Bret Michaels and Poison storm Steel Stage in Bethlehem
It’s late Sunday and the south Bethlehem neighborhood is under a heat advisory. But “Look What the Cat Dragged In” — it’s Poison live at MusikFest 2022.
From the first chord of this song, also the title of their three times multi-platinum debut album, the crowd bounced from their seats with hands in the air in anticipation.
Bret Michaels stormed the Steel Stage with his signature bandanna, Poison t-shirt, and American flag bell bottoms. He was throwing high fives to the front row before singing, “I went to bed too late and got up too soon, my poor head still spinnin’ from too much booze” — a song that may define the morning after for some of Sunday’s near-capacity crowd.
Drummer Rikki Rocket sat at his DW kit — the kick drum replete with the Poison logo, skull, and crossbones. Guitarist C.C. DeVille worked his way through numerous flying V guitars. And bassist Bobby Dall swapped out one sparkly instrument after another as the band blasted through an energetic 9-song set.
Michaels, also known for his reality TV dating series, “Rock of Love,” made it clear that the band was happy to be home. The band got its start in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania before packing their bags for Los Angeles to make their name on Sunset Strip.
The songs went from crowd-pleasing hits like “Unskinny Bop,” power ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” (a number one smash in 1988), and a cover of Loggins and Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
“Oh, we do,” Michaels assured the crowd.
The band also featured Grand Funk Railroad’s, “We’re an American Band” — complemented by the American flag wrapped around Michaels’ mic stand.
Most of the Musikfest crowd was on its feet the entire night.
Here are the Top 5 moments from the show:
Before kicking into “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” Michaels shared a story about his father, a Korean War veteran who is buried in Pennsylvania.
Michaels declared, “No Politics, we’re all one big family tonight,” before dedicating the song “Something to Believe In” to service members. The crowd erupting into a “USA” chant. Midway through the tune, Michaels welcomed veterans to the stage and said “Let’s hear it for the real rock stars!”
The crowd responded with resounding applause and cheers.
The band walked offstage leaving C.C. Deville, the man VH1 ranked number one most underrated hair metal guitarist of the 1980s, standing front and center. DeVille hyped up the crowd as his fingers ran up and down the neck of his white flame-covered flying V guitar, putting his chops on display. He even incorporated a brief snippet of “The Munsters” theme before the band returned and blasted into “Fallen Angel,” the second single from 1988′s “Open Up and Say … Ahh!”
“Here’s one we haven’t done in a long time,” Michaels shouted out before breaking into a Poison-style cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band.” It was GFR’s first number one single in 1973, and was covered by Poison in 2006 and released as a single on “The Best of Poison: 20 Years of Rock.”
The track put Poison back on the top 20 charts for the first time since 1993.
As the rest of the band took a break, Rikki Rockett treated the crowd to a series of drum rolls and beats complete with an unusual addition — a whistle.
While typically not heard outside a football game or from a traffic cop, Rockett incorporated a few tweets into his solo before Michaels returned to the stage strapped with a 12-string acoustic guitar for our next moment …
No Poison concert is complete without the song that cemented its place in Glam Metal history: “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Written in a laundromat in Dallas, Texas, it was the third single from “Open Up and Say … Ahh!” and was the band’s only number one hit. The moment Michaels struck the first chord, the crowd was on its feet.
The stage lights were dimmed, but the place was aglow with phones swaying. From the first line to the last, fans erupted to sing along. The moment hearkened back to the band’s glory days of the late ‘80s.
Poison wrapped up its show with “Talk Dirty to Me,” a nostalgic track referencing drive-ins and landline telephones — with a recognizable guitar riff and an easy singalong chorus.
The band left the stage, but returned for the encore the crowd demanded.
“Nothing but a Good Time,” was the icing on the cake. It consummated Poison’s evening with a reminder of what the band is all about.
The night went out with a bang, just the way it started.
Up next at Musikfest: Headliner Counting Crows will play Wind Creek Steel Stage Monday night.
Jay Honstetter is a contributor to The Morning Call. Follow him on Twitter @jayhonstetter