1 of 2
Michael Brandy, Deseret News
Bret Michaels of Poison performs at the EngergySolutions Arena.

Every summer they go on tour across America doing essentially the same show with basically the same set list. And yet somehow, Poison still manages to throw a great rock show in true over-the-top '80s fashion that draws thousands of fans each year.

This year was no different as Brett Michaels and company launched the three-day holiday weekend, and the start of Poison's entire summer tour, in Salt Lake City with an enthusiastic, albeit rough, opening night.

Opening with "Look What the Cat Dragged In," their traditional opener for the past 21 years, Poison delivered 75 minutes of fan favorites including "I Want Action," "I Won't Forget You," "Ride the Wind," "Something to Believe In" and "Fallen Angel." A welcome change this year was inserting "Cry Tough" back into the set list.

What makes a Poison show work is the enthusiasm of the four performers on stage, who are in as good of shape today as they were 20 years ago. Michaels, guitarist CC Deville and bassist and part-time Utah resident Bobby Dall still run around the stage, interact with the audience and play each song as if the crowd is hearing them for the first time. The always steady Rikki Rockett kept the beat on the drum kit with his traditional flare and stick tricks.

The band was backed by an '80s style "rawk" stage show with plenty of pyrotechnics, lights and a video screen that occasionally showed images that you might expect from the man who hosted two years of the "Rock of Love" reality show.

While the band may have been spared from the sweltering summer heat at USANA this year by playing in the air conditioned arena, they had more feedback problems. Michaels grew visibly irritated with each high pitched screech, and finally moved his microphone stand away from his stage monitors.

Michaels' voice also seemed scratchy at times, as if he was fighting a throat illness.

Despite all of that, Michaels showed no signs of slowing and continued to run about the stage delivering his typical high energy performance. The crowd, which filled nearly all of the lower bowl of the Energy Solutions Arena, sang and clapped in unison to "Unskinny Bop," "Nothin' But A Good Time" and "Talk Dirty To Me."

Dokken opened the show with a 60 minute set, that for 30 minutes seemed to lack emotion. Don Dokken can't hit the high notes as well as 20 years ago. But the problem was his voice also seemed to lack the grit or the edge that fans have come to expect. His voice sounded fine as far as melody. But what was needed so he sounded like a rocker instead of a lounge singer was the edge, which didn't kick in until "Alone Again." From that point, the crowd's, and Don Dokken's enthusiasm seemed to pick up as he ripped through "Breaking the Chains," "It's Not Love," "Tooth and Nail" and "In My Dreams."

Dokken's set list was great, playing only material from their first four albums even though they recently released a new album. The first four albums were from the classic original lineup ... which is what Dokken's set needed. Not even longtime drummer Mick Brown is on this tour. Guitarist Jon Levin is talented, but seemed to just be playing the role of George Lynch.

Overall, Dokken's set wasn't bad. But in this era of '80s reunions, what the band could really use is original players Lynch, Brown and Jeff Pilson to re-join them.

E-mail: [email protected]