Poison live at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada Concert Review


Date: June 19, 2018
Venue: Budweiser Stage
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Olivier

Say what you will about Poison and their very publicly visible frontman Bret Michaels, they put on a high energy fun rock n’ roll show every time! The guys in the band — Michaels, guitarist C.C. DeVille, drummer Rikki Rockett and bassist Bobby Dall — are all in their mid ’50s now but you would be hard pressed to find a full rock n’ roll band as energetic as these four guys. Sure, you may find one band member in a group such as Slaughter drummer Zoltan Chaney that is more energetic than one of the Poison band members but collectively, the Poison band members have to be one of, if not, the most energetic guys onstage at any given time. And that high energy from the Poison group members is very contagious and just sucks you in when you’re attending a Poison concert.

I’m not 100% sure how many times that I’ve seen Poison in concert in the past. It’s either two or three times. I definitely remember seeing them open for Diamond Dave at the Ottawa Civic Centre in Canada’s nation capital back on August 10, 1988 and also remember seeing them play at the Molson Amphitheatre (now the Budweiser Stage) in Toronto almost 20 years later on August 28, 2007 (with Ratt opening). The one I’m not sure of is whether I saw Poison headline a show in Ottawa back in 1989. I guess that I need to find my old ticket stubs (wherever they are) to confirm this! Whatever the case, I knew that Poison would deliver a high energy and fun party like atmosphere rock n’ roll show.

You may be wondering why I haven’t seen Poison play live a few more times. Part of the reason is that although I really enjoy their first two albums with their catchy songs engrained into my mind, the group’s setlist does not seem to vary that much. In addition, Poison tend to take one lengthy hiatus after another so it’s not like they are touring every year like some other bands out there. In fact, there are more chances of seeing Poison‘s frontman Bret Michaels play live than Poison themselves given that the singer is constantly touring throughout North America. Funny enough, Michaels‘ “solo” setlist doesn’t seem to differ that much from the Poison setlist as I found about three and half years ago in Las Vegas, Nevada. That being said, Michaels‘ high energy was infectious and he put on an entertaining but short set. At the end of the day, given that I haven’t seen Poison (or Michaels) that many times live in the past, hearing the band crank out pretty much the same setlist as they seemingly continually do was not going to bother me one bit.

Cheap Trick:

I arrived later than expected given that I wasn’t sure whether I would be attending the concert until the day before when I received confirmation from Live Nation (for the first time) that I was attending (thank you ABC Public Relations!). I did make in time to hear the last three songs from Cheap Trick and I recognized two of them — “Dream Police” and “Surrender.” This was my first time seeing Cheap Trick in a live setting. Robin Zander looked much younger than his 65 years of age. Wearing a white muscle shirt, sunglasses and police type hat, he easily looked 20 years younger than his actual age. It was cool seeing Cheap Trick‘s iconic guitarist Rick Nielsen, who will turn 70 years old in December of this year. At one point, the guitarist brought out a guitar with not two, not three, not four but five necks. From the little that I witnessed, Cheap Trick put on a fun set and certainly had the crowd singing along to “Surrender.” For that song, Cheap Trick had a few members from Pop Evil join them onstage.

Cheap Trick performing “Dream Police” at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 19, 2018:


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Before long, it was time for Poison to hit the stage. There was a sizeable crowd at the Budweiser Stage as the place felt full aside from the unoccupied lawn area at the back. There was a great vibe among the crowd and just like a Steel Panther show, there were many females in attendance although I would say they were probably on average ten to twenty years older than the average aged female at a Steel Panther gig. Poison kicked off the festivities with “Look What The Cat Dragged In”  and followed it up with the easy to sing along “I Want Action.” Michaels‘ only intent seemed to be to let everyone know that there was a party tonight and we were all here to have a great time. Michaels advised that there were three things that he wanted to say. First of all, Poison were not in any hurry on this night suggesting that they would be playing for a long time. With a start time of 9:20 pm and presumably the usual venue curfew of 11:00 pm, this meant that Poison could likely play a maximum of one hour and 40 minutes. Michaels also advised that Toronto had treated Poison very well in the past and I believe he mentioned that one of Poison‘s crew members was from Toronto. Finally, Michaels advised that we were “Toronto strong” — the significance or meaning behind it escaping me at this time.

