When Poison goes on tour these days, it’s all about the hits.
That means plenty of material from the hair metal band’s ’80s heyday, back when sleazy, slinky rockers like “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Nothin’ But A Good Time” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” ruled radio. The band is currently in the middle of its second-ever tour with British band Def Leppard, with Lita Ford supporting, which heads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Monday night — and drummer Rikki Rockett is promising nothing but hits.
“You always know the song pretty much, and you know, that’s what I think really makes this a fun package,” Rockett said recently from a hotel room in Pittsburgh (He usually sleeps on his tour bus on the road, but decided to splurge on a room because of the “beautiful view”). “You’re not let down, like, ‘Oh, gee, I like that one song but I don’t know the other 15.’ ”
Def Leppard, Poison, with Lita Ford
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs
How Much: $125-$39.50; $26 (lawn)
More Info: 584-9330, www.spac.org
The all-hits approach seems to be working for the four-piece group — also featuring vocalist Bret Michaels, guitarist C.C. DeVille and bassist Bobby Dall — which celebrated its 25th anniversary as a group last year. But realistically, that’s what the band has to work with right now — it’s been five years since their last album, the covers collection “Poison’d!,” and 10 years since their most recent original material came out on “Hollyweird.”
In the meantime, frontman Michaels has released three solo albums, with a fourth, “Get Your Rock On,” due out this year. With a few health scares sidelining him in 2010, plus the singer’s many appearances on reality shows, most recently 2010’s “Bret Michaels: Life as I Know It,” a new Poison album has remained in a state of limbo. Fans have had to make do with a 2008 live album, “Live, Raw & Uncut,” and 2011’s double-disc hits package “Double Dose: Ultimate Hits” — their fourth such compilation.
Wanting to record
“The other three of us want to [record], but at this time, we don’t have any set plans,” Rockett said. “To some degree — we don’t want anybody in this band to feel like they can’t have some freedom, but I think that we’re at a point where we really do need to do something as Poison. To tell the truth, it’s a little bit in the way right now — I’m just being honest; I’m not gonna lie about it. I’d say it to Bret. It’s a bit in the way, and I really would like to record something.”
The band has been writing new material in between tours, so it’s just a matter of finding time to actually record. When it does happen, don’t expect one of the biggest hair metal bands still in existence to reinvent the wheel with their new songs.
“With some of the material we’ve fooled around with, it’s not a huge departure from who we are,” Rockett said. “I think that we’re better players, so I think that how we approach some of the material would be a little more seasoned. But I think the attitude of it would be the same as it is with what we’ve always done.”
Ups and downs
The hard-partying, hard-rocking attitude that has been the band’s stock-in-trade since Rockett and Michaels first teamed up in Mechanicsburg, Pa., in 1983, has both helped and hindered them. The band’s success came quickly with the release of their debut album, “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” in 1986, and their next two albums continued to spawn hit after hit.
But behind the scenes, the band’s members were having their own personal difficulties, fueled by drug and alcohol use. DeVille in particular struggled with cocaine addiction, which culminated in a fistfight with Michaels backstage at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, and DeVille’s dismissal from the group. Shortly after, Nirvana and the alternative rock movement hit, relegating hair bands like Poison to the sidelines.
After a rough stretch in the ’90s, and two replacement guitarists, DeVille came back to the fold in 1996. In 1999, the band staged a successful comeback tour, a prelude to the touring juggernaut the band has become in the last decade.
“We do love to tour and be on that stage together,” Rockett said. “When we start to get into a creative atmosphere, I’m always afraid it will implode — that’s where we really kind of have a flash point, and it’s probably one of the reasons we haven’t done much material in a while. But I think that we just — we really do like to tour, play those songs and perform for people, and get that feedback from the audience. It’s a great way to make a living.”
And audiences, of all ages, have been coming out in droves — the band regularly commands audiences in the tens of thousands. Rockett readily admitted that Poison was “not supposed to last this long.” But he has found that the music resonates with new generations, and older fans looking to feel young again.
“I do see younger people — so many come up to me at the end of the night and say, ‘That was my first concert, just so you know; I love Poison, I liked you guys since my mom and dad played your stuff for me when I was 9 years old and now I’m finally seeing you.’ The Rolling Stones used to get that stuff, and then I saw it happen with Aerosmith, and now we’re the next generation of bands that can do it — those of us who survived, anyway.”