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UnRated Magazine Review: Poison / Vince Neil / Skil Row
Band Concert Review
Heavy Metal Heaven or Hell?

Heavy Metal Heaven or Hell?

Poison / Vince Neil / Skil Row

By Anthony Kuzminski
Photos by Rob Grabowski

Heavy Metal Heaven or Hell? By Anthony Kuzminski

Poison / Vince Neil/ Skid Row Tweeter Center, Tinley Park, IL Sunday May 25, 2003

For the last half decade, Poison has taken it's hair band circus all across America every summer showing promoters that there are

still thousands of fans who will pay good money to see these 80's bands rock them like a hurricane. Well, almost. When I first

heard about Poison going back on the road with a number of other acts back in '99, the idea sounded promising and appealing, but I

passed on going that year. Since then, I've had the chance to see a few of these shows. The first four years featured four bands

of yesteryear hoping for a little bit of reliving their glory days for thousands hoping to get a glimpse of a time in music that

is not looked very favorably upon. Over the last few years I saw some acts truly struggle through their sets trying to interest

the crowd. I've also seen Poison and Cinderella play to crowds as large as 12,000 fanatical fans who appeared to be just as

excited, as they would have been a decade ago. However, isn't touring every year a bit of overkill? One wonders if they toured

every other year if the crowds would be twice as large?

This year, the tour has been scaled back to three acts. Depending on whom you talk to, some think this is the best line-up yet,

and others feel it's the worse. On paper I do feel this is the strongest line up Poison has taken on the road. However, in

concert, it's another story. What the crowd witnessed was three acts who are mere shadows of themselves from a decade ago.

First up at bat is Skid Row. Before you get too excited, it is really Skid Row without Sebastian Bach. However, I find the new

line-up of Skid Row to be quite respectable. I was able to witness Skid Row-Phase II, a few years back when they opened for Kiss

in 2000. I was surprised at how tight the band still sounded live. Something many people forget is that Skid Row was completely

different from the Warrant's and Winger's of the late 80's. In my lifetime, possibly only Pearl Jam's Ten made an impression of

mind blowing proportions on me upon my first listen to their debut albums. Their follow-up Slave To The Grind is an unheralded

masterpiece that has been long forgotten. However, with the departure of Sebastian Bach, Dave Sabo and company have struggled to

salvage their laurels. I'm in their corner and I want to see them succeed, but I'm not sure if they will ever be able to recapture

the energy they once had.

To their credit, they would do something that neither Vince Neil nor Poison would do over the course of the evening, play new

material. Skid Row was only given 35 minutes on stage, but they made the best of it cranking through old classics such as "Slave

To The Grind", "Monkey Business" and "Piece of Me". The two new songs, "New Generation" and "Thick Is The Skin" sound good, but

I'm not sure if I liked them enough to run out and buy their new album, which will hit stores later this summer. However, I give

them credit for wanting and striving to move forward with their career, whether or not they will be successful I cannot answer.

As much as Sebastian Bach may be an egomaniac, his presence is missed. New singer, Johnny Solinger, is worthy of praise and he

sounds a lot like Bach, but the core distinction I noticed since the last time I saw him open for Kiss a few years back is his

demeanor. He has gone from a well-bred rocker appreciative for being given a possibility to belt out songs that are minor metal

classics. However, in the numerous performances I saw Skid Row give in 2000 and 2001, he was his own man, a front man who did not

want to be anyone else except himself. On this Sunday evening in Chicago I got the suspicion he was trying to conjure up Sebastian

Bach's spirit and try to make it his own. The number of f-bombs dropped was unnecessary and un-welcomed especially considering how

he never used that language on stage two years ago. If it's truly in his persona and personality, let it be...however, I suspected

more of a feeling that he was trying to make up for the aura of a over-the-top rock God who has long since faded from the

spotlight.

Speaking of fallen angels, the next act probably fell the farthest of all three acts on this bill. In 1991, it appeared that

Motley Crue was on top of the world. They had just signed one of the biggest record contracts in the business and they appeared to

be unstoppable. They had done the impossible, for five records in a row, the band grown its fan base with each record. Each album

outsold its predecessor. Then in February 1992, Vince left Motley (or was fired...it depends on which story you believe). Neither

Vince nor Motley would ever regain the ground they fought so hard for a decade to attain. Most people attribute their downfall to

the Seattle sound. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Seattle sound killed bands like Winger, Slaughter and Warrant.

Bands with substance like Motley, Metallica and Guns N' Roses would have been unstoppable. Motley downfall was due to the internal

time bomb that eventually went off. When Motley decided to move on without Vince, it was right then and there that the decade of

decadence ended never regaining that commercial ground they once had.

Since then, we've seen Motley make an album without Vince and then a few more with him. All of them were good, however, none

erupted on the charts. I was fortunate to see Motley back in 1997 and I must say, I was pleased with the performance. They were

trying to make up for lost time and those shows came close to doing just that. However, with Motley on a near permanent hiatus,

Vince Neil has managed to keep busy. He's still playing a large amount of shows every year and even stole the show on the WB's

reality TV entry with "The Surreal Life".

As Vince Neil was coming on stage, I feared the worse. Was his voice as dire as everyone had been telling me? To my great surprise

I can say that he sounded well and belted out those old Motley hits with great power and certainty. One problem, he should only be

playing these songs with three backing musicians: Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars and Tommy Lee. Some of these guys may live off of their

past glories, some may find deep inner peace and harmony through solo careers and others may form new bands. However, none of

those projects, no matter how deep, heavy, introspective, lucrative, or personal will ever come close to touching the mayhem and

hysteria these four musicians could summon up when they hit the stage. As great as Bruce Springsteen may be when he goes out on an

acoustic tour or when he wants to experiment with other musicians it's not quite what people know and want. The truth is that he

belongs with that telecaster around his neck backed by the E Street Band. I love Tommy's last solo album and I bet Nikki's new

project, Brides of Destruction, has the potential to be enormous. But the truth is, these guys will always be the guys from Motley

Crue. No matter how profound or introspective Tommy Lee may become with his solo career, he's always going to be the drummer in

Motley Crue. I just think that they need to bury the hatchet, give the fans at least one more ride. Then if they want to move onto

other projects, then they should do so.

