Allentown has long been the home for rock music over the decades but until recently it lacked an arena setting. Thanks to the arrival of the PPL Center the Allentown music scene was liberated from the dark and often damp confides of the Crocodile Rock Cafe that used to exist just down the street from the new arena district. Bret Michaels played many memorable solo shows there over the years with each show marking another notch in his storied career – one show even coming in 2010 shortly after a medical scare left Poison fans thinking they’d never see their favorite front man performed.
Poison of course hails from Pennsylvania so the connection with Allentown runs deep as they have performed many venues and even local fairs over the decades. Pop Evil’s homecoming was of the some vein as Bret Michaels as both artists took the time to reflect back on playing the tiny venue and how surreal it was to be performing just down the street for a packed arena that could have easily filled the former club fifty times over.
The night began with Pop Evil who wasted little time getting the crowd on their feet as they delivered a relentlessly powerful version of ‘Bosses’ Daughter’ as the first song of their set. They kept the pace moving all night but made sure to give the crowd a breather as well as they dove back into the “Crocodile Rock” era of the band after lead singer Leigh Kakaty shared his story with the crowd to perform ‘100 and a 55’ – the band’s essential debut single that helped put them on their path them to where they stood today supporting Poison on an arena tour.
What followed Pop Evil was a concise and packed set from the 80’s rock icons of Cheap Trick. The band wasted no time in Allentown as they took the stage with a quick burst of action as they performed ‘Hello There’ and got the crowd involved with the simple hook of “are you ready to rock?” that was met with thunderous applause.
Cheap Trick went on to deliver of 14 song set that contained much of what fans would expect with the hits ‘Dream Police’ and ‘Surrender’ saved for the later part but Cheap Trick gave some surprises to the Allentown crowd as well. For the first time this tour the band dove into their catalog and pulled out ‘Blood Red Lips’ to the surprise of many fans who jumped to their feet at the start of the song and those who were out getting a beer could be seen trotting quickly back to their seats to catch the set.
Cheap Trick has aged well over the decades and they have developed a curious sense of introspective during their sets with Robin Zander wearing a stunning suit made of old photographs of the band. Zander is still very much the front-man he was in the early days of the band. Rick Nielsen remains the band’s wild card on stage tossing out as many guitar picks as he can alongside Tom Petersson who continues to lay down the bass lines as if it was 1990 still.
Cheap Trick may not have been the headliner but that didn’t stop them from giving Allentown 14 songs to remember and by the end of their set they had everyone humming the choruses to their songs as they flooded out onto the concourse to get a fresh beer before the main event of the evening.
Poison’s arrival to the stage of the PPL Center came with all the flash and glam that it deserved as the band was introduced by a unique comic book style video before C.C. DeVille, Bobby Dall and Rikki Rockett all ran out on the stage. The band’s logo flashed across the massive LED display that spanned the stage behind them as Bret Michaels’ hyped up the crowd from off stage before he ran out himself after shouting “Look What the Cat Dragged In” as the band started the show off with an electric energy.
Michaels wasted no time connecting with the fans as he ran down the stage thrust and gave as many high fives to fans within reach in between belting choruses on the opening track of the set. Michaels was quick to call the rest of the band out to join him on the stage thrust as he introduced both Dall and DeVille w and told all the photographers to turn their cameras that way to capture the moment for them. As quick as they came together the three scattered across the stage as they worked all sides of the crowd as they moved right into “I Want Action” as Michaels landed a signature jump move to kick the song off.
Poison’s best feature is it’s co-existance of four talented musicians coming togehter to create and perform iconic rock songs and their live show was no different, Michael is without a doubt the greatest vocalist and front-man of his generation but he doesn’t hog the spotlight, Michaels was quick to share the spotlight on the stage with all of the band as each member was given time to perform their own original solos and the crowd cheered loudly for each one.
Not only did everyone get their moment but the band took a few additional minutes to honor our veterans during ‘Something to Believe’ as a large group of local heroes were brought out onto the stage during the final chorus. Michaels, Rocket, DeVille and Dall all took the time to shake hands and hug them before diving into the next song as the crowd cheered on loudly with a “USA” chant. The moment was sincere, genuine and without any politics – a classy move by Michaels and company that added another shining level of rock gold to their Pennsylvania homecoming.
There is no doubt that Bret Michaels and Poison will return one day soon to Pennsylvania – it is just as likely that it may be until the city of Allentown. Until then fans have this fantastic show to remember that was full of the hits, a few deeper cuts, fantastic solos and homecoming energy that was unforgettable. It may not be the 80’s anymore but Poison hasn’t aged a day and hopefully they never will because modern rock n’ roll wouldn’t be the same without it’s biggest pioneers touring the world.