Sunday, February 8, 2009

Schlock of love (unedited)

I'm not done reminiscing about Mexico, but this can't wait.

For the second time in less than 12 months I attended a concert by none other than that bastion of rock and roll excellence, Bret Michaels.

He's perhaps best known for fronting the rock band Poison. Poison managed to emerge from the glam rock era as one of the front runners of the genre. Like nearly every other band of that era, Poison died when glam rock was usurped by the grunge movement in the 90s. And like almost every band from the glam era -- often referred to as "hair bands" -- Poison decided life was a lot harder in the real world. So they reunited in 1999 to do a summer tour, headlining a package of hair bands. They did well enough that the package became an annual event. It beats working for a living, to be sure.

Poison wasn't my favorite hair band, but I did attend one of their headlining tours in their heyday, circa 1990 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. I attended that concert with Monica, but only because my buddy and I bought an extra pair of concert tickets from her for the show. It was that concert, however, that resulted in a friendship that has endured nearly two decades.

A few times since 1999 Monica and I have attended Poison concerts, ironically they've been in Mankato, Minn., Duluth, Minn., and Fond du Lac, Wis., but never in the Twin Cities. Monica has gone to many other Poison concerts during the past 10 years, thanks to her job in the airline industry. But when there's a show I can attend with her, I'm there. I'd never go by myself to one of their shows, but it's a good time, so if I can make it, I go, even though Monica and I aren't always together during concerts we attend.

We've also attend a few Bret Michaels solo shows during the past four years. I'm not sure how often he's toured without his Poison band mates, but I don't remember him doing much of it until a few years ago.

On Saturday night Monica and I attended a Bret Michaels solo show in Hinckley, Minn., the fourth time we've done so.

We went to two shows back in 2005, at the same bar in Andover, Minn., a northern Twin Cities suburb. For whatever reason he played at this bar twice in a span of about two months. It's a good size bar, but that's all it is, a bar. They probably packed several hundred into the building, but it was a far smaller crowd than at your typical Poison concert. Michaels played a few songs from his less-than-notable solo recordings, and threw in a couple of covers Poison hasn't recorded, but otherwise it was the equivalent of a Poison tribute band.

A funny thing happened between 2005 and the two concerts Monica and I attended in the past 10 months, Michaels became a celebrity.

Technically he has been a celebrity for two decades. Headlining arena tours, dating Pam Anderson and working with Charlie Sheen on a forgettable movie project is enough to earn your celebrity card. But 10 years ago this week, as rumors were perhaps just beginning to circulate that Poison would reunite after several years of inactivity, Michaels would have had a hard time getting arrested in Hollywood.

A series of summer tours helped remind the VH1 audience that Michaels was still alive, but it wasn't until the programming geniuses of said network decided that he should be the focal point of a "reality show" that Michaels became such a hot commodity.

I've never seen the show, primarily because I haven't had access to VH1 for about two years, but Michaels has managed to capture the imagination of the VH1 audience with his "Rock of Love" dating game. People have told me the wannabe groupies on the show are an incredible spectacle, and I don't doubt it. There's no shortage of women (or men) in this world who would gladly trade their dignity for a chance to make a living as a pointless public figure, whether it be for winning a contrived survival competition on CBS or for dating a middle-aged hair band singer with a majestic rug atop his head. (He'd never acknowledge it, but nobody could argue with a straight face that Michaels' mane is au naturale.)

After two attempts to find a woman who can accept Michaels' rock and roll lifestyle, VH1 contrived a third crack at eternal happiness by moving the show from a Hollywood mansion to a tour bus. At least that's how it has been explained to me. Again, I have to plead total ignorance.

Last April Monica and I saw Michaels' solo show at Myth Nightclub in Maplewood, Minn., a pretentious concert hall built in a former retail "warehouse." It's a nice venue for a show that will attract more than 1,000 people, and is certainly a far bigger venue than the Andover locale we had previously saw Michaels perform at twice. (A couple of years ago he performed at an even smaller bar in the south metro, and I couldn't attend. Monica intended to, but she was sick, and she was probably better off for it, as that place is a horrible concert venue.)

With Michaels a reborn celebrity thanks to VH1 we saw a noticeably larger crowd at his Myth concert than we had back in 2005. Portions of the concert were allegedly being filmed for the new VH1 tour bus edition of his show. While he played to a larger crowd at Myth, I know many folks in attendance were there thanks to comp tickets. A local band or two opened the show, and they had passwords for free admission to the show that they sent out to anyone on their e-mail list. Our friend Keri forwarded us the password. Since we hadn't purchased tickets in advance, we were able to go for free that night, and I'm glad we did. It was $35 at the door for the show, and Michaels played for all of one hour. I am quire sure we paid no more than $20 to see him in Andover, but when he became a celebrity bachelor, his show was able to command a higher price, evidently. (The venue typically sets the ticket price, and given it was the pretentious Myth Nightclub, it's not a surprise they were charging $35.)

