Watch John Mayer and Sammy Hagar play Van Halen’s Finish What Ya Started

Sammy Hagar and John Mayer
(Image credit: AXS TV/YouTube)

Between the years 2016 and 2020, Sammy Hagar released five seasons of his popular Rock & Roll Road Trip TV series – a show that saw the former Van Halen frontman link up with a number of A-list electric guitar players for performances, interviews and other activities.

On March 5 2017, the second series of Rock & Roll Road Trip aired in spectacular fashion, with Hagar recruiting Joe Satriani, James Hetfield, Melissa Etheridge, Pat Monahan and Tommy Lee for his annual Acoustic-4-A-Cure concert.

In that same episode, Hagar also tapped John Mayer for an acoustic-meets-electric performance of Van Halen’s 1988 track, Finish What Ya Started.

With Hagar wielding his Yamaha AES-620SH signature guitar – complete with a “Red Rocker” inlay – Mayer opts for what looks like his Martin OMJM acoustic guitar, supplying the song with a bountiful supply of bouncy strums and blues-y fretboard improvs.

Though he’s using an electric guitar, Hagar also employs a pristine clean tone, which complements Mayer’s Martin almost as well as the two singer-guitarists’ vocals complement each other. 

As the song progresses, Mayer eases more and more into the track, treating his rhythmic progressions to subtle melodic embellishments and off-the-cuff lead licks that color his chords with some tasty seventh notes and beyond.

These flourishes come to a fore at the 24:30 mark in the video above – the whole song starts at the 22:00 mark – when Mayer breezes through track's solo.

Earlier in the episode, Mayer and Hagar sat down to discuss their performance of Finish What Ya Started, with the Sob Rock star admitting he attempted to learn the chicken pickin' solo by ear on the spot.

“It’s a really fun challenge. It’s a batting cage,” Mayer said of learning songs by ear. “It’s like, someone says, ‘Here’s a song,’ and if you’ve heard the song and if you’ve played guitar long enough, you sort of have to Beautiful Mind it really fast, and that’s always really fun for me.

“We did Finish What Ya Started and I went, ‘Oh there’s a pretty involved chicken pickin’ solo in here,’” he continued. “And I go, ‘How do I get around it?’ You just go through it. Just do it. And it ends up being somewhat like it, but you end up getting the love for having attempted the jump.”

Mayer is no stranger to covering Van Halen classics. Back in the summer of 2008, the PRS signature artist harnessed his inner Eddie Van Halen on multiple occasions and used a Frankenstein model to treat audiences to a cover of Panama.

The new footage is the second pro-shot clip of the March 5 2017 episode of Rock & Roll Road Trip to be released. Almost exactly a year ago, footage from the Acoustic-4-A-Cure episode was released, which showed Mayer, Hagar, Etheridge, Satriani and Hetfield perform Piece of My Heart.

The footage of Mayer and Hagar performing Finish What Ya Started is the latest Rock & Roll Road Trip episode to drop, after a clip of Steve Lukather jamming Crossroads with Sammy Hagar and Kenny Aronoff arrived in September.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.