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Pyrotechnics keep Poison's flame burning
Poison plays in Madison on Saturday, July 12
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<b>Poison, with Dokken and Sebastian Bach:</b> Saturday, July 12, Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center, 7 pm
Poison, with Dokken and Sebastian Bach: Saturday, July 12, Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center, 7 pm

Poison weren't the biggest success story to come out of L.A.'s '80s hair-metal scene. That distinction belongs to the supremely self-destructive Guns N' Roses. But back in those laughably low-tech days when MTV ruled and every kid under the age of, say, 35 was mesmerized by music videos, Poison dominated the blatantly commercial precincts of metal.

With their massive, hairspray-cemented coifs, peppy pop-metal melodies and lusty, party-hearty lyrics, they were comic-book creatures come to life. Particularly guitarist C.C. Deville, who was at his best when mugging through overamplified takes on Johnny Thunders and Marc Bolan, a puckish sneer permanently plastered to his rouged lips.

Singer Bret Michaels, with his blond tresses, ironed headscarves and lamentable affection for syrupy power ballads, may have been the front man, but Deville was the star of the show. The other guys in the band needed the stage smoke and pyrotechnics to get over. Deville never did.

Thanks to his starring role on VH1's Rock of Love, unreconstructed babe magnet Michaels is now the only member of Poison anyone under 30 would recognize. (A bogus rape charge got drummer Rikki Rockett plenty of recognition in the scandal sheets earlier this year, but that case is now officially closed.)

What is the primary demo for 20-year-old hits like "Nothin' But a Good Time," the Motley Crue knockoff "Talk Dirty to Me" and the endless "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" or '80s hair metal in general? Other scribes have suggested it's moms and dads pushing 40 and beyond who're trying to relive the brightest cigarettes-and- alcohol moments of their youth. And that may well be the case. But, really, any rock fan looking for some throwaway fun on a sunny summer afternoon is apt to get a charge out of Poison's portable party machine.

To no one's surprise, Poison's current tour with fellow hair-metallurgists Dokken and Sebastian Bach (the main mouth of Skid Row) features liberal amounts of pyrotechnics, including towering jets of flaming gas. That certainly bumps up the nostalgia factor of this gig for folks who haven't rocked to smoke bombs and roman candles since the last time AC/DC played the Coliseum.

There's an added benefit to all that canned fire and brimstone: It just might prove discouraging to the squadrons of mosquitoes currently bedeviling the area.

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