Bret Michaels Kicks Off Parti-Gras Tour in Detroit
"Does Bret Michaels know how to throw a party or what?" Mark McGrath asked the audience on the opening night of the Poison singer's Parti-Gras 2023 tour at the Pine Knob Music Theatre outside of Detroit.
It would be hard to find a question more rhetorical than that.
A Michaels tour with any party reference in its title is as redundant as silicone on spandex. He's been the life of the said party since the cat dragged Poison into the rock scene back in 1986, and all these decades later he remains genuinely dedicated to showing audiences nothin' but a good time.
And that's what he did on Parti-Gras' first night, launching the 12-date tour with a hit-fueled night of music whose energy never flagged over nearly four hours, with a crowd of about 10,000 — most sporting the Mardi Gras beads Michaels' crew distributed before the show — following suit.
"I like to have a great time," Michaels told UCR earlier this year. "I like to party. But what I love most is treating people really great at the party. I told everybody individually before any of the agents or managers got involved, I said, 'All killer, no filler.' It's all hits. It's gonna be an ultimate good time."
Those hits came early, too, as Jefferson Starship lifted off with "Find Your Way Back," but spent most of its half hour in the guise of the latter-day Starship, playing '80s hits such as "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," "Sara" and "We Built This City," in addition to "Jane" and Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" — but, interestingly, nothing from the band's '70s heyday. Night Ranger, meanwhile, threw some of singer Jack Blade's Damn Yankees into the mix — "Coming of Age" and "High Enough" — amid hits such as "(You Can Still) Rock in America," "Don't Tell Me You Love Me" and "Sister Christian." The troupe also celebrated its 40th anniversary with the song "Night Ranger" from its 1982 debut Dawn Patrol, a near-metallic workout that featured a manic drum solo by Kelly Keagy and some crew friends.
The party raged once Michaels and his six-member band hit the stage for a 100-minute set. "You have no idea how fired up I am. My heart's going!" he declared after opening with a pair of Poison hits, "Talk Dirty to Me" and "Ride the Wind." (The video for the latter song was filmed down the road at Detroit's now-demolished Joe Louis Arena). Michaels also treated it as a kind of homecoming: Poison has played the venue 17 times over the years and ostensibly set a record for the most beer sales during one two-night stand. "I feel like I'm home right now. I feel like I'm in my backyard," he said. Referring to last year's Motor City stop on the Stadium Tour as "one of the best days of my life," he told the Pine Knob fans, "You're taking it up a notch" — and did much the same with his performance.
It wasn't just Michaels, however. Parti-Gras' first night was a case study in playing nice with others (he even left welcome messages on paper plates stuck to everyone's dressing room doors) and incorporating guests into his set. Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath, who sported a Hawaiian-style print shirt and joked about being "the guy who still looks like he frosts his tips," delivered renditions of the band's "Every Morning" (with Michaels on congas) and "Fly." McGrath later joined Michaels for a beefy rendition of Sublime's "What I Got."
Former Journey singer Steve Augeri was also in the mix, sporting a red jacket and white slacks as he demonstrated his uncanny Steve Perry stylings on "Separate Ways," "Any Way You Want It," a torchy "Faithfully" (Michaels' guitarist Dean Cramer recreated the epic solo) and "Don’t Stop Believin'," whose "city boy born and raised in south Detroit" was a particular crowd pleaser.
For his part, Michaels, decked out in a Parti-Gras tour tank top and five different hats throughout the night, stuck to the Poison playbook, with lead guitarist Pete Evick doing C.C. DeVille's parts proud.
Michaels used "Something to Believe In" to salute military veterans, bringing about a dozen onstage in the middle of the song to be applauded by the crowd. He opened "Unskinny Bop" with a rap and a snippet of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away," while a sea of cell phone lights illuminated the venue during "Every Rose Has Its Thorn.”
Crew members threw giant beach balls into the pavilion while Michaels sang "Nothin' but a Good Time" with the winner of a "Dress Like Bret" karaoke contest, and the entire cast joined him for an exuberant show-closing romp through Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," trading vocals and guitar solos.
It was another big hit in a night full of them, a fitting close for a party that Michaels told the crowd would repeat in 2024.
Jefferson Starship, Parti-Gras 2023, Clarkston, Michigan, 7/13/23
1. "Find Your Way Back"
3. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now"
4. "We Built This City"
6. "Somebody to Love"
Night Ranger, Parti-Gras 2023, Clarkston, Michigan, 7/13/23
1. "(You Can Still) Rock in America"
2. "Coming of Age" (Damn Yankees cover)
3. "Sentimental Street"
4. "Night Ranger"
5. "High Enough" (Damn Yankees cover)
6. "When You Close Your Eyes"
7. "Don't Tell Me You Love Me"
8. "Sister Christian"
Bret Michaels, Parti-Gras 2023, Clarkston, Michigan, 7/13/23
1. "Talk Dirty To Me"
2. "Ride the Wind"
3. "Your Mama Don't Dance"
4. "Every Morning" (Sugar Ray cover with Mark McGrath)
5. "Fly" (Sugar Ray cover with Mark McGrath)
6. "Something to Believe In"
7. "Unskinny Bop"
8. "Separate Ways" (Journey cover with Steve Augeri)
9. "Any Way You Want It" (Journey cover with Steve Augeri)
10. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"
11. "What I Got" (Sublime cover with Michaels and McGrath)
12. "Faithfully" (Journey cover with Steve Augeri)
13. "Don't Stop Believin'" (Journey cover with Steve Augeri)
14. "Nothin' but a Good Time"
15. "Sweet Home Alabama" (Lynyrd Skynyrd cover with McGrath, Augeri, Night Ranger and Jefferson Starship)