Look what the 80s hair band cat dragged in.
Look what the 80s hair band cat dragged in.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Poison Defies The Elements And Obsolescence At The Woodlands

Poison, Cheap Trick, Pop Evil
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
June 3, 2018

Last night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion started out steamy, my friends. Openers Pop Evil bore the brunt of the elements, though that didn't prevent a sweaty Leigh Kakaty from heading out onto the lawn to belt out the band's closing song. Their sound is a lot harder than what was to come, but welcome nonetheless, and they bore the heat with aplomb.

As did the next act, rock stalwarts Cheap Trick. Reuniting three of the four original members (guitarist Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx now mans the drum kit in place of Bun E. Carlos), the group sprinkled a few newer cuts with covers like their best known take on Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” and songs both welcome (“I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police") and perhaps less so. We'll leave it to history to tell us if bassist Tom Petersson's rendition of the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for the Man" was really an apropos choice.

More importantly, Cheap Trick still has the mythical musical "it." Robin Zander had perfected the rock star swagger before Bret Michaels lost his virginity, and Nielsen seemingly never gets the guitar cred he deserves (and probably keeps an entire Chinese town employed making his guitar picks). Last night's show was almost like being back in the '80s, with bonus wrinkles.

You get a pick! And you get a pick!
You get a pick! And you get a pick!
Photo by Jack Gorman

Thunderstorms cropped up in the vicinity as Poison was about to take the stage, and much of their set was performed under a lightning warning, in which the crowd was exhorted to come under the Pavilion roof. It also dropped temperatures, ensuring the subsequent set wasn't a literal representaton of hell on earth.

The band's rock icon fashion template has moved on from Spandex to Eddie Money-ish aging rocker (guitarist C.C. DeVille) to "cool dad" (bassist Bobby Dall in flannel and jeans). Bret Michaels, whether due to obstinance, male pattern baldness, or canny brand management, sports the same big ass headscarf and sleeveless black t-shirt/jeans combo he's been rocking since 1990(?).

Michaels is an expert in selling enthusiasm, and himself. The man is the living embodiment of Mike Damone's five-point plan: wherever he is, that's the place to be. Whether high-fiving the audience, pointing to an infinite number of new best friends, or bellowing "Houston, Texas!" 50 times, his expertise in generating enthusiasm for 30+-year old songs is part of what made him the triumphant winner of season three of Celebrity Apprentice.

You'd think he could afford a shirt with sleeves by now.
You'd think he could afford a shirt with sleeves by now.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Many other long-running acts continue to release new music well after their so-called heydays. Jackson Browne toured in support of 2014’s Standing in the Breach, for example, and last Saturday night Paul Simon played several songs from his two most recent albums. Sure, it’s not always to the liking of audiences anticipating a greatest hits playlist, but it’s still nice to think some of these more venerable artists are still delivering new material.

More to the point, does anyone *want* new Poison songs? Was any of the crop of '80s hair bands more defined by their era than the mulletheads from Mechanicsburg, PA? The band hasn’t released an album of original material since 2002’s Hollyweird, and last night's set consisted of nothing more recent than 1990’s Flesh and Blood.

And if we're being honest, nobody in attendance last night was hoping for a jazz odyssey. Conversely, Poison's calculated leveraging of everything from working class frivolity to respect for the troops has to struggle pretty hard to sustain a set consisting of a whopping 11 songs. It's nice to have all four guys back together, I guess, but Poison — and, by definition, Bret Michaels — are little more than a marketing exercise at this point.

At least the weather was nice.

Personal Bias: I saw Cheap Trick twice in the '80s, and am still frankly a little flummoxed as to why they were a support act.

The Crowd: Lotta first-time bandana wearers out there.

Overheard In The Crowd: "Are they really going to let the lawn people down here?"

Random Notebook Dump: "I need to go back in time to visit myself watching the Poison interview in Decline 2 and warn me about the horrible future that awaits me."

SETLIST
Look What the Cat Dragged In
I Want Action
Ride the Wind
Talk Dirty to Me
Something to Believe In
Your Mama Don't Dance (Loggins & Messina cover)
Fallen Angel
Unskinny Bop
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Nothin' but a Good Time

ENCORE
Rock and Roll All Nite (KISS cover)

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