Rock the Arena was an all day music event that played to a sold out Savage Arena in Toledo yesterday, further cementing the legacy of metal music having the best fans in the music industry. For at least one night, big hair and spandex were entirely acceptable as die-hard fans of music’s most often and wrongfully criticized genre filled packed the house for the entirety of the all day event.
Due to some crappy traffic coming up I-75 between Findlay and Bowling Green, we missed the first two acts of the day; New Jersey’s Trixter and Charlotte’s FireHouse. Rather, it was the one and only Lita Ford that kicked off the day for me. Her band sounded good and she successfully back loaded her set with a trio of radio hits that have defined her career. This three song run featured a rendition of “Cherry Bomb” by her original band; The Runaways. It was her final two songs, however, that put the place in a frenzy for the first time of the day. “Close My Eyes Forever” and “Kiss Me Deadly“, were performed flawlessly and set the stage for what was to come during the rest of the event, especially after she reminded the crowd that the show was being recorded.
My personal main event, was the next band to perform; Dokken. One of the early heavy metal bands that has a large back catalog of hits, they were severely under-placed on the lineup. The festival’s organizers even admitted as much on their press release when Dokken was added to the lineup, in place of L.A. Guns who had to back out. Can you say upgrade? No offense, but the festival gained a band that could/should have closed this event in place for L.A. Guns. Due to the touring schedules of other bands that were already billed, Dokken had to play earlier than they would have under normal circumstances. Based on the crowd reaction during their onslaught of heavy metal thunder, led by Mick Brown’s full out assault on the drums, Rock the Arena really got lucky by being able to add them to the bill. Speaking of Mick Brown, Don Dokken (vocals) surrounded himself with a band with some serious chops. With Brown, who also drums for Ted Nugent, I’ve often wondered who keeps the Motor City Madman reigned in on tour; I’m not so certain now that it might not be the other way around. How does one cage the beast?
Dokken Set List
1. Kiss of Death
2. Into The Fire
3. Don’t Close Your Eyes
4. Dream Warriors
5. Breaking The Chains
6. Alone Again
7. Maddest Hatter
8. In My Dreams
9. Tooth and Nail
After Dokken was finished up, I was bound and determined to tour the arena and get some grub and hopefully some merch. Much to my dismay, Dokken had sold out of all of their merchandise. By the time we made it back to our seats, we had missed half of Winger’s set. I will admit that I had always blindly followed Metallica in their feud with Winger and never gave them much of a chance. I can and generally do admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong. I still love Metallica, but that Winger has been pigeonholed to their ballads for decades is criminal. Kip and his band owned the stage. I’m a big blues fan and walked in as they were in the middle of a blues jam. They definitely had my attention by this time and that is before they announced that their guitarist was from Tennessee and was a “chicken pickin’ mother******“. From there they busted out a heavy new song; “Rat Race“. From there it was time to bust out the lighters as they raced through hit after hit with “Miles Away“, “Headed For a Heartbreak“, “Easy Come Easy Go“, “Madalaine“, and of course finishing off the set with “Seventeen“.
Having just recently seen Warrant close out the Marion Popcorn Festival this past September, I knew that they would definitely be bringing it. They didn’t disappoint either. You could tell that they were genuinely enjoying what they were doing, as they ran through their packed set, they still made time to sneak in snippets of songs like Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and “Heaven and Hell” and KISS’ “Love Gun“. Who knows what else I may not have picked up on? In a set packed with hit after hit, they are still able to keep it fresh by including some new tunes too. This is probably why it is so visible that they are still having fun.
Warrant Set List
1. Big Talk
2. Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich
3. Down Boys
4. Sure Feels Good to Me
5. Sometimes She Cries
6. All My Bridges are Burning
7. Sex Ain’t Love
8. I Saw Red
9. So Damn Pretty
11. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
12. Cherry Pie
Bobby Blotzer and the boys from RATT were the next band to take the stage. The other two times that I had seen RATT, Stephen Pearcy was still the singer in the band. I just want to say, before I get to Bobby, that this was far and away the best and most energetic RATT show that I’ve seen. I bring this up, because about two thirds of the way through the set, Blotzer came down from his drum kit and took the mic from his “new” singer to address the elephant in the room. Blotzer is the only original member of the band that was on stage last night. He has surrounded himself with excellent musicians that want to be out there and care about the future of the band. With that, Blotzer cleared the air with the sold out crowd that was every bit of 8,000 strong. He explained how Stephen Pearcy didn’t really want to tour and how Warren DeMartini refused to answer his calls. Now, I’m generally not a fan of airing your dirty laundry to the public, but in this day and age where there is a vocal minority that bash these folks for not having the whole band together, I thought it was entirely appropriate for Blotzer to set the record straight. I mean, if we’re being honest, has Stephen Pearcy ever looked like he is enjoying himself on stage in the past two decades? Such a shame, shame, shame.
RATT Set List
1. I Want a Woman
2. Back For More
3. One Step Away
4. Slip of the Lip
6. Wanted Man
7. Closer to My Heart
8. Lay It Down
9. You’re In Love
10. Shame, Shame, Shame
11. Lack of Communication
12. Way Cool Jr.
13. Round and Round
The final performance of the night was headlining act Bret Michaels. Having seen him with Poison a handful of times, I knew that he’d bring a ton of energy and demand crowd participation. These are what makes him one of the era’s most adored singers by his fans. Behind the eyeliner and bandannas there is a real genuineness to him that people can relate to. The sound mix was too loud, which led to a couple feedback issues during the set. Most importantly, the event proved to be a great fundraiser for the University of Toledo and for the city. The 50/50 raffle was over $10,000 and Meet and Greets that were purchased with Bret saw the proceeds go directly into helping folks in the Glass City.
As always, the set was full of hits and songs that everybody knows. Which begs the question, what happened to Poison? I mean no disrespect to Bret’s solo touring band. Minus the sound issues from the mixing board, they sounded great and were having a great time. The situation is kind of different than the one that Blotzer is facing with RATT. The rest of Poison is sitting there waiting on Bret to come back to them while he is touring with a replacement band that is playing Poison’s greatest hits. I’m all for the fact that Bret wants to venture out and do his own thing. It makes a lot of sense. Go out and make new music. Tour on your new music. We heard no new music last night that wasn’t a cover song. Poison fans, like myself, can only speculate as to why he isn’t touring with Poison these days. The fact remains, his band is twiddling their thumbs and waiting on their leader.
My personal feelings aside, the show was great. The set list was great. Bret has always humbly acknowledged our military men and women and last night was no exception. At the end of the show they also auctioned off his hat and a collectible frame with all of Bret’s platinum records in it. The proceeds went to local charities. Then of course, he opened up the Meet and Greet to any and all fans. It doesn’t get more genuine than that.
Bret Michaels Set List
1. Talk Dirty To Me (Poison cover)
2. Look What the Cat Dragged In (Poison cover)
3. Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover)
4. Your Mama Don’t Dance (Loggins & Messina cover)
*Bret Michaels harmonica solo*
5. Ride the Wind (Poison cover)
6. Something to Believe In (Poison cover)
7. Unskinny Bop (Poison) / Give It Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers) / Uptown Funk (Bruno Mars) *medley*
*Mike Bailey drum solo*
8. Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison cover)
9. Nothin’ But A Good Time (Poison cover)
10. Rock and Roll All Nite (KISS cover)
*I’d like to thank Melissa Somers for accommodating my ticket request for this awesome event!*