Bret Michaels Vs. Billie Joe Armstrong: Poison at Cricket Pavilion Reviewed

Categories: Concert Review

Luke Holwerda
Bret Michaels was the star of the show at Cricket Pavilion Saturday night.
​In the messy science of music criticism it's not often a writer gets to test his hypotheses as directly as he'd like. After drawing some fire for making an unfavorable comparison between Green Day and Poison in my review of last Saturday's show at U.S. Airways Center, I saw a rare chance to subject one of my statements to some scrutiny this Saturday as Poison and Def Leppard show played Cricket Pavilion.

After seeing both shows within seven days, the results are in: I feel pretty confident saying that, live, Green Day is the poor man's Poison. (Read what fans had to say here.)

Now, before anyone writes this statement off too easily let me point out that I'm on the record singing Green Day's praises and, born in 1980, I'm no refugee of the Glam Metal era. I refuse to accept anyone's argument that Green Day's long abandoned punk bona fides, or their newfangled Bush-bashing somehow puts them "above" the guys who sang "Nothin' But A Good Time." At their commercial peak, both bands made highly-stylized teen-friendly pop music very much in step with the moods of their era.

When it comes to staging big, loud, firework-enhanced Summer tours, pop-punk types have a lot to learn from their forbearers, as these two Saturday concerts showed.

Sadly, I did miss part of the Poison's set thanks to a ticket snafu, but what I did see was fantastic. Bret Michaels is a consummate rock showman on par with Springsteen, though, admittedly, the band lacks The Boss' catalog. Michaels knows how to connect without pandering, sounds just like he did on tape 25 years ago and looks half his age. An acoustic opening to "Every Rose Has it's Thorn" and the closer, a rousing version of "Nothin' But A Good Time" were highlights as was, surprisingly, a five-minute Rikki Rocket drum solo. After watching Green Day bury the contributions of their most talented musician, bassist Mike Dirnt, it was refreshing. Rocket is one of very few rock drummers with enough charisma to pull it off, and he did so well. There were copious fireworks, sure, but they seemed much more appropriate in this context than they did with Green Day's political diatribes and old-timey pop-punk.

Luke Holwerda
Def Leppard on stage at Cricket.
​In contrast, Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott seemed a little weak on the high notes coming out of the gate. But, by the third song, their original breakthrough single, "Animal," he found his groove. The rest of the group had the same sparkling sound Mutt Lange gave their best studio work. The band paced itself, resisting the temptation to shoot off pyrotechnics at the beginning of their set to get cheap pops right off. Other than an extended series of guitar solos proceeding "Rock On," things moved along pretty well, though I'd prefer to see Poison headline over their British brethren. Def Leppard just seemed a little too one-dimensional. For example, "Two Steps Behind," one of their biggest acoustic ballad really lacks the punch of "Something to Believe In," or other Power Ballads of the era. "Love Bites," is a little stronger (and technically a bigger hit than "Pour Some Sugar on Me") though I've always found it corny.

In the end I was left to conclude that given the chance to see Green Day or Def Leppard I'd probably take Green Day, but, though it pains the Gen Xer in me to say it, Poison beats them both.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Poison, Cheap Trick and Def Leppard at Cricket Wireless Pavilion

Better Than: Green Day at U.S. Airways.

Personal Bias: Too young to have experienced these bands at their prime, though my babysitter was a fan.

Random Detail: Why does Cricket only have the awesome frozen Minute Maid Lemonade at one stand in the whole place?

Further Listening: My favorite Poison song:

By The Way: When is it going to get cool enough for me to really enjoy a show at Cricket again? Oof.

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