As everyone waited for Poison, classic hard rock from the 70's and 80's cranked over the sound system. The songs of AC/DC and Guns

'N Roses were met with thunderous applause. Then the lights went down and the glammest of the glam took the stage. The make up is

long gone, but the majority of the hair, glamour and glitz are still evident at these shows. If you grew up and never went to see

Poison live, you're seeing everything you missed. I will give them credit for bringing a pyrotechnic crew along with them each

summer on tour. It gives the audience a spectacle, and let's face it, when you fork over money for Poison, that is exactly what

you get.

The basic intro was different this year and the opener was "Talk Dirty To Me". In the past this has been the perennial encore

song, however, it will be the opener for the 2003 tour. What followed was 75 minutes of high energy, pyrotechnic and heavy grooves

by one of the mightiest hair bands. So why is it disappointing? For one thing, this is Poison's fifth year in a row touring the

summer circuit. Never have they played longer than 85 minutes. In fact, I'm not entirely sure if Poison has ever played a show

over 90 minutes. I'm sure there were a few back in 1991 when they recorded their first live album, Swallow This Live, but they

were still probably less than two hours. What you have here is a band with a lot more talent than anyone has ever given them,

performing a bunch of tunes that are all at least a decade old. The two newest songs in the set were "I Hate Every Bone in Your

Body But Mine", sung by CC Deville and a pitiful cover of the Who's "Squeezebox". Both of these songs appeared on last year's

Crack A Smile album, which proved to be second-rate even for Poison. Back in 2000 Poison released a live CD, Power To The People,

with a few studio tracks tacked onto it. What shocked me was that the new tracks were unexpectedly virtuous and showed promise for

a band that I thought had seen it's better days. However, their follow up album Crack A Smile, was a setback. Another huge problem

was that half of the arena who saw the show last summer did not even know they had a new album out because of their lack of

material in the set.

Why not play a two-hour show? I'm sure most of the people who paid to see this band would rather see Poison play a 2+ hour set,

with a sold opener who plays 60-75 minutes instead of three or four bands. Not only would it give the fans more bang for their

buck, but also it would allow the band to showcase songs that are more than just greatest hits. If you have a new album in stores

and radio is not going to play it, why not plug the new material?

That being said, the Poison set was pleasurable and did prove to have a few surprises. To their credit, they have listened to

their fans and added at least one old forgotten favorite to the set each and every year. Two years ago, the band added their first

single, "Cry Tough". Last year, they added "Ride The Wind". This year brought two surprises; their first ballad, "I Won't Forget

You" and the gospel inspired "Stand". This is the first time "I Won't Forget You" has been performed live since 1989. It's a under

appreciated ballad of theirs that reached #12 on the charts back in 1987. "Stand" was from their "Native Tongue" album with

guitarist Ritchie Kotzen. When Native Tongue came out in early '93 it was right in the middle of the entire grunge eruption.

However, the song received a decent amount of MTV airplay and the song cracked the top 40. It's actually another under appreciated

song and was updated by CC Deville in its live version with boisterous guitars and precision playing by the rest of the band. The

band really hit every note perfectly and nailed the song live. After witnessing these two forgotten favorites, I had mixed

feelings. On the one hand, I was happy to see them to look in the rearview mirror and acknowledge songs that most people thought

were long forgotten. On the other hand, it's disappointing because Poison should stretch themselves further. If they ever want to

be something more than a nostalgia act, they need to push forward, and promote new material when they have it. More importantly,

they need to give those die-hard fans that return year after year a reason to keep on coming back every summer. If they were to do

a solid two-hour set and change up 5 or 6 songs every year, they would have more return customers. Who knows, they may even

improve catalog sales. One of the reasons Aerosmith and Bon Jovi were able to have the biggest hits of their careers decades after

people figured they were long gone is because they went out there live and never called in a performance, not even once. When the

time was right, they broke through the barriers to have more success than they did in their prime. I'm not really sure if Poison

is in the same league, but if they hope to be, it's time to put more consideration, time and force into their live performances

and leave nothing but flesh and blood on that concert stage. Till then, they are asking their fans to open up and swallow a good

show, but one that is ultimately too short and running out of gas.

Set lists:
Skid Row:
Slave to the Grind
Piece of Me
New Generation
Monkey Business
18 & Life
Psychotherapy (Rachel singing)
I Remember You
Thick is the Skin
Youth Gone Wild

Vince Neil:
Shout at the Devil
All in the Name of Rock
Too Young to Fall in Love
Girls, Girls, Girls
Same Ol' Situation
Home Sweet Home
Wildside
You're Invited But Your Friend Can't Come
Looks That Kill
Dr. Feelgood
Teaser
Kickstart My Heart

Poison:
Talk Dirty to Me
Squeeze Box
Ride the Wind
I Won't Forget You
Your Mama Don't Dance
Guitar solo
I Hate Every Bone in Your Body but Mine (C.C. singing)
Something to Believe In
Stand
Fallen Angel
Drum solo
Every Rose Has its Thorn
Unskinny Bop
Look What the Cat Dragged In
Rock & Roll All Night
Nothing' But a Good Time