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Poison, Cheap Trick and Pop Evil

The Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater

Nothin' But A Good Time Tour 2018

Wantagh, NY

June 21, 2018

Poison is a rock band. From the mid1980s to the mid 1990s one could make the argument that Bret Michaels (vocals), Ricky Rockett (drums), Bobby Dall (bass) and C.C. DeVille (guitar) were the kings of glam rock buoyed by the success of the singles “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Unskinny Bop” “I Want Action” and “Nothin’ But A Good Time.” During its career, the band achieved platinum success with its debut album Look What the Cat Dragged In (Enigma Records, 1986). The band also reached platinum sales with 1988’s Open Up and Say... Ahh! (Enigma Records) Flesh & Blood (Capitol Records/Enigma, 1990), Swallow This Live (EMI Music/Capitol Records, 1991 and Poison's Greatest Hits: 1986–1996 (Capitol Records, 1996). Poison achieved gold sales certification with a number of other album and CD releases. The band has sold over 30 million records worldwide (over 15 million records in the United States alone) and has had ten singles chart on the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, including six Top-10 singles and the Hot 100 #1 single, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”

Since its self-titled Epic Records debut album in 1977, Cheap Trick has been blending Beatlesque pop with elements of arena/classic rock, hard rock, punk, modern rock and even a touch of blues. Its sound is instantly recognizable and its lyrics are clever and sly with a tongue placed firmly in-cheek. For over 40 years, the band (Rick Nielsen on guitar, Tom Peterrson on bass, Robin Zander on vocals along with touring drummer Daxx Nielsen and touring guitarist Robin Zander, Jr.) have delivered a musical onslaught of crunchy pop chords and powerful yet melodic vocals. The band achieved worldwide popularity in 1979 with the breakthrough album Cheap Trick at Budokan (Epic Records). During its career, the band has continued to tour and release albums. In 2016, Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Pop Evil is a melodic, post grunge rock band that was formed in North Muskegon, MI in 2001 by vocalist Leigh Kakaty. The band, as it is currently comprised, includes Dave Grahs (rhythm guitar), Nick Fuelling (lead guitar), Matt DiRito (bass), and Hayley Cramer (drums). Its sound is heavily influenced by the music of Kiss, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam, putting them right in line with popular modern rock acts such as Crossfade, Shinedown, and Puddle of Mudd. During its career, Pop Evil has issued two independently released albums as well as four full-length CDs on the eOne Music label. During its career, Pop Evil has placed a number of singles on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, including the Top Ten tune “100 In A 55.” The band’s sixth CD, Pop Evil (eOne Music) was released in February 2018.

Pop Evil opened, delivering a fast-paced and brawny set. The band’s energetic, headbanging set included “Boss’s Daughter,” “Ex Machina,” “Take It All,” “Footsteps (Go Higher)” and, of course, “100 In A 55.” The highlights of the set came at the end when lead singer Leigh Kakaty brought two little girls on state to sing with him on “Walking Lions.” The looks on the girls’ as well Kakaty’s faces were priceless. Pop Evil and Kakaty ended its set with a flourish. The man has a sense for the dramatic; the singer delivered the vocals on “Trenches” while walking through the outdoor theater on the bay and at the end of the song punctuated the performance by jumping over the fence into the shallow water.

Cheap Trick’s set began with an opening audio and video montage followed by what has become this classic quartet's usual recorded introduction and calling card, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, please welcome to the stage, the best fucking rock 'n' roll band in the galaxy--Cheap Trick!” Opening with a “Hello There,” the band’s set included the classic songs: “If You Want My Love,” “California Man.” “The Flame” and "Dream Police" as well as the new tune “The Summer Looks Good on You.” Other staples from the band's catalogue--the Fats Domino cover “Ain’t That A Shame” and “I Want You To Want Me”--also made their appearance throughout the slick, powerful and rockin’ set. Another highlight was the cover version of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” with a snippet of “Heroin” featuring Petersson on lead vocals.

As the show wound down, Cheap Trick was joined by Pop Evil’s Matt DiRito and Hayley Cramer for a frantic version of “Surrender” during which Cramer tossed a KISS record out into the audience, making the lucky fan who caught the album very happy. As is the band’s wont, the show ended with a high-energy take on “Goodnight Now.” At the end, Zander, Petersson and Nielsen praised Pop Evil, calling them “an excellent band.” The three musicians also expressed gratitude to the crowd. Zander said, “We love you guys. We are proud to be here tonight everybody. See you down the road.”

Poison was the evening’s headline act. The audience came prepared. Many fans came dressed in their finest ‘80s and early ‘90’s clothing. Fans were wearing vintage Poison denim jackets, torn jeans and band t-shirts from that era, mini-skirts, thigh high, high-heeled boots, bandannas, spandex and other sartorial fashion.

On its perimeter, the stage was set-up with tanks which would be orchestrated and coordinated to shoot pillars of steam high into the air. In addition, a huge video projection screen was erected at the rear of the stage. The screen projected the live footage of the concert as well as the band’s classic music videos while Dall, DeVille, Michaels and Rockett sang and played with an intensity as though it was their last night on earth. While all of this was happening, the intense laser light show featured bolts of light flashing across the blue and/or red bathed stage.

The band’s set featured virtually every song that the die-hard fans hoped to hear. Opening with “Look What The Cat Dragged In” Michaels and his bandmates then hit the gas and roared through “I Want Action,” “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Something to Believe In” the Loggins & Messina cover “Your Mama Don't Dance,” “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Unskinny Bop” and “Fallen Angel” as well as guitar, bass and drums solos.

Michaels spent a lot of his time between songs, and even some of the time while he was singing, shaking hands and high-fiving folks in the first few rows. The band members seemed to revel in the adoration of the crowd. Rockett wore a huge grin throughout the performance. The three band members not chained to a drum kit, pointed to and interacted with many of the audience members.

The show’s main ended as expected. The crowd was on its feet singing along with Michaels to “Every Rose Has its Thorn” and the set closer “Nothin' But a Good Time.” The audience members in the arena’s orchestra and lower sections in addition to those all the way back in the rafters did their best to sing in tune while swaying their way through the songs as the band, clearly spent, but happy, led them through the lyrics to its biggest hits.

After all that, the encore could have been a let-down. Michaels, Dall, Rockett and DeVille made sure that it wasn’t. Along with Kakaty and DiRito of Pop Evil, the unbelievably fun, kitchy and electric version of the Kiss classic “Rock and Roll All Nite” sent the audience members home with huge smiles on their faces.

Photos by Christine Connallon

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