Mr. Rock of Love is back on tour this winter, having toured with Poison last summer, and promoting a Poison tour with Def Leppard and Cheap Trick this summer. His show on Saturday night was at Grand Casino in Hinckley, halfway between the Twin Cities and Duluth.

I'll spare the details, but it looked like there was no chance I was driving to Duluth for the show. Monica thought she was going several weeks ago, but she was wrong. Even when she was wrong, she considered going and staying the night in the hotel with Keri and her entourage from northern Minnesota. But then we found out Mr. Rock of Love had sold out his show in Hinckley, at $30 a ticket. I bet they had 2,000 seats in that showroom, and it sold out weeks ago.

So I entered an online contest from a Twin Cities radio station, just so I could win tickets for Monica to go and spend the night in Keri's hotel room. Sure enough I got a call three days before the show, telling me I won a pair of tickets. The problem: Monica was sure I wouldn't win tickets, so she made plans a few weeks ago for the entire day of the concert. I wasn't about to drive up there by myself, even if Keri had purchased tickets weeks ago. But then Monica called me Friday afternoon, telling me the weather canceled part of her plans for Saturday, and she was canceling the other part of her plans so we could go to the show.

And just like that, I was part of a group of 2,000 or so people, many of whom would never have attended Michaels' solo show three years ago if he wasn't a VH1 darling. The guy's solo career is hotter than ever because he allegedly wants to find love on a televised dating show. Amazing.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact a casino booked his show, but there was no opening act. The concert was scheduled to start at 8 p.m., and it started about 8:15. And like last spring at Myth, Michaels couldn't be bothered to work for much more than an hour. His band played for about an hour, departed the stage, only to return minutes later for one final song. The irony was he talked as if he was going to play for three hours. What a fraud.

Casinos tend to book a lot more country acts and golden oldies rather than hair bands. I question if Grand Casino has every booked an act like Michaels.

The concert had assigned seats, and they had chairs throughout the showroom. But there was little room in front of the stage for those who want Michaels to sweat on them, such as Monica and Keri's entourage. Casino security actually forced everyone to vacate the narrow area between the stage and front row chairs prior to the start of the concert. But as soon as the house lights went down, anyone who wanted to pack the front of the stage like sardines descended upon the stage area, which I knew would happen. I stayed several rows back in Keri's seats.

The casino had security, but it didn't seem that interested in prohibiting people from standing on their chairs, or doing much else that generally falls under the guise of event security. Most people didn't climb atop their chairs, but some would for a short while, until somebody behind them would yell at them to get down. I was sure I was going to see a couple of cat fights over such circumstances, but somehow that was averted. I'm surprised I didn't see plastic beer bottles thrown at those who were so inconsiderate.

The crowd featured quite the variety, from teens who were dragged there by their parents to women nearly old enough to be my mother. You had young skanks who'd make even gay guys drool, and women who weighed more than me, and I'm not exactly svelte in my old age. The world is an interesting place full of interesting people.

During Michaels' one-song encore a woman who looked nothing like a skank you'd see on Rock of Love climbed on stage to dance with him. He played along before security politely escorted her offstage. Not long after that several woman started climbing on stage, seemingly at Michaels' invitation. And most of them: not Rock of Love material either. It was so weird. Women were trying to grope him while he was finishing the last song, and some had their cameras on them, so they wanted to get pictures with him as he was trying to wrap up his performance. It was rather weird to watch, and not that pretty.

Monica and I had fun, and for the most part Keri's entourage enjoyed themselves. Keri's sister-in-law had her digital camera snatched amongst the mob in front of the stage, and that was quite the buzzkill.

In the end I was glad Monica and I were able to spend the evening together, something that appeared to be out of the question for several weeks, and even 48 hours prior to the concert. But I'm not paying to see that ass clown preen for the unwashed masses any time soon. (I'm sure he'd be devastated to learn of this.)

Should I be shocked that a 45-year-old goofball is eating up the attention he's getting 20 years after his band was an MTV darling? No, not at all. I'm sure it beats working for a living. Now if only the poor bastard could find true love. I'm sure he will, just as soon as the bloom is off the VH1 ratings rose.

No comments: