Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels

Joe’s Bar, Chicago • March 17, 2010

Cindy Barrymore

If Michael Jackson showed us what a difference a day makes health-wise in This Is It, rocker Bret Michaels has recently displayed a similar façade. Fortunately, as we speak — and I say this as a lifelong fan of both artists — Bret Michaels has not suffered MJ’s same fate.

Not more than a month ago before his emergency appendectomy on April 12, and subsequent brain hemorrhage days later, Michaels strutted onstage to an apropos intro of GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle.” The “Rock of Love” had literally walked into the building 9:00 PM sharp and onto the stage (at 9:02). The designated “jungle” was Chicago’s very own sports nightclub-type saloon Joe’s Bar on Weed St.

Cindy Barrymore

At one point during his performance Michaels, backed by a four-piece band, promised, “I’m gonna f*ck it up!” and delivered an almost nonstop 90-minute performance, 13-song set, opening with “Talk Dirty to Me,” then picking up the guitar on the band’s first-ever live performance of “Nothing to Lose,” the harmonica on “Your Mama Don’t Dance”; and singing snippets of the chorus to The Commodores’ “Brick House,” complete with Lionel Richie’s exaggerated “owww’s.” Following that, he urged the standing-room-only crowd of about a thousand, “Chicago, throw your hands up!” during a cover of Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” before declaring, “I got the blues, Chicago… ” during an extended intro to “Unskinny Bop” (song number 10, if you’re keeping count). He closed the show with KISS’s “Rock and Roll All Nite” and Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time”

For those familiar with Michaels’ former band mate C.C. DeVille, I’m certain that during his Poison days Michaels found the lead guitarist’s high-strung personality tough to upstage, onstage and off, but he nearly approximated DeVille’s frenetic state on this night. In fact, I found it difficult to tell who was bursting with more energy: the spirited, St. Paddy’s Day crowd or Michaels himself.

If this was what the “cat dragged in,” the crowd was clearly loving it; and thanks to a resurgence in Michaels’ popularity due to his reality TV series, the baby-boomer and Gen X folks partied well with the millennials, many of them sporting green attire, Mardi Gras beads, and cowboy hats atop bandanas (a la Bret Michaels) in equal measure.

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