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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rock and country collide when Bret Michaels and Jimmie Allen perform at Northern Quest

There is only one city to kick off Bret Michaels and Jimmie Allen’s “Rock our Country” tour.

The Poison frontman has a soft spot for the Lilac City.

“It has always been Spokane or bust for me,” Michaels said while calling from Indianapolis. “I mean that regarding these shows. Spokane has been one of my favorite cities since Poison broke during the 1980s. It looked like Jimmie and I were going to have to push the dates and the tour back until autumn because of my schedule and Jimmie’s schedule. But we worked it out and I’m headed back to Spokane.”

Michaels, 59, is compelled to jam live for the first time with Allen, 37, in Spokane.

“That is where we’re going to have to make our debut together,” Michaels said. “I know my markets and I know there are two styles of music Spokane loves and that is rock and country. We’re going to give the fans in Spokane a great mix of what they love.”

What complicated Michaels and Allen’s date Thursday at Northern Quest Resort & Casino is the extension of Poison’s stadium tour with Motley Crue and Def Leppard.

“We’re playing San Francisco the night before the Spokane show and then I’m flying off to Las Vegas after the Spokane gig,” Michaels said.

Michaels’ energy is extraordinary. The former host of VH1’s “Rock of Love with Bret Michaels” bounces all over the stage during Poison’s hourlong set. Michaels, who is apparently aiming for hardest-working man in show business honors, has somehow squeezed in solo shows on Poison’s off days during the hottest dog days of the summer.

“It’s just the way I am,” Michaels said.

Michaels likes to call his tour “The Mardi Gras, Parti Gras.”

“That’s so because Jimmie and I are bringing the fun,” Michaels said. “Not only are we delivering the rock and country mash up. We’re going the extra yard. We’re giving out beads and we have a tiki onstage. We’re doing what I’m best at.”

Which is having nothing but a good time. That Poison smash is what Michaels and Allen will jam on during the encore of their show after each delivers their own set.

“ ‘Nothin’ but a Good Time’ connects with people,” Michaels said. “This is a show about connections. There’s no politics. It’s just about getting people to have a good time.”

But Michaels pays tribute to those in the military, heroes in health care and first responders every night.

“Those are the people that deserve the best in entertainment,” Michaels said. “We’re going to bring it for them. I’m a rock guy but I’m a country guy at heart. You’ll find me at the lake or the river.”

Fans might catch a glimpse of Michaels driving his dirt bike around Airway Heights.

“That’s likely,” Michaels said. “I’ll be taking my bike around Northern Quest, which I’ve done in the past. It’s beautiful out there.”

Michaels is an anomaly since he is a recording artist who studies and knows his markets and he’s always upbeat. Many of his hair-metal peers were bitter when grunge pricked the hair-metal bubble in 1991, but not Michaels.

“I accepted that that was part of rock and roll,” Michaels said. “First of all, I loved Nirvana’s music and the other bands that came out of Seattle. We took Alice in Chains out on its first arena tour. I loved everything about Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ I loved the video. I loved the song. To me ‘Teen Spirit’ sounded like a new version of (The Troggs’) ‘Wild Thing.’ I learned to adapt during the ’90s. You shift and you make changes on the fly and take chances.”

The type-1 diabetic has spent his life overcoming obstacles. A subarachnoid hemorrhage and a hole in his heart, medical setbacks that occurred in 2010, failed to stop the gritty vocalist-guitarist.

“I just keep on going,” Michaels said. “I just keep on doing what I love. I’m still making music.”

There will be a new Poison song when the band reconvenes for a tour in 2025.

“We’re going to come up with a tune that’s like ‘Nothin’ But a Good Time,’ ” Michaels said.

Michaels insists that he and his Poison bandmates get along better now.

“We reconnected on this tour,” Michaels said. “We’re buddies. We all grew up playing in basements. We developed a bond and that bond is still there. I love playing with Poison. This tour brought me back to the days when we finally broke and that was when we played the arena (the Coliseum) in (May 1988) Spokane during the “Open Up and Say … Ahh!” tour. I remember that show. It was sold out. People had their hands in the air and were ready to party. Nothing has changed for me when I play Spokane.”

Michaels appreciated that early success since it came after paying his dues playing empty clubs for years.

“It was important because we had to go out and play,” Michaels said. “I remember playing bars on Monday and Tuesday nights and there might have been four people there and they probably didn’t want to see a band. But in that world you learn very quickly how to win people over one by one. Now with the ‘American Idol’ generation and YouTube, it’s very different. That part of earning it in front of small bar crowds is getting lost. But I’m happy I came of age with that. It helped me turn into the performer I am today.”

Michaels could take it easy, but it’s not in his nature.

“I could have retired after the second Poison album. We sold 25 million albums by that point. I’m just compelled to make music. It’s not about money. Does Robert De Niro continue to act for the money? No. He acts because he’s passionate about what he does and it’s the same for me. I want to go out on tour and have a blast. I want to create a party in Spokane and watch the fans go crazy with their phones.”

Recording artists are typically not down with fans documenting their shows via a cellphones, but Michaels sings a different tune.

“Jimmie and I are coming to your party,” Michaels said.

“We’ll just be there to provide the music and the fun, Spokane.”