Long before bandana-wearing bad boy Bret Michaels was a reality TV star (Celebrity Apprentice, Rock of Love, etc.) he was the front man of a fairly well-known glam metal band from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania called Poison.
Michaels remembered—and reconnected with—that past Tuesday (June 12) in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio when a reunited Poison brought their Nothin’ But a Good Time tour to Blossom Music Center.
Joined by fellow Midwestern musicians Cheap Trick (Rockford, Illinois) and Pop Evil (Muskegon, Michigan), Poison placated thousands of pavilion and lawn fans with a hits marathon that eschewed their late ‘90s and ‘00s fare in favor of the ‘80s hair-metal anthems and party-time tunes that catapulted them onto the pop charts.
We had fun at the outdoors show, which came off like a backyard bash hosted by Michaels and cohorts Rikki Rockett (drums), Bobby Dall (bass), and C.C. DeVille (guitar). Here are five reasons why you’d have nothin’ but a good time with Poison, too:
1. You’ve probably forgotten how many FM hits Poison are responsible for.
For the most part, the band adhered to songs written and recorded by its “classic” lineup—which meant that nothing from 1993’s Native Tongue (with guitarist Richie Kotzen) or 2000’s Crack a Smile…and More (with Blues Saraceno) made the cut in Ohio. Moreover, Michaels and pals ignored middling material from Power to the People (2000) or Hollyweird (2002) to make room for vintage fist-pumpers from Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986) and Open Up and Say…Ahhh! (1988). So Poison placated the masses with electrifying originals “I Want Action,” “Talk Dirty to Me,” and “Fallen Angel,” and covers “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (Loggins & Messina) and “Rock and Roll All Nite” (Kiss). The guys also dusted off some Flesh & Blood (1990) gems, too, in “Ride the Wind,” “Unskinny Bop,” and “Something to Believe In.” And yes, Michaels broke out an acoustic guitar for blockbuster ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
2. The band is as fun to watch as they are to hear.
Some guitarists might play faster, or with more efficiency. But there aren’t many who play with as much feeling as C.C. DeVille (or appear to be having as much fun). The Brooklyn-bred musician helped make Sunset Strip-styled sleaze-rock safe for a wider demographic (e.g. female) with his prodigious chops and flashy fashion statements. Motley Crue and Guns ‘n’ Roses may have come first, chronologically, but they can thank C.C. and Bret (and Def Leppard, too) for getting more girls to venture out to sports arenas in remote locales for some lascivious lipstick metal. By the time Poison reached its zenith, ‘80s ladies were flocking to Metallica shows, too. There’s a reason Steel Panther’s “Satch” looks (spandex, leopard prints, teased hair) and acts the way he does, and that reason is C.C.
Dall (who sported a greying goatee) is looking older these days. But he also looked slimmer and happier than the last time we saw him. The bassist wielded a sparkly green four-string early on, then switched to other basses as the show progressed. DeVille did the same with his axes, alternating between acoustics and ferocious-looking flying-Vs. Meanwhile, Rockett (a cancer survivor) crushed his kit as lights flashed and a big screen flickered behind him.
3. Love him or hate him, Michaels is a charismatic front man.
Millionaire, playboy, philanthropist Michaels (now in his 50s) has overcome substance issues and contended with serious heart problems. Yet there he was, on stage again at Blossom, banging out loud songs with cheeky lyrics as if nothing else mattered.
“I’m fired up!” he announced early on.
He looked it, too, perspiration beading at his temples (beneath his red bandana) as he patrolled a catwalk, shaking hands and high-fiving floor revelers.
The vocalist has given back over the years, too, with his Life Rocks foundation, numerous Operation Homefront veteran visits overseas, and frequent charitable work with the American Diabetes Association. During “Something to Believe In” Michaels welcomed several guest veterans and enlistees onstage to allow them to stand in for all servicemen in a touching, patriotic thank-you tribute.
“It’s a zero politics show!” said Michaels, who sounded sincere about keeping the affair focused on people—and what connects (not divides) us.
“Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was a genuine Bic lighter moment (again), with fans raising their torches (or cellphones) as Dall (in jeans and flannel) and DeVille (in black outfit and top hat) flanked Michaels for the perennial power ballad. Michaels even took a turn on harmonica, too, during “Mama Don’t Dance.”
4. Poison is touring with Cheap Trick this summer.
You can double your pleasure with Poison this year by catching “Surrender” auteurs Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, and Tom Petersson on the very same ticket. In Ohio, the Dream Police quartet (with Rick’s son on drums) razzle-dazzled with In Color (1977) classics like “I Want You to Want Me,” Lap of Luxury (1988) hits like “The Flame,” covers of songs by The Move (“California Man”) and Velvet Underground (“Waiting for the Man”) and even a brand new single (“Summer Looks Good On You”). The seminal live album Cheap Trick at Budokan came out forty years ago…but these dudes still command the stage like it’s ’78 (and we’re all in our teens and twenties again).
5. Pop Evil is opening select shows.
Get to the venue early enough and singer Leigh Kakaty and Pop Evil will prep you for Poison with a half an hour of hits from War of Angels (“Boss’s Daughter”), Onyx (“Trenches,” “Deal With the Devil”), and their new self-titled album (“Ex Machina”).
Michaels told the crowd Poison will return to the Cleveland area next winter. We’re sure that gig will be nothin’ but a good time, too.