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Bret Michaels at Arizona State Fair Last Night

Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fair
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

​Last night's Bret Michaels concert came with a fair amount of trepidation. What were fans to expect? Was Michaels going to play a show full his newer, solo material with his aptly-namned Bret Michaels Band? Or would he play a greatest hits collection of some of his more beloved songs from his bygone Poison days? 

Thankfully, Michaels chose the latter. The man is the consummate showman, and last night's performance was just one -- out of the already amazing thousands -- example why.

Coming out to the opening chords of Posion's "Talk Dirty To Me," Michaels took the stage to an unbelievably eager crowd. There was not a single person in the audience not grinning from ear to ear -- myself included -- once Michaels ripped into that familiar lyric, "You know I never / I never see you look so good." It's hard for me, one of Michaels' younger fans, to have really grasped what his band Poison was accomplishing during hair metal's glory days back in the 1980s. But such is the beauty of Michaels -- I was 2 years old when Poison's debut album Look What The Cat Dragged In was released in August of 1986. Yet I am a fan of Michaels, thanks in part to my fascination with hair metal's reign over the Sunset Strip as well as Michael's reality dating show Rock of Love. It's kind of odd for me to have such a healthy appreciation for Michaels, given my taste in music (read: hipster stuff).


Michaels played only one Bret Michaels Band song for the entire night, and that was the theme song to Rock of Love, "Go That Far." The rest of his set was a collection of Poison's more beloved songs ("Unskinny Bop," "Fallen Angel," "Something To Believe In") mixed with an occasional, Bret Michaels-ified cover ("Sweet Home Alabama," "What I Got"). The crowd -- women who were once Poison's biggest fans and everyone else -- was eating out of Michaels' hand the entire night, but what else can you expect from someone with a 10,000 megawatt personality like Michaels? The man nearly died from a brain hemorrhage some seven months ago -- not to mention the incident of wrapping his Ferrari around a telephone pole in May of 1994. He's cheated death multiple times in his life, and he possesses a zeal for life unmatched by most people alive today.

That unencumbered enthusiasm and reverence for his blessed existence comes through in Michaels' performances. If you would have told Michaels in 1988 -- the height of Posion's success -- that he would be playing the state fair some 22 years later, he would have laughed in your face. A lot has changed, however, for Michaels since that time, and the once cocky hair metal lead singer (were there probably zero humble lead singers in that genre, anyway) has calmed down, even going so far as to let VH1 follow he and his two daughters around for a new reality show, Life As I Know It. And, as if Michaels needed a reminder of all the good graces that life has given him, his daughters were right there, stage left, watching their dad captivate the crowd with a mile-wide smile.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal bias: I dressed up like Michaels for Halloween two years ago. As well, I am listening to Warpaint and Deerhunter while writing this, just to give you an idea of what music I really like. Yet, I am one of Michaels' biggest fans, as if that wasn't clear enough already.

The crowd: Women -- some nearing menopause, some already there. Also, families who just happened to be attending the fair that evening.

Overheard: "I remember playing Bootleggers and Rockers. I've been at this 24 years now." That was Michaels name-dropping some of the older Phoenix venues he has played in his career.

Random notebook dump: Why would they play "Welcome to the Jungle" as a warm-up song? Pic of Bret on his own shirt. Thanks to St. Joe's/Barrow. Sweet home Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tucson. Finale of Life as We Know It. Heart surgery in Jan here in PHX.

Fun Fact: Michaels' life was saved, if you will, from the subarachnoid hemorrhage he suffered by the doctors at Barrow Neurological Institute, situated inside St. Joseph's Hospital. I was born at St. Joseph's. Fate?

Setlist:
Talk Dirty To Me
Look What The Cat Dragged In
Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover)
Go That Far
Something To Believe In
Unskinny Bop
Your Mama Don't Dance (not a cover, Poison recorded their own version)
What I Got (Sublime cover)
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Fallen Angel

Encore:
Nothin' But A Good Time

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