July 19, 2023
John Soltes Reviews Bret Michaels/Night Ranger/Jefferson Starship Tour

John Soltes of Hollywood Soapbox Reviews Bret Michaels Parti-Gras Tour, Featuring Bret Michaels, Night Ranger, Jefferson Starship, Mark McGrath, and Steve Augeri

HOLMDEL, N.J. — Bret Michaels brought the inaugural edition of his Parti-Gras Tour to the PNC Bank Arts Center last night, July 16, and the revelers in the crowd were not disappointed. This nonstop four-hour jam session is unlike anything else on the touring circuit. The concert drips with nostalgia, good times, positivity and summer fun.

At first, there may have been some doubters on whether Michaels and these groups could pull off such an expansive rock ‘n’ roll show. Those doubters were likely shut up at Sunday’s gig, which blessedly went off without a hitch, even with torrential rain throughout the day. That didn’t mean the weather didn’t impact the shenanigans because it was hot and humid for the entire concert, which kicked off at 7 p.m. and finished just shy of 11 p.m.

Jefferson Starship started things off as the opening act. For the unbeknownst, this supergroup has an impressive back catalog of tunes from the 1980s, including “Sara,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “We Built This City.” OK, some of those songs are from the days when Jefferson Starship was simply Starship, but the audience perfectly understood this was a celebration of all iterations of Jefferson, including their psychedelic roots as Jefferson Airplane, one of the most influential bands of all time. That meant they also brought “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love.”

Their 35-minute set was a hit fest that moved fast, with little talking and maximum rocking. Lead singer Cathy Richardson fought the heat and turned in a stellar vocal performance, perfectly emoting the wavy, mysterious auras of “White Rabbit” and other tunes. David Freiberg, who was a member of all three iterations of Jefferson Airplane/Starship/Starship, was simply extraordinary, commanding the stage with a tremendous performance of “Jane.”

Those who arrived early at the PNC Bank Arts Center were delivered a sonic treat from Jefferson Starship.

Next up, with only a 15-minute wait between sets, was Night Ranger, with Jack Blades (bass and vocals), Kelly Keagy (drums and vocals), Brad Gillis (lead and rhythm guitars), Eric Levy (keyboards) and Keri Kelli (lead and rhythm guitars). They celebrated their 40th anniversary with a 50-minute set that had the crowd rocking and rollicking. In fact, the rocking began even before Night Ranger took the stage, thanks to spirited introductions from the legendary Eddie Trunk, who is also celebrating 40 years (in the radio business), and the incomparable Terrie Carr, from WDHA-FM, an important radio station that hosted this Rock the Park festival.

Blades and company didn’t disappoint with their setlist. They leaned heavy on the classics because that was the one rule from the boss: Mr. Bret Michaels. This tour is a party of recognizable, singable, fist-pumping tunes that have proved to be the soundtrack of the past 30-plus years. That meant audiences were treated to “Night Ranger,” “When You Close Your Eyes,” “Sister Christian” and “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” They even threw in a few Damn Yankees songs: “Coming of Age” and the exquisite “High Enough.”

Right around 9:15 p.m., Michaels took the stage to much fanfare. He is the deserved headliner and creative force of this Part-Gras extravaganza. He was a nonstop ball of energy for 90-plus minutes, bringing each and every one of the Poison hits, including “Talk Dirty to Me,” “Ride the Wind,” “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” and “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray also stopped by for a few tunes, namely “Fly” and “Every Morning,” sometimes with Michaels accompanying him on the bongos.

Michaels was his gracious best last night, thanking the crowd many times, offering gratitude to veterans and shouting out to his “Jersey” family. He ran around the stage, fist bumping fans, pointing to the crowd and overall revving up the energy to 11. He instigated sing-a-longs and had the audience light up their phones and sway their arms. It was a buoyant performance.

Also joining the fun was Steve Augeri, former singer of Journey, who sang “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” “Don’t Stop Believin'” and “Any Way You Want It.” The encore, a song that should be kept a surprise, featured all of the artists back on stage one more time (pretty sure That Metal Show’s Don Jamieson was even up there).

Michaels’ Parti-Gras, which continues for the next few weeks and beyond, is a package tour that promises decades of hits, and it delivers and then some. There were no strange transitions between the styles, and the crowd seemed pleased to rock out to these anthems, whether they were penned in the ’60s with Jefferson Airplane, the ’80s with Night Ranger, Jefferson Starship and Poison, or even Damn Yankees in the ’90s.

Parti-Gras is coming to a town near you, and this celebration should not be missed. One can only hope Michaels brings around his friends every summer season.

— John Soltes

Jefferson Starship TokyoPhoto: Josh Joshtofferson