Rock band Poison created a winning combination when it linked up with fellow rockers Cheap Trick for a huge summer tour. The two bands came to Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA, along with opener Pop Evil on Father’s Day this past Sunday (June 17).
Pop Evil started off the night with an energetic, headbanging set. Leigh Kakaty (lead vocalist) took to the stage with Dave Grahs (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Nick Fuelling (lead guitar, backing vocals), Matt DiRito (bass, backing vocals), and Hayley Cramer (drums) completing the heavy metal band’s roster.
While there was plenty of headbanging to be had with tracks like “Boss’s Daughter,” “Ex Machina,” “Take It All,” and “Footsteps (Go Higher),” the performance felt like more of the same throughout with the loud guitars and Kakaty’s shouting. It’s just enough rousing and hefty noise to keep the heavy metal folks entertained for the hour.
Kakaty managed to throw in some variety in by the end when he moved from the stage up to one of the higher seating areas at Jiffy Lube Live. I’ll grant that one standout track was “Waking Lions,” which comes off their latest and self-titled album. Pop Evil did much better when Kakaty and DiRito returned later to sing with Cheap Trick and then Poison on their hits.
Cheap Trick followed after Pop Evil with an electrifying set of their greats, including “Big Eyes,” “If You Want My Love,” “I Want You to Want Me,” “Dream Police,” and “Surrender.” Veteran rockers Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), and Tom Petersson (bass guitar), along with drummer Daxx Nielsen were in top form. Behind them, old Cheap Trick photos and videos were playing on the large screen between segments of elaborate geometric designs. There were a couple of newer tracks called “The Summer Looks Good on You” and “Long Time Coming” which carry the same strong vocals and music as other Cheap Trick hits. The latter, according to Rick Nielsen, spent about “20 weeks at number one, thank you very much.”
Zander sported a top hat and wore a suit that had old Cheap Trick photos printed on it. Wearing a black cap and glasses, Rick Nielsen carried the most interesting guitars of the evening. There was a yellow guitar with the words along the neck, “Gonna Raise Hell.” He wowed the crowd with his five-neck guitar at the end (“Goodnight Now”). Petersson, clad in a white jacket and brown hat, had his shining moments with a bass solo and later with vocals on (Velvet Undergound cover) “I’m Waiting for the Man.” It left me wanting to hear more from him on lead vocals.
Cheap Trick understood how to keep the crowd further engaged and excited about the concert, beyond the already incredible music and set design. “It’s a good day for us, I think,” Zander said, laughing as he extended Father’s Day greetings to the dads in the crowd.
As another example, guitar picks were neatly arranged along Rick Nielsen’s microphone stand. Nielsen would appear to carefully consider the different colored picks before selecting one to use and eventually toss to the crowd. On at least two occasions, he went to the side of the stage and then returned to the front, throwing a veritable shower of guitar picks. During “Surrender,” someone in the front row handed a poster board to Zander, which he held up for everyone to see when he got to the related lyric in the song. It read, “Got my KISS records out.”
Poison was the final act of the evening’s concert, and anticipation was already running high while the crews were putting the final touches to the equipment. Down in the pit, another photographer and I were startled by a brief jet of steam shooting up when a technician twisted a dial on a cylindrical tank near us. The tanks were placed at about 10 locations under the stage and when fully operational, they shot impressive pillars of steam up into the air.
Another excellent piece to the stage was the large high definition screen behind the Poison drum kit. I mentioned already that Cheap Trick used the screen for geometric designs, old photos, and old music video footage. Poison went a step further and used it for the live footage of the concert. Cameras were down the front platform and pointed up for an intensely dramatic angle conducive to the guitar and bass solos. It also mimics the camera angle used on their classic music videos.
Finally, the final set kicked off at an exhilarating pace with “Look What the Cat Dragged In.” Bret Michaels (lead vocals/guitar), Bobby Dall (bass), Rikki Rockett (drums), and CC DeVille (guitars) played a super set, including songs “I Want Action,” “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Unskinny Bop,” and “Fallen Angel.” They all seemed to relish being onstage once again. Michaels kept going to the platform to shake hands with people in the front rows and to point dramatically into the crowd. I enjoyed the respective solos by Dall, Rockett, and DeVille, which are among the most captivating I’ve heard and seen. DeVille was particularly playful with his solo; as the blue stage lights swung behind him, he paused and then incorporated a snippet of Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King.”
It wouldn’t be a Poison concert without seeing the band perform “Something to Believe In,” “Every Rose Has its Thorn,” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” Michaels dedicated the first song to the veterans in the U.S. as Rockett proudly held up the American flag. Rockett pulled out the tambourine for the second song, which Michaels asked everyone to sing like “a summer barbecue, a little drunken karaoke.”
Nothin’ But a Good Time is, of course, the title of this fabulous tour. Not only is it named after one of Poison’s most memorable songs, it sets the bar high of expectations about this tour experience. Cheap Trick and Poison formed a powerful alliance to fulfill those expectations and then some. Check them out in a city near you while you still can.