Saturday, May 16, 2009

Poison/Ratt - July 10, 1999

In 1999, Poison announced they were reuniting with CC Deville and all original members were going on tour together for the first time in over a decade. With luck on my side, I was able to score two tickets in section 102, dead center, approximately 20 rows from the stage. The tickets were some of the best I’ve ever had, and they were only $25. Apparently, not a lot of people were excited by the prospect of a Poison reunion in 1999.

Teaming up with Ratt, Great White, and LA Guns, Poison was leading the hair metal revival and taking their show on the road for the summer through amphitheaters across America. Our concert happened to fall on a Saturday night in early July, which meant tailgating and good times for us. I was attending the concert at the PNC Bank Arts Center (formerly the Garden State Arts Center) with my best friend, Tommy.

The show was scheduled to start at 6:00PM due to the amount of bands that were playing, which meant hours of head banging hair metal, reliving our high school glory. When we walked into the theater, I remember showing my ticket to the first checker we saw and being waved down to lower seats. The next checker waved us down even lower. The one after that guided us to our seats and I kept thinking to myself, “How close to the stage are we?” Well, the answer was, pretty damn close. We were 20 rows from center stage with stacks of speakers in front of us and no earplugs to be had. This was going to be one loud experience, but a whole lot of fun.

LA Guns came out first, and I would like to say that I recall a lot of them, but I don’t. I was never a huge fan of LA Guns, I liked them and appreciated the music they made, I even own a copy of Cocked and Loaded, but that’s all. I only wanted to hear two songs from them; Electric Gypsy, and Ballad of Jayne. I got both wishes filled and Ballad was the near the end, performed flawlessly, and a real great way to start off the evening. Hearing that song live took me back to summers spent sitting in the parking lot of our local Roy Rogers, hanging out until the sun came up, and sharing nothing but good times.

Great White was next, and what I remember most about them is that they kept promoting a new album coming out soon called, You Can’t Get There From Here. I was in disbelief. These clowns were really coming out with a new album? I only remembered Great White for one song, and it wasn’t theirs. I had never gotten into them, and I only owned …Twice Shy, which I purchased on the strength of the song, Once Bitten, Twice Shy, only to learn that it was an Ian Hunter song. I thought the rest of the album was crap, and even to this day, when I am a much more objective listener, I am not crazy about the record.

Of course Great White played Once Bitten, Twice Shy, and it was one of their last songs, and it was great to hear. They also performed Rock Me which is a song I liked and remembered from them. Other than that, I couldn’t tell you what they played, or what they sounded like. Tommy and I were too busy laughing about the fact that Great White were promoting their forthcoming album after every song. Yeah, we get it, you have a new record coming out and you’d like us to buy it when it hits the store later that summer. If I didn’t buy your old albums, I probably won’t buy your new one either.

Ratt manned the stage next and this was something I had waited all night for. I had never seen them live and as a kid, I worshipped this group. Their brand of sleazy hair metal and odes to women were played constantly through my home stereo and walkman when I was a teenager. I was excited to see them, especially being close enough to almost touch them.
I certainly don’t remember what they opened with or all of the songs they played, but I can definitely recall enough. First, they too were promoting a new album, and I had no idea they were working on one. Simply titled Ratt the new disc was due out in the fall, and I would eventually end up buying it.

There were only 3 original members of Ratt performing due to Juan Croucier deciding not to participate in the reunion (Robbie Crane from Vince Neil’s solo band was filling in on bass) and Robbin Crosby physically unable to take on the grueling task of a long tour.

Ratt catapulted to the stage with a loud opening. Of course, sitting 20 rows from the speakers with no earplugs wasn’t the wisest decision, but the volume was definitely cranked and Ratt ripped into the hits during their 90 minute performance. Back For More, Lay It Down, Way Cool Jr., Wanted Man, and other big hits were played at maximum volume.

As for stage presence, Ratt didn’t really have any. No one ran around like a madman. Stephen Pearcy barely moved, probably afraid to stray too far from the lyrics monitor. They were not very mobile, unlike the band that was coming up after them.

Pearcy and Ratt sounded great. They were note perfect on most songs, and Stephen’s voice was strong. Unlike when they would tour again in ’07, this version of Ratt felt fresh and left me wanting more.

Their big encore was of course Round and Round and Ratt brought the house down with that. Performed album perfect, the crowd was on their feet, dancing and singing as loud as they could, and Tommy and I were having a blast! Sweat dripped off my forehead, a feeling of uncontrollable giddiness, and a euphoric sense of happy engulfed me. A Ratt concert was everything I had hoped for. And the night was not over yet.

Ratt said their goodbyes and left us breathing heavy after their amazing encore. That left only one band to perform. The band we all came to see. I had never seen them live and I had always wanted to as a teenager. This was going to be an amazing moment, I could just sense it.

The lights went dark for the final time and the house announcer moaned into the microphone, “Ladies and Gentleman…! From Hollywood California… Please welcome…POISON!”

The opening notes of Look What The Cat Dragged In filled the air and I went nuts. Standing straight, fist high in the sky, I was pumped. Rikki Rockett jumped behind the drum kit, Bobby Dahl sauntered onto the stage and CC came dashing out, playing the opening riff of the song. Then, with a huge fiery explosion from behind the drums, Brett Michaels pranced onto the stage,
front and center, with a leopard skin cowboy hat and a fur coat. This was Poison in all their glory.

After Look What The Cat Dragged In, Brett lost the coat and hat, but he didn’t lose his moves or his voice. Hit after hit after hit were played that night, all from Poison’s first three releases. In no particular order (since I can’t recall the exact order of the set list), I Want Action, Unskinny Bop, Fallen Angel, Your Mama Don’t Dance, and Love On The Rocks were all performed loud and proud.

Watching my high school heroes live made me feel like I was 17 again. CC looked great and his guitar playing was still stellar. I always felt that he was an underrated guitarist, overshadowed by the other guitar Gods of his day. CC could hold his own against any of them. Brett’s voice was still powerful and sounded as good as it did on the albums. The rhythm section of Bobby Dahl and Rikki Rockett blended everything perfectly. We were witnessing a glam slam party jam taking place on stage in New Jersey.

Tommy and I sang every word to every song as loud as we could. We were feeling the party atmosphere and enjoying the slight nostalgic recapturing of our youth. Poison closed out their set with Nothing But A Good Time and I found all of my reserve energy for that one. I had nothing but a good time that night and Poison was a big part of the reason why.

Their one song encore was, of course, their biggest hit and it would send us home happy. Talk Dirty To Me would be the last song of the evening and it was brilliant. With the opening line of “Hit it CC!” the intro guitar solo was launched and the entire crowd was on their feet screaming at maximum volume from the front row all the way to the top of the lawn. And baby…talk dirty to me.

Poison had come to New Jersey and they had conquered along with the friends they brought out on tour with them. It was a night to remember and a evening filled with fun and fond memories of the past, shared with a great friend.

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