Poison, Warrant team for Toledo Zoo concertWritten by John Benson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When looking at the Poison and Warrant bill for July 28 at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre, it’s hard not to see the tale of two hair-metal bands.
In some ways the story started exactly two decades ago when Poison’s “Flesh & Blood” tour — with Warrant as opener — mopped up any remaining Aqua Net interest. However, in early 1991 Poison (“Talk Dirty To Me,” “Fallen Angel,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” et. al) was at its height, while Warrant (“Down Boys,” “Heaven,” “Cherry Pie,” “I Saw Red”) looked forward to a bright future after the release of its double-platinum sophomore effort “Cherry Pie.”
“That tour was just a crazy time for both Poison and Warrant,” said Bret Michaels via an email Q&A with Toledo Free Press Star. “1991 was an incredible year for all of us. All of the shows we played on that tour were over the top.”
While the bill packed arenas throughout the winter, eventually Warrant left the tour after a disagreement. The Jani Lane-fronted act returned to the road later in the year with its “Blood, Sweat And Beers” outing, which included openers Firehouse and Trixter.
“Looking back, we were both I think highly competitive of one another and Poison commandeered the majority of the sound and the lights and stage,” said Warrant drummer Steven Sweet, who grew up outside of Cleveland in Wadsworth. “We just got a little too close for comfort after a while and it was definitely time for us to move on when we did leave that tour.”
It turns out the clock was already ticking and later in 1991 Kurt Cobain’s grunge would forever maim the spandex nation and its non-stop party image. Both acts did their best to weather the storm. In 1992, Warrant released the gold-selling “Dog Eat Dog,” while in 1993 a C.C. Deville-less Poison released its gold-selling “Native Tongue.”
Despite such an auspicious beginning, the ’90s proved to be pretty cruel for both acts. Poison finally regrouped at the end of the decade, once again headlining sheds and riding renewed interest in the ’90s as a nostalgia act. As for Warrant, band infighting led to numerous lineups (Sweet left in 1994 only to return in 2004) with the act forever remaining a supporting slot-band on package tours (“Rock Never Stops”) and club gigs. So what’s the difference between the groups?
“We’ve been extremely fortunate, and as a band we have a very close bond,” said Michaels, who in 2010 suffered a massive subarachnoid hemorrhage. He’s since recovered. “I honestly think that chemistry has been the secret to our continued success. I wish Warrant nothing but the best. You know, as a showman, I love the huge arenas, the screaming crowds and crazy energy. That will never, ever get old. But at the end of the day, if the music comes first and performing is really what you’re passionate about, it doesn’t matter where you’re playing.”
Sweet said, “They have their eggs and their followers of their eggs and we have ours. I mean, if you really look at it, we’re two very different bands. Lots of deciding factors, like if you get yourself on a reality TV show the world is your oyster for a time. So who knows?”
Sweet can attribute Poison’s continued success to Michaels’ popular VH-1 reality show “Rock of Love with Bret Michaels,” but the truth is that the difference between the bands appears to be timing. Whereas Poison’s 1986 arrival allowed for five good years of ’80s success — and more than 12 million records sold — Warrant came late to the game making its debut in 1989 and selling fewer than 5 million albums.
If you care about these things, it makes you wonder what could have been if Warrant had another year or two of success in the 1980s.
“I can see how that can be perceived as a factor, and rightly so,” Sweet said. “Many things in life are about timing and unfortunately you can’t change the way things go down. You ride the wave for what it’s worth.”
Michaels concurs, “Life is about loyalty to me; you stick together. I’m still amazed by Poison and by what we’ve done together in our career so far: We turned nothing into something. And we never faked it.”
Poison and Warrant will go their separate ways after playing a few shows together. The former continues its national jaunt opening for Mötley Crüe in arenas and amphitheaters, while the latter has dates booked alongside Skid Row and Firehouse in casinos. Warrant is supporting its latest album “Rockaholic.”
Sweet said, “It’s all about the music being what it is — timeless — and us offering it to new fans and the old fans.”
Poison and Warrant are scheduled to play at 7:30 p.m. July 28, at The Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre, 2700 Broadway St., Toledo. Tickets are $37.50 to $75, and now on sale at all Ticketmaster locations or www.ticketmaster.com.