When I was about 14 and determined to be a rock star, I wrote a song called "I've Been Poisoned." It was mostly just heavy drum beats, kind of like Queen's "We Will Rock You." There is no way in hell you're going to get me to recite the lyrics, but suffice it to say I was a big Poison fan. Biiig Poison fan.
On June 28, my friend Debbie and I went to the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto to see them again. It was a trip down memory lane. We didn't really still think they were cute. At least not much.
Okay, okay, we did. Old habits die hard. Opening for Poison were Cinderella, Dokken and Slaughter. It was the seventh time I'd seen Poison, and it was definitely the most interesting since the time I almost got arrested trying to sneak on to the tour bus.
When Debbie picked me up from work, she was playing the southern Ontario rock radio station 97.7 Hitz (sic) FM. The station, maybe because it was of interest or maybe just to be nice, was broadcasting live from the concert.
We heard an interview with Mark Slaughter, lead singer of Slaughter, and he was talking about the subject journalists always bring up when interviewing aging metal bands - what went wrong with the music scene? Why did metal fall on its face so quickly? Mark said that grunge was responsible, but now people want "good time party music" again. "All of the guys who were in (the grunge) scene are either out of it now or dead," Mark said.
Does anyone out there, other than Mark Slaughter and his padres, really think grunge killed heavy metal? Is it really so hard for them to face that their kind of music was a fad and it's just not popular anymore? Must there really be finger pointing? If grunge became popular, it was because there was a cry for something different. Besides, grunge was not as strictly defined as metal. I mean, what is grunge? The definite grunge bands of the mid 1990's are still around, to my knowledge. Pearl Jam is still touring. Nirvana is dead, along with its lead singer, but the Foo Fighters are still kicking.
But I digress. That's a whole other rant.
We arrived at the Molson Amphitheatre by street car. Most of the people on the car, we discovered, were going to the Benson and Hedges Symphony of Fire at nearby Ontario Place. We were pretty much the only ones going to the concert. We saw a pair of ghastly red-headed twins, their chubby bodies exploding out of their leather pants, wearing these pink sequined tube tops that would have made Ziggy Stardust say "That's ridiculous." They also wore hot pink cowboy hats and contact lenses that made their eyes look cat-like, not to mention cowboy boots. "I bet they're going to the fireworks," Debbie joked. I laughed and that egged her on. "I bet they are the fireworks," she said.
We followed the silly twins into the Molson Amphitheatre. On the way in we saw Mark Slaughter standing outside with what must have been his son. He looked like he had recently come offstage. He was just sort of standing around talking. "That's Mark Slaughter," I told Debbie. "Really?" she said. "I wouldn't have recognized him." Debbie and I had it in mind to meet Poison. We couldn't do it when we were kids, so we were going to do it as adults. If Mark Slaughter was just standing around on the sidewalk, things were looking good.
Never in my life, or at least not in the last 10 years, have I seen so much fuzzy hair and concert shirts in one place at one time. If the townspeople wanted to kill off the guys who commit fashion crimes and try to grow their hair long at the back even though it frizzes, or the assholes who won't stop blaring Warrant from their car stereos, they could have dropped a bomb on the concert theatre and gotten them all in one place. But at the same time, I felt completely at home.
Sometimes I walk into a trendy nightclub and everyone is dressed better than I am. The girls six years younger than I am dance around looking fantastic and I get the feeling that I am just an old hag who doesn't deserve to live. But at the Poison concert, it was like visiting my family. I knew the score. I knew this scene. I knew what the people were like, I knew what they were talking about and I was absolutely, positively in my element. I have never felt more comfortable or more attractive than that night. I knew the lyrics to the songs people were singing. It was like the metal-heads, who have had their music pushed off the radio and their clothing squeezed off the racks like they're a dying breed, had gotten together for a show of solidarity. I walked by men with short hair and wedding rings and saw new versions of the guys with long, wild hair and ripped jeans that had once made my heart stop. I was older, but so were they. It was like a high school reunion. If metal is going to make a comeback, it will be because of that feeling. We were older and smarter and within those walls, we were too fucking cool.
Being able to drink at the concert added a new element. They sold $6 beer and $5 apple coolers that made my face screw into a ball like I'd just chewed a lemon. It was Debbie's idea to order two at a time, since we figured this was an occasion and the lines were long. Holding one in each hand severely hindered our ability to move to the music.
I paid the most attention to Cinderella and Poison. Cinderella played a good mix of music from all three albums, relying most heavily on their last one that anyone bought, Heartbreak Station. The last time I saw Cinderella was when Slaughter opened for them in Kitchener. I wore heart-shaped sunglasses and a bustier to that concert. (I had a shirt on over top of the bustier. Even at 17 I wasn't that bold.)
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Tom Kiefer, Cinderella's lead singer, has aged well. He still has long hair, and he wore eyeliner, which isn't as scary as it sounds. He actually looked better than he did in the old days, and sounded just as good. I haven't listened to Cinderella in a long time but when they started playing I knew all the words to their songs..
It was like riding a bike, baby. They launched into a great version of "Don't Know What You Got OTil It's Gone" and the now-dark theatre filled with lighter flames. Everyone sang along like it was their anthem and I swear I had tears in my eyes.
Around this time a guy in front of us who said his name was Tom Green (he later told us his real name, but I forget what it was) was going crazy in a noticeable way. He started turning and singing the words to us, like this was the highlight of his year. He sang to us until a skinny girl in a tube top took her seat next to me, and then he sang to her. Men! Tom Green was to be regarded with the same grain of salt as the rest of the aging metal-heads, so I wasn't exactly bummed about his shifting attention span, so don't think I'm catty when I say this: the girl next to me represented everything I used to hate about metal chicks. She danced to the music like it was Technotronic, with no real feeling behind it. She gave us sidelong glances like she was sizing up the competition. Every once in awhile she'd put her hand up and do the metal symbol with it, in this weak and faltering way, like she was there for the guys and the backstage pass rather than the actual music. I never wanted to fuck the band. I wanted to be the band.
After Cinderella, during the break, I saw Don Dokken walking around the theatre. Another good sign. With Poison, I realized that some things never change: Bret thrust his hips like Elvis, Rikki Rockett played the drums with is mouth open and C.C. DeVille got a 20-minute guitar solo that sucked. The guy still cannot play guitar. His wrong notes made me cringe and it felt nostalgic. He got to sing a song, which was something new. He was the same old attention hog, puttinghis hand to his ear so the crowd would cheer louder, and you could tell everyone was thinking "Get on with it!"
They played "I Want Action," which sounded a little pathetic since it's the year 2000, it is no longer cool to objectify women and the guys are in their thirties. From Look What the Cat Dragged In, they also played the title track and, of course, "Talk Dirty to Me." They played "Fallen Angel" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" from Open Up and Say...Ahh and a bunch of stuff from Flesh and Blood. They played very little from Native Tongue, although I was dying to hear "Theatre of My Soul." It was the same deal as with Cinderella in that I knew all the words and sang until my voice was hoarse.
It was amazing.
At the end Bret Michaels dragged about 30 people up on the stage, including the moronic twins. You could tell it was the highlight of their lives, since they probably work at Quickie Mart.
Another thing that didn't change is that we did not meet Poison. After the show there were a bunch of people standing around near the tour buses. Debbie and I stood there for a few minutes in the crowd of people armed with T-shirts and CDs to be autographed. I felt like such a star-fucker. I said "I want to meet them, but not like this." She agreed and we went home. The concert was the most important part anyway.