July 23, 2008

Poison Promises Nothin’ but a Good Time

By Michael Hamersly, The Miami Herald

Jul. 23--Just as disco helped define the swinging '70s, hair metal provided the perfect soundtrack to '80s excess. Both musical genres have been widely reviled and ridiculed, and both seemingly will never die: Disco still fuels decadent theme nights at the hippest clubs across the country, and hair metal bands are still a major guilty pleasure for rock fans, as evidenced by the success of Motley Crue's new album Saints of Los Angeles and recent packed arena shows.

Take the latest tour by hair-metal poster boys Poison -- Live Raw & Uncut, supported by Dokken and ex-Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, which rocks West Palm Beach Wednesday at the Cruzan Amphitheatre. None of the acts has produced a bestselling album for many years, but the tour is nonetheless creating a buzz. Simply put, raw, sing-along anthems such as Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn and Nothin' But a Good Time, and Skid Row's 18 and Life and Youth Gone Wild will always satisfy our need for cheesy, high-fivin' rock 'n' roll: Ain't nothin' but a good time, indeed.

"With this band, there's always an excitement and an energy and a freshness," says Poison bass player Bobby Dall. "Records and videos and posters -- all those things are products, but what a band really is, is what happens when those four or five people are on a stage. And I think that whenever these four guys take the stage, it creates an excitement that's always transcendent."

And even dangerous, Dall says.


"It's almost like NASCAR: The fans come and they want to see us and they thrive on the energy, and at the same time, they don't know if we're gonna throw guitars at each other the next second. To be honest with you, none of us are in control of it and none of us ever know what's gonna happen."

Dall is referring to an onstage incident two years ago in Atlanta in which he hurled his bass at Poison lead singer Bret Michaels, hitting him in the knee, after which Michaels said, "You may have just seen the last concert by Poison in its current formation."

Not so fast. Boys will be boys, and Dall and Michaels -- probably in part to preserve their livelihood -- made up and have since been on their best behavior.

"Everything's been fine," says Dall. "We've been getting along well this year, and he hasn't thrown anything at me or vice versa yet. But it's still early!

"It's like a family -- we're brothers. We fight and argue like family, but deep down, there's a special love for everybody in this band -- it's like being married four ways. It's OK for me to make fun of Bret, but then I'll be the first one to beat someone else's ass if they do it."

Bach -- who will perform hits from his Skid Row days, plus solo tunes from last year's album Angel Down on Wednesday -- has a hard time explaining his music's enduring success.

"Obviously I don't know why -- all I ever did in my life was go into the studio with nothing and try to make something that I really, really am proud of," he says. 'I loved 18 to Life when we first came up with it, and I was hoping that someone else would like it. I remember when we were done with the first Skid Row record, we were walking around Great Adventure, and me and the guitar player were saying, 'Imagine if somebody liked this, and imagine if we went gold or something,' and 20 years later those songs have taken on their own life, especially I Remember You, which is now performed by Carrie Underwood in her set. It's f---- crazy -- I mean who could have anticipated that, that it would be a country staple? And, I mean, she nails it -- she does it so good. And that's mind-blowing -- that's a testament of a great song."


Dall says he has nothing against the term "hair metal," explaining that every genre gets labeled and lumped together.

"Look at a cycle like grunge," he says. 'There were 300 bands that they called 'grunge' out of Seattle. Of that 300, there were three or four good ones -- Pearl Jam, Nirvana -- and then there were the rest of them that weren't that good. Well, the '80s was the same thing -- the genre was hair metal or glam or whatever name they wanted to put on it, and the bands that survived and are the winners from that era are Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard, Guns 'N Roses.

"It's the same thing from the disco era -- when it hit, there were 100 disco bands put on the market that year. You remember the Bee Gees -- they were the great ones. But as far as hair metal -- would I have picked a different name? Yes -- it wasn't my choice. But if they want to call us hair metal, I don't mind."

Bach has a different reaction.

"I hate it," he says. 'I don't like being lumped in with a billion other bands, but having said that, I've got hair down to my ass. I got rock 'n' roll hair, so I suppose I bring some of that upon myself. But chicks dig it, it's fun, it's luxurious, and as a man who's not getting any younger, I would say to every man -- keep every hair on your head as long as you can, because someday it may not be an option."


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