Technicolor lights bathed the stage while the three members of the band not anchored to the drum kit leapt, sneered and strutted onto the catwalk protruding into the audience at the Grand Sierra Resort. This is how Poison opened its show in Reno on Sunday night, and the energy level would only amp up from there.
After 35 years together, albeit with a few member changes over those years, the band’s classic lineup emerged onstage at the Grand Theatre amid a digital backdrop splicing in original animation for this tour, along with ambient scenes and plenty of tape from the band’s past bigger hair and way-more-makeup days. They are almost cinematic in how well they have the formula down. It was clear, though, that the effort each member put into the show was what kept the buzz going for a near 90-minute set.
Singer Bret Michaels displayed his knowledge of how to bring a crowd into a performance, as he frequently changed up lyrics to include “Reno” throughout old songs. He also recalled a fond memory of riding a Harley around Lake Tahoe years ago, which he said rekindles his excitement to revisit the Sierra.
Guitarist C.C. DeVille and bassist Bobby Dall each delivered solos lasting for several minutes over the course of the show, the same with Rikki Rockett on a lit-up drum kit. Rockett also fired up a a toy whistle during his solo.
With a light show of seizure-inducing proportions throughout the performance – with the exception of a couple ballads that saw members draped in narrow spotlights before a dark stage and backdrop simply displaying the group’s logo in poison green – the band’s nothing-but-hits set list made it easy to get sucked into its larger-than-life aura.
There were also the unofficial hype-men – audience members running up and down the aisles jumping, waving and high-fiving anyone in their vicinity. The mixed-age crowd — with middle-agers who had raided the backs of their closets for the occasion making up the peak of the audience-demographic bell curve — was on its feet the entire time.
Ending with an encore of their cover of KISS’ “I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night” cemented the end of their party rock set, the performance was beyond expectation of what degree of energy a 35-year-old glam band could bring.
Cheap Trick opened, and while the effort was definitely there, its reception suffered from taking a stage geared toward a different headliner. With lethargic lighting and a bumpy set list, the tepid reception proved contagious, unfortunately, and the first half of the set – including the first-ever live performance of the new song “The Summer Looks Good On You” – never really seemed to break out of that opening-entertainment feel.
Fortunately, it picked up when the band launched into its hits, reserved for last, with everyone in the crowd loudly singing along to “I Want You To Want Me.” However, with the invitation of what appeared to be someone randomly hopping onstage to play guitar, as well as guitarist Rick Nielsen delivering the final song on a five-necked guitar while tossing handfuls of picks into the crowd, the set seemed to go from engaging to gimmicky at the end.
Poison clearly owned the night, bringing its arena-sized aura to Reno’s relatively intimate theater. Only three dates deep into a cross-country tour, Sunday night unquestionably lived up to its Nothin’ But A Good Time Tour moniker.
– Shaun Astor