Bret Michaels puts on good show for empty Dunk

A review of Bret Michaels at the Dunkin Donuts Center on October 26

, Editor-in-Chief

What happens when your supposed to headline an arena and ticket sales are abysmal? In most cases, you cancel or move the show to a new venue. But what happens when you have no control over that? In most cases, a performer will just mail it in. Bret Michaels, of Poison and now MTV’s Rock of Love reality show fame, was faced with this obstacle on Sunday at the close of the Rock The Ink Festival in Providence. His answer, a pleasant surprise, was to rock with the same energy as if he were playing to a packed house.

To say that the size of Sunday’s crowd was disappointing would be an understatement, and why organizers did not give into cutting prices or flooding the region with giveaways is baffling. Roughly a thousand fans (and that’s being generous) were left with ample room in the cavernous arena just as Michaels hit stage at 9:30. Most filled the floor in front of the massive stage, while others lounged in the loge seats by the side of the stage. Following an introduction by Big John of Rock Of Love, Michaels came running on stage to sing the Poison classic "Talk Dirty To Me".

Michaels has always been a true frontman, working the crowd with every step. Sunday was no different, though the objectives did change. He had to find a way for the crowd that was on hand to forget the abysmal setting and instead just have fun with the music. Using the same style and trademark charisma, Michaels was a ball of energy and succeeded by delivering a better than average set given the circumstances.

The hour-long set (standard for his current solo outing) was filled with classic Poison material, solo material, and a handful of fun cover songs. His backing band, though certainly no Poison, filled their role by making no noticeable mistakes.

Of course, most fans wanted to hear the Posion material and were fulfilled with 80’s hair anthems "Look What The Cat Dragged In" and "Unskinny Bop" as well as power ballads "Something To Believe In" and "Every Rose Has Its Thorn". Supporting his latest release Rock My World, the soundtrack for his reality show is actually culled from songs off his previous solo albums, Michaels played a pair of solo songs. "Bittersweet" fared well in a Poison-light way, while "Go That Far" was forgettable. When it came to covers, Michaels stuck with a couple of his personal favorites and barroom standards, "Sweet Home Alabama" and a more GNR than Dylan version of "Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door".

Closing out the main set with "Fallen Angel", Michaels swiftly returned for a quick one-song encore. Proclaiming that nobody was leaving without having a damn good time first, he led a sing-along of Posion’s "Nothing But A Good Time" to bring the unique show to an end.

Michael’s set brought the three-day Rock The Ink festival to a close with more questions for its future than answers. Organizers claim they want to bring the festival on the road next year, and if that’s the case they’ll need to re-examine their efforts. Considering Poison headlined a venue smaller than the Dunk this past summer, Michaels’ solo headlining role did not make sense, nor did its supporting cast. The crowd on Friday night was not much better for Killswitch Engage, and even Godsmack drew less than expected on Saturday (get our review of their show here). Slimming it down into one day with a lineup that compliments one another with a venue that works (having the Convention Center adjacent did work perfectly for the "ink" portion of Rock The Ink), could potentially make the festival’s future a little brighter.

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