and then the piano part came in for ‘Right Now,’ after that, the lights went off in my head. This song is immortal. It lives forever; we don’t. And that helped me come to terms with it. And I sang that song like I’ve never sung it in my life.”
Hagar added, “It’s tough. I’m still coming to grips with it. I’m just so happy he and I reconnected at the beginning of this year. We didn’t make it public because we didn’t want it that way. But if that wouldn’t have happened, I’d still be in deep mourning. I wouldn’t be able to do this interview. But I came to peace with everything. Like I said, the music lives on, and I’ll play those songs for the rest of my life.”
Unlike Hagar, Anthony wasn’t able to reconnect with Van Halen before his untimely passing. In an appearance on Talkin' Rock with Meltdown, Anthony said, “We actually hadn’t spoken [for the last few years], and unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to. And, you know, it kind of bothers me because we had some issues that were never resolved. But I mean, what can you do? We were on track for a reunion, which I’m really sad never happened. But, you know, life and the show goes on.”