Concert review: Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, Poison rock Center

02:16 PM CDT on Saturday, August 22, 2009

By HUNTER HAUK / The Dallas Morning News

It’s no surprise that Friday night’s nostalgic three-fer show at Center – featuring Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick – brought out a near-capacity crowd. Drinking footlong frozen margaritas and screaming for bands you loved in middle school can be nothin’ but a good time.

The house already felt packed when Cheap Trick took the stage during the 7 p.m. hour. More than three decades and 29 albums in, the original lineup still plays like it’s hungry. Singer Robin Zander hit every high note on the ‘80s monster ballad “The Flame,” but more thrilling were older tunes “Surrender,” “Dream Police” and “I Want You to Want Me.” All the giant hits made the set’s cut, even if the band’s time on stage was too short. It’d be a good idea to see them if they come through and headline a show in support of their 2009 album The Latest (out now 8-track … seriously.)

Poison waited until just after dark to go on, and was met with the kind of enthusiastic reception the biggest bands in the world get. Maybe it’s all the VH1 exposure of the past few years, but fans young and old went wild when Bret Michaels appeared in a sleeveless Poison shirt. Yes, he wore his own band’s tee, but he came off as anything but an egomaniac during the raucous 9-song greatest-hits set. He gave plenty of stage time and props to guitarist C.C. DeVille, dedicated “Something to Believe In” to military members in the audience and took a moment to thank fans for watching Rock of Love, an experience that “brought total ridiculousness to my dating life.” Michaels also expressed his love for Dallas, reminding the crowd that “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was written here, in the bathroom of a Laundromat.

Poison’s set – also too short – proved to be the most energetic portion of the night. Although most of the crowd was too happy (or hammered?) to notice, Def Leppard’s highly choreographed headlining show felt rigid and disconnected. Lead singer Joe Elliott’s inability to drive home those great high notes on “Love Bites” and “Hysteria” didn’t help matters. But throughout the fifteen songs (including highlights “Rocket,” “Two Steps Behind” and “Pour Some Sugar on Me”), the fans met Elliott halfway, many singing every word and dancing dorkily. And we’d be remiss to not mention the dynamism of guitarist Phil Collen, who can still rock the shirtless look at 52.