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Monday, 24th April 2017
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Des Moines, IA - Media Reviews

Poison knows their lane, Def Leppard doesn’t By Luke Matthews

Growing up on a steady diet of music videos on MTV in the 1980s, it was impossible to miss videos from some of the decade’s biggest rock stars Def Leppard and Poison. Def Leppard was at the height of their superstardom following 1987’s “Hysteria” and Poison hit their stride with 1988’s “Open Up and Say Ahh!” Monday night in Des Moines, both bands got to take 11,000+ at Wells Fargo Arena back to the 80s with their literal arena-rock anthems.

Poison’s Bret Michaels is always the last to appear on stage, but once he did as the band broke into “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” the crowd’s energy rose twofold and didn’t come down for nearly an hour. Michaels, a recent reality star after his musical star cooled in the 1990s, wore his trademark red bandana and cowboy hat as he bounded from side to side of the stage and slapped hands with nearly everyone along both sides of the catwalk.

All four members of Poison, each in their 50s, kept the energy high throughout their entire set, noticeably taking breaks here and there during extended intros and solos. Michaels was the most energetic as he shouted out “Des Moines!!!” more times than could be counted during the band’s set. While Michaels’ voice has not held up entirely over the years, the songs are still discernible and still entice dancing, singing, and tall boy raising throughout the crowd.

Poison is a band that has not released new material since 2007, yet knows their lane when it comes to performing live – the three words that any radio person will tell you is the best philosophy – play the hits. In just under 60 minutes, Poison ripped through 9 classics, all pulled right from their 1996 Greatest Hits album. It wasn’t over the top, it wasn’t perfect, but it was just what you wanted from a band you partied to in the 80s.

After many years away, Def Leppard has become a bit of a concert staple in Des Moines recently. They’ve played Wells Fargo Arena multiple times as well as an appearance at the Iowa State Fair. If you haven’t seen Def Leppard recently, you haven’t been trying.

Singer Joe Elliott remarked that Def Leppard will have been together for 40 years this summer. Unfortunately, the tread is starting to show a bit on the Def Leppard tires. Elliott’s voice hasn’t held up quite so well over the years, so some of the notes that we all scream out in our favorite songs don’t quite have the same punch in concert like they used to.

That’s not to say the band is not still entertaining because they certainly are. Bassist Rick Savage still happily glides around the stage and Phil Collen is a supremely talented guitarist – one of the best from the 1980s. Plus there are still those moments where you get goosebumps as “Love Bites” or “Pour Some Sugar On Me” are played live. However, the band also continues to make new music and put a few too many new offerings into their setlist Monday night. Songs like “Dangerous,” “Man Enough,” and the opening pseudo-dud “Let’s Go” were not so much calls to rock than they were cues to hit the restroom and get another tall boy.

You have to credit Def Leppard that they’re still recording, but if you listen to the crowd reactions, you know that they came to hear the hits and politely congratulated the band on their new material. It must certainly get tiresome to play the same material year in and year out, but at this point in their career, the band has to know what the crowd really wants to hear.

The night was started off with another throwback to the late 1980s in Tesla. The group that sounded the most like their original material was given a 45 minute set to remind the crowd of just how good of a song “Love Song” is and that their cover of “Signs” is still the one all others are measured against.

By Star 102.5 2017.


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