It just seemed that every song played by Poison was a sing along opportunity for the crowd. I could see males and females around me singing to every word. Some females were shaking away and dancing on the spot (as most of the Budweiser Stage has seats). It was definitely a fun atmosphere despite that I wasn’t that close to the stage. To me, that was a sign that Poison were really rocking the place because it’s easy to get into a concert when you’re right next to the stage but a totally different story when you are 25 or 30 rows from the stage. In any case, everyone around me and in the back seemed to be having “nothin’ but a good time” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) except for a few select parts of the show which I will touch upon a bit later. “Ride The Wind” and “Talk Dirty To Me” followed before Michaels introduced the ballad “Something To Believe In” by stating that there were no politics on this night (good!) and dedicating the track to the armed forces and first responders. Michaels asked the crowd to take out their cell phones and it was really cool to see all these cell phone lights lighting up the venue. I don’t know why more performers don’t ask their audience to do that. It reminded me of course of the good old days when lighters would light up a concert venue during the slower songs of the night.

Poison performing “Something To Believe In” live at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 19, 2018:

Poison, Something to Believe In, Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON 6/19/18

Poison, Something to Believe In, Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON 6/19/18

I was impressed with the amount of energy exuded by Michaels, Dall and DeVille as well as the seemingly camaraderie between the three of them along with Rockett. Hearing Michaels introduce each of his band members, you’d think that they have been the best of friends for the longest time. But that’s part of the charm of a Poison concert. You’re there to have a good time and have a party. Period. And that’s the sense that I got at this concert. Funny enough, Poison reminded me of Steel Panther with their party like atmosphere without the comedy routine that the latter always do. Having seen Steel Panther play live nine times since 2012 (you can check out those nine times at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9) and since the last time that I had seen Poison perform live dated more than ten years ago, you can forgive me for thinking that Poison reminded me of Steel Panther but really, it’s Steel Panther that have borrowed from Poison so it should be Steel Panther reminded me of Poison!

The evening slowed down for quite a bit when DeVille was given a guitar solo after only six songs had been played. I was surprised to see that Rockett (who Michaels triumphantly advised had gone through or beaten cancer) get a drum solo followed by Dall with a bass solo after “Fallen Angel” and “Unskinny Bop.” I could see a few people around me sit down while the solos were underway. I’ll never really understand why bands do that. If you’ll recall KISSAnimalize Live Uncensored 1985, Gene Simmons, Eric Carr and even Paul Stanley had individual solos on that tour. Thankfully, KISS have eliminated that and I’d like to see Poison eliminate the solos as well and simply play two or three more songs instead. In any case, the various solos didn’t last that long and before long, Poison ended their evening with arguably their two biggest hits — the ballad “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and the anthem “Nothin’ But A Good Time.” I was kind of surprised that Poison had already finished their set given that they had only played ten songs. Luckily, they came back with their spirited version of KISS‘ classic “Rock And Roll All Nite” with some Pop Evil band members joining them for the encore.

Overall, while I thought that Poison‘s set was a little on the short side (probably one hour and 15 minutes with three solo features), it was a lot of fun and it really felt like there was a great party atmosphere. In a nutshell, Poison brought the party to Toronto and made a usually uneventful Tuesday night feel like a raucous Saturday night. You can’t ask for anymore than that from any entertainer. I am definitely not waiting another ten years before I go see Poison play live again.

Poison’s setlist:
01. Look What The Cat Dragged In
02. I Want Action
03. Ride The Wind
04. Talk Dirty To Me
05. Something To Believe In
06. Your Mama Don’t Dance
07. Guitar Solo
08. Fallen Angel
09. Unskinny Bop
10. Drum Solo
11. Bass Solo
12. Every Rose Has Its Thorn
13. Nothin’ But A Good Time
14. Rock And Roll All Nite

Poison performing “Unskinny Bop” live at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 19, 2018:

Poison, Unskinny Bop, Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON 6/19/18

Poison, Unskinny Bop, Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON 6/19/18

Poison performing “Rock And Roll All Nite” live at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on June 19, 2018:

Poison, Rock and Roll All Nite, Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON 6/19/18

Poison, Rock and Roll All Nite, Budweiser Stage, Toronto ON 6/19/18Brought out Pop Evil – so much fun! Got to touch Leigh Kakaly and CC DeVille. Missed Bre…