I’m not sure if Doc Brown and his flying DeLorean dropped me off outside the House of Blues or not, but it certainly felt as if I’d travelled back to 1986 to witness two of hair metal’s biggest bands. While their glory days may be far behind them, there’s no denying the appeal that Ratt and Poison have to a whole generation of fans and then some.
Recently reunited with frontman Steven Pearcy, Ratt came out to the pounding beats of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” in full rock star mode cranking right in to “Sweet Cheater” before hitting most of the band’s signature 80’s hits. The “reunited” Ratt only consists of 3 original members; frontman Pearcy, guitarist Warren DeMartini and drummer Bobby Blotzer. The group is rounded out by ex-Motley Crue/Union frontman John Corabi on guitar and Robbie Crane (who’s actually been in the band since ’96) on bass. The best decision they could have made was keeping Corabi in. Not only is he a killer guitar player, but he’s a great vocalist who helps cover for Pearcy’s dwindling ability to hit the high notes. That’s not to say that Pearcy sounded bad. In fact, he sounded like he should, just with a reduced range. He couldn’t scream the notes like he could in his arena days, but he still sounds like a cat with it’s tail caught in a screen door, which is exactly how he should sound! It’s such an important part of the Ratt sound and something that the Jizzy Pearl fronted version of the band lacked. With Corabi backing, things sounded great. The band was tight and the playing was dead on. It’s easy to see that out of the hair metal bands, Ratt was one of the most musically talented. DeMartini is an under rated guitarist. He should have been one of the 80’s rock gods. He hasn’t lost his touch either. His solos were spot on all night and the crowd really appreciated when he stepped up to the center to solo. Of course, while the band’s hardcore fans were happy to hear tracks like “Dangerous But Worth the Wait” and “City to City,” the rest of the crowd errupted when the band launched into their hits. Round and Round closed things out as expected and had the audience singing along to every word.
The best thing about Ratt’s performance was that the interaction between the band. They all looked like they were having fun together and their past problems with each other have been put on the back burner. They know that they need each other in order to be a decent draw. They interacted with the crowd as well and smiles were all around. Sure they’re not headlining arenas anymore, but at least they’re still capable of pleasing a sold out House of Blues audience.
Following Ratt, the musicality of Poison was really apparent. Granted, they’ve never really been considered virtuosos. Their art is more in the stageshow and the energy. They lacked neither of them. Poison is one of the only bands from this genre that still has the original line up in tact and is capable of booking tours each summer in major sheds. That’s a credit to them. Despite not changing their set list up for the past 15 years, the band doesn’t look like they’re going through the motions. Bassist Bobby Dall has long been the least recognizable member, but he was all over the stage running around and threatening to take the spotlight off of crazed guitarist C.C. Deville. The show opened with two commericals on the big screen behind the stage: one for singer Bret Michaels’ VH1 show and the other for the new covers CD. Then there were opening credits introducing the band members on the screen. I thought this was a nice touch. The band seemed genuinely thrilled at their reception and Michaels thanked the crowd for their “best House of Blues experience ever.” The band’s party like atmosphere was contagious and had the crowd dancing along to the band’s huge hits. After a guitar solo, Deville took over lead vocals for the song “I Hate Every Bone In Your Body But Mine.” It’s clear to see why he isn’t the band’s lead singer. His off key wailings were embarrasing and hysterical. It seems like Deville knew it and just didn’t care. It was fun. It was also my favorite moment of the band’s set. Drummer Rikki Rocket’s solo featured a levitating drum riser that was shamelessly stolen from KISS. Following the solo, the band launched into the crime against music known as “Unskinny Bop.” As horrible as this song is, I can’t deny the energy that it instilled in the crowd. Near the end of the set, Michaels once again promoted his VH1 reality show that’s set to air on July 15. When the band broke into “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” the crowd errupted into a massive sing along. With confetti cannons blasting, the band tore through an encore of “Nothin’ But A Good Time.” The one thing that has always bugged me about Poison (apart from “Unskinny Bop” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”) is the way that before every guitar solo Michaels must say some variation of “take it C.C.” Is it that Deville can’t remember where to solo or what? I don’t get it. You don’t need that in each song!
Overall, the show was quite a fun night out with two bands that shouldn’t be able to still draw such large crowds. Ratt should take some lessons from Poison in putting on an entertaining show and Poison should take some lessons from Ratt in how to play. It was interesting to see the diversity of the crowd as well. There were young people mixed in with the headbangers of the past and different races all coming together to have nothing but a good time.