Thought processes and conversations started under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. Someday everyone will know the Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not TAMPA, or the fictitious city of TAMPA BAY.
Nothin’ But a Good Time with Bret Michaels
Saturday evening way before the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Seattle Mariners, the Rays Republic saw the resurging brilliance of a man who has waged his fair share of War in the battlefields of Rock and Roll and come out better for the journey. At a time when most ex-hair band lead singers are lounging somewhere else resting on their follicle ladened 1980’s laurels, sitting in isolation while continuous residual checks op into their mailboxes, this guy is still loving the Rock Star lifestyle one stanza at a time.
Men and women all over this big blue marble have lived vicariously through this rock icon’s adventures for a long time starting with his first exposure to the vice and decay of the rock and roll lifestyle that can chew you up and spit you out as candy while getting his first taste of this sweet as the front man for the iconic glam metal band Poison.
Here is a guy who has sold out tons of venues like Tropicana Field as both a solo act and as a lead singer, but he was doing something we all wanted to do before the game…He was throwing in front of the Rays dugout with Bullpen Coach Bobby Ramos, and tossing a mighty fine and tight fastball. The guy who could do almost anything just wanted to throw some soft toss, then get ready to pop the top off Tropicana Field with a slew of cover songs and songs we all know by heart.
That is one of the things that makes all of us want to meet or take a photo with the guy. He is one of the most genuinely honest and down to earth guys in Rock and Roll, and he made time to toss a few fastballs, then sign a few autographs before heading to his hidden suite just to the left of the Rays Press Box.
Even when he gave an A Capella rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame“ that will surely be posted on Youtube soon, It was all Bret Michaels as we have come to know this hometown guy from Butler, Pennsylvania. If he wasn’t a rock legend and icon, he would be that troubadour possibly playing in a neighborhood tavern cranking out his original tunes and filling the place during the weekend.
And if it wasn’t for the huge stage and the megawatts of surging heat and power from the banks of amplifiers and gear, you almost felt like it was a small time guy doing a show for his 30,000+ friends and family that shuffled into the Trop. Even before Michaels hit the stage I was down talking with his drummer ( Chuck Vanslau ) before Michaels hit’s the stage for his Rays /Hess Express Saturday Night Concert Series action.
I remarked to Vanslau that I had seen Michaels perform a few years ago at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida as a solo act right after his second “Rock of Love “adventure and was excited to see how the show had progressed. Vanslau remarked that ” I should pop my seatbelt on and get in a comfortable position because, this plane was going to fly high, fast and leave no prisoners”.
And that is exactly the way this show took off from Michaels first note. It got into a sweet and fats climb as Michaels visited some of his Poison past by starting off with “Talk Dirty to Me“, then proceeding to “LookWhat The Cat Dragged In“ that was full of energy and strutting around the stage that made Michaels one of the greatest front men in the glam metal era. Both songs were pushed to the limits by Michaels vocals and the pulse set high and furious by Vanslau, Pete Evick (lead guitar) and Rays Schering (bass guitar).
Just as the fever was beginning to climb, Michaels next went into the Southern Anthem, “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The rendition by Michaels honored the Southern classic and was met with arousing banter of singing from the assembled crowd with their glittered wristbands high in the air holding cellphone and recording the moment. Always a stirring moment when you see people using their cellphones as imitation lighters in the air to signal their approval for a song.
Michaels then brought it back a bit with the songs “Go That Far” fromhis fourth solos album “Rock My World“ and “Something To Believe In” from Poison’s “Flesh & Blood“ album released in June 1990 that gave the now sweating crowd a few moments to collect themselves and soothe out with a few ballads before Michaels was to again take crowd on another ride in his 13 song set.
Immediately after “Something To Believe In“, Michaels again raised the stakes by taking a few moments to thank the crowd for the well wishes and note Michaels has received over the past months, then got quickly into propelling the rhythm sky high again by doing “Unskinny Bop“ and raising the crowd vocal responses and dancing to a top tier again. Michaels then injected the audience with his newest single, “Nothing To Lose“ that brought the energy level down a notch but still had that flowing and cohesive meandering stream that is all Bret Michaels.
The song was from his just released “Custom Built” solo album and again had cell pones and the crowd swaying both in the stadium and down near the stage in great unison. And just when you thought it was safe to stay within that gentle flow, Michaels again hits another cover, this time turning the classic Loggins & Messina song “Your Mama Don’t Dance, And Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll” to a whole different level by throwing in a little bit of Michaels spice and herbs to enhance the classic and make it his own.
Then Michaels showing a little raspy sound to his voice took a short breather while Vanslau did a great drum solos and again Michaels, who stayed on stage just beyond the lights gathering in the energy Vanslau was producing and went straight into another great cover of the Sublime song “What I Got” which is also on his “Custom Built” album and his version tonight produced some of the greatest guitar licks of the night from Evick and Schering and proved once and for all that a great front man like Michaels can take any classic song and turn it into his own.
And just as you were coming up for a gulp of air after singing another great song, Michaels let you not only get a fast breather, but pulled out his acoustic guitar and did his greatest song, “Every Rose HasIt’s Thorns” that had most of the stadium singing along with Michaels again and taking another huge visit down memory lane. This is definitely one of those iconic songs that everyone has attached someone to, or have an emotional attachment to, and Michaels again had the afterglow of a sea of cellphone screens beckoning his voice high into the rafters.
Michaels then started his last ascent into the high energy mode of his concert by thrusting out another vintage Michaels moment when he reached back into the archives for “Fallen Angel” from Poison’s second album “Open Up and Say…Ahh!“, then Michaels pulled the show into a last frenzied moment with the always popular and always thumping Poison song ” Nothin’ But A Good Time” also from the May 1988 “Open Up And Say…Ahh!” album.
This last song put the crowd over the top emotionally and you could see that Michaels and the assembled crowd by the stage were both spent reliving some of the great moments of all over lives in this concert.
As Michaels was summing up the night on stage, he let the crowd know he would love to come back again in 2011 and do it all again. This statement brought up a thunderous applause from the crowd and you know more than a few Rays executives might just take him up on that in 2011.
As the crowd moved towards the Trop’s exits, Michaels stayed behind the Rays stage talking and meeting some of the assembled people backstage.
But that was not the end of his night. Michaels ended his night the same way he began it before the 7:10 start on Saturday night.
After so many of the crowd had left the turf of the Trop, Michaels made his way back between the barricades that sat between the Rays dugout and the back end of the clay infield and again donned a glove and threw a last few pitches before Michaels and his band had to head to the airport for a flight to New York.
Ahhh, the life of a Rock Star, jetting from city to city being admired by millions, adored by men and women alike and the last thing you wanted to do before leaving Tropicana Field was throw a baseball around again. Bret, I became a fan all over again just by that moment.
After posting this blog post, before the Rays Sunday afternoon game, a member of the Rays brought me a gift down to my seat on the Rightfield corner. I did not open it immediately, but when I did, it totally shocked me that inside was a custom designed Rays hat from Team Diva, who also designs Bret Michaels headgear. I had remarked earlier in the year to someone in the front office that maybe we could get a custom made Cowboy hat for Michaels to wear on stage.
By the way, look up to the picture of Michaels singing “Take Me OutTo The Ballgame“, does the Cowboy hat on his head look familiar at all? Instead, I wore the custom made Cowboy hat from the third to eighth inning of the Rays game. It is a cherished possession now adorned in blue sharpie with Bret Michaels autograph. I have to paraphrase Michaels and tell you, “It don’t get better than this!”
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