Poison in the Water

Des Moines, Iowa, USA; June 17, 2006

by Paul Hanson

Poison returned to Des Moines, Iowa, to headline the Lazer 103.3 Water Stock Rock Show on Saturday, June 17. For the 2006 version of the all-day event, a buffet for hard rock music fans was laid out. The doors on Saturday opened at 10 a.m., the music began an hour later and didn't let up until Poison's Bret Michaels said goodnight to the crowd shortly after 11 p.m.

It was the fourth night into the band's 20-year anniversary tour and it started off in perfect fashion with the title track from their debut, Look What the Cat Dragged In. The crowd was definitely ready for the band, which was in fine form, with guitarist CC DeVille running his fingers over his frets like they were best friends while bassist Bobby Dall and drummer Rikki Rockett still had the charisma that they displayed 20 years before. The band's set included the standards Poison fans expected to hear: "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Something To Believe In," "Unskinny Bop," "Fallen Angel" and, of course, "Talk Dirty To Me," the band's single that encapsulates high school Friday nights for me.

Michaels sounded very sincere when he told the crowd several times how happy he was to be on stage in front of "all the friends we've had over the last 20 years and the ones we've made tonight." The smile on his face couldn't have been the typical "How the hell are you <name of city>" banter that you hear at concerts - Michaels was serious. He was very serious when he stopped the band as they were playing a cover of "We're An American Band" to break up a fight; Michaels told the crowd "Hold on, hold on. We have one big fight down here and we're going to wait until this is cleared up. We're all friends here man. I'm sorry to do this, but we're all friends and we're all here to have a good time."

Satisfied with this, the band ripped into the rest of the song with sheer intensity, while Michaels made a reference between songs to the tough times the band has been through, briefly mentioning the infamous fight that led to guitarist CC DeVille leaving the band, to drive home the point that he was happy to be in front of us.

There were some other twists that I didn't expect that brought a smile to my face. The first was DeVille's guitar solo; while some dismiss his fretwork as simple and talentless, he knows his way around the strings. After his solo, he launched into a song I had never heard of before: "I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine." Rockett's drum solo was a highlight; I remember part of his solo from 1990 included a Latin percussion kit that descended from the ceiling while his drum riser rose to meet it. In 2006, there was no Latin percussion kit descending -- but his drum platform rose with pyro and flashing lights. He proved again why he has been powering the Poison backbeat for 20 years.

CC DeVille and Bret Michaels fire up the crowd.
Photo courtesy of Lazer 103.3.

Finally, the third surprise was the inclusion of "Ride The Wind" in the set. Michaels introduced this song by saying that they didn't play it often but they had put it back in their set list. The band delivered the song expertly, and overall, Poison put on a great show that had the crowd in their hands. The vibe was amazing.

Now, bear in mind there were many other highlights prior to Poison's show. Cinderella's set immediately prior definitely had a role in getting the crowd ready for the headliner. After the intro tape of "Bad Seamstress Blues" ended, guitarist Tom Keifer led the band through an intense version of "Fallin' Apart At The Seams," as well as "Nobody's Fool" and the finale "Shake Me."

Prior to Cinderella, Dokken hit the stage for a dose of their melodic metal. Vocalist Don Dokken remarked, "Life is strange. One day you're in Germany drinking German beer, the next day you're in Iowa drinking Miller Lite." Dokken's vocals were a highlight as the band played "Dream Warriors" and "Paris Is Burning," hitting all the difficult notes in those songs. Quiet Riot's performance was energetic as well.

Other honorable mentions to go Cincinnati's Lorenzo, which started the day and the second stage with two energetic sets. Their single "Nothing Left To Talk About" is catchy and should do well on rock radio stations, and their site is www.lorenzolounge.com. Keep your eye in this band, but not on Des Moines' Cold Filtered, which played too often and wore out their welcome, sounding too much like Skid Row. A few months from now, they may become my favorite band but on Saturday, I was sick of them. I don't doubt their musicianship -- I heard them rip through Metallica's "Seek and Destroy" -- but I have had enough of them for the next few weeks.

Night Train, a Guns-n-Roses tribute band, also played an energetic set, leading off with the song that bears their name and playing several GnR hits. The lead singer even referred to himself as Axl so I think, on some level, they really believe they are GnR when they're on stage. I believed they were too. The crowd reacted favorably when "Slash" started "Sweet Child Of Mine" and even more so when they launched into "Welcome To The Jungle."

In addition to all the great music, there was an interesting crowd, including:

  • The drunk blonde who got hit in the mouth and was then told to not touch the girl that hit her or go to jail.
  • Kristan, the newspaper writer that offered me her friend's chair when I was tired form the 90 degree heat.
  • Chris, who had a very important warning about sex and goth girls.
  • The father who drove with his 7 year-old son from Kansas City, MO, to Des Moines for this show.
  • The girl on what looked like her dad's shoulders singing all the words to Poison's "I Won't Forget You" - a visible example of a parent passing on the music of Poison from one generation to the next.
  • The guy with Gene Simmons tattooed on his back.

By the time I arrived at my house at 2:15 a.m., I concluded that the day was a total success. Already looking forward to next year's show.

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