Friday evening, May 18th, FivePoint Amphitheatre was packed to the gills with people looking for nothin’ but a good time. Turns out, that is exactly what they got. Poison, a Pennsylvania to Hollywood transplant, was at the forefront of the glam metal ascension of the late 1980’s. The multi-platinum album sellers kicked off their summer tour with special guests, the late 1970’s powerhouse, Cheap Trick. Also joining them on this venture are the North Muskegon, Michigan quintet, Pop Evil. The Nothin’ But a Good Time tour is slated to run for about six weeks, through July first.
Pop Evil takes the stage first. The hard rock quintet thump their way into their first tune, Deal With the Devil, amidst a shroud of manufactured fog. Singer Leigh Kakaty skillfully powers through the vocals of each tune, despite the audiological similarity to basically every lead vocalist from the genre. The twin guitars of Dave Grahs and Nick Fuelling provide the grinding and screaming foreground to the set. Against the foreground of the music is the background. That background, as well as the thunder and energy of the band emanate from the engine room of this group. Bass player, Matt DiRito and drummer Hayley Cramer spark the intensity of the performance. DiRito ascends the drum riser, thrashes and flips his hair, while Cramer ruthlessly beats her drums as the two play off each other. Their short, eight song set, accentuated by Waking Lions as the penultimate number, is well received even though their musical style may be a bit mismatched to this tour.
Darkness descends on the venue as the stage is set for Cheap Trick. When the house lights dim, the crowd erupts in a collective yell as the pride of Rockford, Illinois make their entrance and bid the crowd Hello There. Vocalist Robin Zander asks lyrically “are you ready to rock?” The audience responds in the affirmative. Rick Nielsen, lead guitarist wanders the stage, to greet the onlookers from all five points of the FivePoint crowd. At the conclusion of their rather succinct concert opening number, drummer Daxx Nielsen, son of Rick, quickly begins walloping out the intro to Big Eyes. Bassist Tom Petersson, plays a 12-stringed instrument, which adds a rich resonance to the band’s overall sound and specifically the driving back beat to Big Eyes. Robin Zander Jr. also joins the group on rhythm guitar and backing vocals for the tour. The 13 number slot is riddled with Trick classics. Performing their hit ballad from 1988, The Flame, Robin Sr.’s voice was a little less than up to the challenge of the high notes. All in all though, he was able to belt out the rockers with faithful fidelity to the memories of the concert goers. After The Flame, they turn the homestretch and rev up the RPM’s with I Want You to Want Me, Dream Police, and Surrender. Rick Nielsen leaves the stage and begins the finale from off-stage. When he returns a few bars into Goodnight Now, he is donning his famous five-necked guitar. Why? Because he’s Rick Nielsen and he can.
Prior to the headliner’s set, the security team tries to return the people in the orchestra section to their seats. This isn’t very successful and Poison begins their show and all bets are off. Kicking off with Look What the Cat Dragged In, the title track to their debut album, Poison begins their assault on two of the senses. Obviously first, the sense of sound, the second is sight. In an era of grandiose, elaborate stage sets, Poison makes a big splash with a relatively simple visual element. A large screen underscored by four smaller screens and strategically utilized lighting effects make the visuals seem much larger than they actually are. Vocalist Bret Michaels charms the crowd with his unique ability to relate to a mob like the rock star who lives next door to you. The quartet, who had about as big of a five-year run as almost any other band had in the 80’s and early 90’s, plays hit after hit from their catalog.
Gone are the outrageous costuming and the glitz that would have been a hallmark of their stage in their heyday. Bassist Bobby Dall is garbed in jeans and a untucked button down shirt. Michaels is dressed in jeans and a sleeveless Poison tour shirt. Guitarist C.C. DeVille still demonstrates a bit of the fashion flair, but in a very current way. Drummer Rikki Rockett dons a scarf, that’s the limit of his fashion statement. So when you strip away all the glitz and glamour, which used to be a large part of their image, what are you left with? Well, actually a set which could have contained more songs. When you focus on the music, what you have is a band that treks through a set filled with really good songs, performed exceptionally well. Being the first date of a tour, there were a few expected glitches. Michaels’ acoustic guitar seemed to be cutting out a bit during Something to Believe In and Every Rose Has Its Thorn. Michaels also admitted to being a bit over excited for the show and had a short bout of low blood sugar which appeared to be corrected.
The set-list contains hits such as I Want Action, Cry Tough, I won’t Forget You. The songs evoke memories from before grunge essentially murdered every other form of rock music. Two short breaks in the set are made for DeVille to ply his craft in a solo, which contained elements of Van Halen’s Eruption. The other has Rockett playing a drum solo amidst the visual of orange flames on the screens and red lighting, then being joined by Dall for a Pink Panther Theme laden jam. A finale of the tour’s namesake, Nothin’ But a Good Time has the venue ecstatic. Poison returns to the stage for an encore of Talk Dirty to Me, and the crowd is left with nothin’ but a great memory and possibly a slight ringing in the ears.