GIG REVIEW: Poison, Cheap Trick & Pop Evil Live At Budweiser Stage, Toronto
Currently embarking on their aptly named “Nothin’ but a Good Time 2018” tour, Poison has joined forces with special guests Cheap Trick, and Pop Evil. This night in Toronto was the perfect setting for an iconic rock show, as a cool breeze swept over Budweiser Stage and humidity was held to a minimum. I was looking forward to this show as Poison is touring with all of their original lineup, after some personnel changes in recent years, as well as the fact that I’d only seen Cheap Trick in the past with somewhat short sets at different festivals.
Pop Evil, out of Grand Rapids, took to the stage and launched a short, yet powerful set, featuring tracks off their recent self-titled release as well as previous hits. I was glad to finally get a proper look at new drummer Hayley Cramer, as she’s normally hidden higher up and further back on the stage. I wasn’t disappointed, as she reminds me somewhat of a female version of Tommy Lee…..long and lean, with arms everywhere like a whirling dervish…. And she hits hard!! Joining Hayley in the rhythm section, Matt DiRito was in constant motion on bass, alternating between both sides of the stage as well as the drum risers. Holding down the fort on their respective sides of the stage, were guitarists Nick Fuelling and Dave Grahs. After a recent stretch of illness, vocalist Leigh Kakaty sounded great on this night, delivering songs from the recent release, including “waking Lions” and “Be Legendary”, as well as older hits like “100 In A 55”, and “Take It All”. At the end of the set, Leigh included all of the fans out in the back of the crowd by singing “Trenches” as he moved throughout the audience.
Rock legends, Cheap Trick were up next, and with a storied career spanning over 40 years, and over 5000 shows performed, it was no surprise that they delivered a spectacular set. Robin Zander, Rick Neilsen, and Tom Petersson, along with Rick’s son Daxx on drums, showed that they have no intention of slowing down at all and most certainly feel All Right!! When you think “rock star”, it’s a combination of voice, look, and swagger, and Robin Zander certainly delivers all of this in spades. It’s no wonder that as the 80’s hair metal scene was developing, he was the one that all the up and comers strived to emulate. Hitting the stage in jeans, leather jacket, hat and sunglasses Robin strutted the stage and catwalk alike, delivering a multitude of hits from over the years, including “The Flame”, “I Want You To Want Me”, “Dream Police”, and “Surrender”. Not to be outdone, Rick Nielsen is a joy to watch as well, as he covers the stage in its entirety, hamming it up and making faces at audience members , as well as tossing out guitar picks at will. He must order them by the pound as he seemingly tossed out hundreds of them by the end of show!! At one point he stopped, gave me a stare, and then started throwing them at me, even bouncing a couple off of my camera lens. Apparently when you toss out as many as he does, you become fairly accurate!
Pennsylvania bad boys, Poison, closed out the night with a fantastic set of all their hit songs spanning their 30 year career. Hardly seeming to have aged at all, Bret Michaels took to the stage in his trademark jeans, cut off t-shirt, and bandana, running and jumping around like he’s still 20 years old. Clearly appreciative of his fans, Bret made a point to constantly thank the crowd for coming, as well as getting close to all he could reach with high fives, handshakes or the occasional strum on his guitar. Opening the festivities with “Look What the Cat Dragged In”. “I Want Action”, and “Ride the Wind”, it was quickly apparent that these guys truly have fun playing together, whether it be for 100 people or 10,000. CC Deville was the epitome of cool, churning out all the requisite guitar licks with his fedora down low over his face, as well as a pretty amazing guitar solo later on in the show. He is a great guitar player, although probably one of the most underrated. Rounding out the original line up were Bobby Dall on bass and Rikki Rockett on drums, Bobby seemed to be having a blast, happy just being on stage and playing music, with a big smile constantly in place. He may have been going comfy/ casual in jeans and a flannel shirt, but he was clearly in his element.
In his words, “Let’s just keep this party going!!”, Bret did just that, launching into “Talk Dirty To Me” and “Something To Believe In”. As well as constantly moving around and interacting with the fans, Bret was also willing to share center stage with his bandmates. At times he would literally push or pull CC or Bobby out to the catwalk so that all eyes were on them during solos or high spots during certain songs. The hits just kept on coming, including “Fallen Angel”, and “Unskinny Bop”, followed an old favorite of mine, “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”. I managed to get back up close to the front for that one, and even after all the years that have passed, it was pretty surreal to see it played live and up close….”Take it away, CC!!”
Closing out the show with “Nothin’ But A Good Time”, and a KISS cover of “Rock and Roll All Night”, Poison showed Toronto exactly how to have Nothin But A Good Time!!