Within Poison, singer Bret Michaels and guitarist C.C. DeVille have always been the group’s equivalent to Ray Davies and Dave Davies of The Kinks, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, or Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend of The Who. Maybe even more than those dynamic duos, Michaels and DeVille have been known for the tensions and outright conflicts – both physical and mental – that has marked their relationship. For one seven-year stretch, it even splintered the partnership.

This year, 20 years after forming as a band, Michaels thinks he and DeVille might be finding true harmony and understanding in their relationship for the first time. That can only mean good things for Poison as the band celebrates its milestone anniversary with a summer tour.

“It’s a great feeling because now I feel even more like a band of brothers on stage,” Michael says. “And if we’re enjoying ourselves even more on stage, that chemistry, it just spills out over the crowd.”

As anyone who has followed the frequently tumultuous history of Poison knows, there have been plenty of times when it’s been anything but peace, love, and understanding between the band’s most prominent members.

Originally formed in Harrisburg, Penn. in 1983, the band soon moved to Los Angeles. In 1985, DeVille joined original members Michaels, drummer Rikki Rockett, and bassist Bobby Dall under the name “Poison.”

Over the next six years, Poison became one of the most popular metal bands of the era, releasing the multi-platinum albums Look What The Cat Dragged In, Open Up And Say … Ahh!, and Flesh & Blood.

But by 1991, personality conflicts between Michaels and DeVille, coupled with the guitarist’s worsening drug and alcohol habit, conspired to splinter the lineup – and in fittingly spectacular style. After a sloppy performance on the 1991 MTV Music Awards, Michaels and DeVille, who had both been partying that evening, exchanged words backstage and the argument escalated into a brawl between the two rockers.

DeVille was jettisoned and guitarist Richie Kotzen took over long enough to record the 1993 album Native Tongue before he was fired. Blues Saraceno stepped into the guitar slot until 1998, when DeVille mended fences and rejoined Poison for a highly successful reunion tour behind a “greatest hits” CD.

Except for a brief split the following year, DeVille has been back in Poison ever since and was on board for the band’s most recent studio album, 2002’s Hollyweird, and a newly released hits collection, The Best Of Poison: 20 Years Of Rock.

This year, Michaels is feeling better than ever about Poison and his relationship with DeVille. During recent rehearsals for the summer tour, DeVille (who had recently gone through his latest stint in rehab) and Michaels cleared the air like never before.

“The first time I’ve ever gotten to know C.C. in all the years I’ve known him is this year,” Michaels says. “It’s the first time we talked through things rather than argued through things. He’s just learning to be it’s OK to write a song and like what you’re doing. You don’t have to feel guilty about working hard in life.” –Alan Sculley

Poison share the stage with Cinderella and Endeverafter on Wed. Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. at the House Of Blues in Myrtle Beach (4640 Hwy. 17). Tickets are $42.50. Call 843-913-3740 or check www.hob.com for more info.

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