Bret Michaels House of Blues March 29, 2012
Bret Michaels already had one foot firmly planted in "rock star parody" territory long before VH1 ever got a hold of him. His band Poison, those four horsemen of the '80s hair metal apocalypse, were such a personification of that decade's rock cliches it's hard to believe they weren't created by a focus group (Spandex? Check. Aquanet? Check. Power ballads? Check.)
As leader of the group, Michaels' good-time rock and roll and plaintive tearjerkers were the perfect soundtrack for America at the end of the Cold War: Riding high on the downfall of the USSR, but not yet faced with millennial uncertainty and new enemies, we weren't looking for nothin' but a good time, and Poison delivered.
Has Michaels' relevance, like that of our great Republic itself, diminished that much in the past 20 years? Is he so easily identifiable with his beloved USA his fortunes wax and wane accordingly? Are we possibly reading too much into this?
The guy sticks to his look, you have to give him that. Clad in the requisite bandanna, rolled-up cowboy hat (for sale in the HoB merch parlor) and sleeveless T-shirt, Michaels took the stage after an introduction of "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses, which was a nice way to juxtapose what we were about to see with actual rock and roll.
And what did we see, exactly? From the set list, you'd never know Michaels had ever released any solo albums. He only rolled out one cut from any of them ("Go That Far" from 2008's Rock My World.
This was also, not so coincidentally, the theme music to Rock of Love. It received a more muted response than chestnuts like "Talk Dirty to Me" and "Fallen Angel."
It was hilarious, however, to see some of the closet-RoL-watching dudes in the crowd trying to act like they'd never heard the song before.
If this ends up coming across like an abbreviated review, that's because Michaels offers an abbreviated set: 11 songs, not counting the drum solo, and barely an hour's running time.
If you removed the various covers (including an extremely ill-advised rendition of Sublime's "What I Got"), or the number of times he yelled, "Houston, Texas!" we'd have been home in time for the news.
As for the crowd, all Rocks Off will merely say is there was a lot of elbow room. Those in the front ranks certainly appeared enthusiastic, as do most of us reliving past glory and the gleeful jingoism of the Reagan years (sorry, we'll stop), but it was hard to shake the feeling a sizable portion of those in attendance were there solely for the camp factor.
We'd never deride Michaels' commitment to his causes (honoring the military, raising money/awareness for diabetes), and there's no denying his onstage enthusiasm, so maybe his love of performing explains why he even bothered to cobble together a half-assed set for a half-full (half-empty?) venue.
He doesn't need the money, right? The guy won The Celebrity Apprentice, after all.
Personal Bias Michaels (and Poison) will always get a pass from us for their delightfully coked-up interviews in The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years.
The Crowd: Wannabe Rock of Love contestants and the men they settled for.
Overheard In The Crowd: "He's still so hot!"
Random Notebook Dump: "Did he really just praise the troops for protecting our 'freedom to party?'"
Talk Dirty To Me
Look What The Cat Dragged In
Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover)
Go That Far
Something to Believe In
Your Mama Don't Dance (Loggins & Messina cover)
What I Got (Sublime cover)
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
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Nothin' But A Good Time