Hard-rock stalwart Dokken will play its first show of a new tour year Friday at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg.
According to founder and frontman Don Dokken, the band will take the stage with a new lease on life more than 30 years after its first release and more than two years after Dokken himself said the time had come to stop the music.
Frustrated by the state of the industry and beaten down by voice deterioration and health problems in late 2012, Don Dokken was ready to move away from the pop-metal style that made his band a platinum seller throughout the 1980s.
But something happened on the way to the bargain bin.
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Don Dokken reignited his passion for the music.
The band has a new bassist, former Yngwie Malmsteen singer Mark Boals, brought in to help hit the high notes. There is a new song, set for a June release along with a video in advance of a festival season that will see Dokken perform before hundreds of thousands in Sweden, Montreal and Maryland.
"I've found a new love for playing. It's exciting now," the 61-year-old singer said last week from his home in Southern California. "It's nice that you can go out and play because you want to, not because you have to."
Dokken emerged from the Sunset Strip in the early 1980s alongside now-iconic hard-rock bands Quiet Riot, Motley Crue and Ratt. Dokken never quiet matched the record sales of its peers, but the band enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV with videos for "Breaking the Chains," "Into the Fire," "Alone Again," "In My Dreams" and "Dream Warriors," the theme from the Freddy Krueger movie "Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors."
Tampa Bay Lightning fans may know the band's scorcher "Lightning Strikes Again," played before the second period of every game at Amalie Arena.
Well-chronicled was Don Dokken's chronic feud with original guitarist George Lynch. The enmity finally led to the band's breakup after four studio recordings, three of which went platinum. The split came right after the band's high point, a slot on the 1988 Monsters of Rock tour with Van Halen, Scorpions and Metallica.
An ill-fated reunion produced two more releases, "Dysfunctional" and the critically panned "Shadowlife," before Lynch left for good in 1997.
Dokken now says he wishes he had found a way to keep the classic lineup, which also included bassist Jeff Pilson (now in the retooled Foreigner) and current drummer "Wild" Mick Brown, from imploding.
"I regret leaving the band because it was my band," Dokken said. "... We were right at the pinnacle. The next album probably would have been through the roof, huge world tour. It would have been so much fun. We could have resolved our problems. ... A lot of bands don't get along with their singers, and they have a separate tour bus. We could have done that to sur
vive the tension. I couldn't see that at the time. ... I regret not working it out like so many other bands."
Dokken the band soldiered on without Lynch, and eventually Pilson, by employing a rotating group of musicians, including renowned guitarists Reb Beach and John Norum, before settling in with former Warlock guitarist Jon Levin, who has been with the band for nearly a decade. The 2008 "Lightning Strikes Again" release was hailed by critics and fans as a return to the band's 1980s heyday.
After 2012's "Broken Bones" failed to meet his expectations commercially, Don Dokken publicly questioned whether the band should or would make another record.
He also felt the sting of critics and fans who said he had lost his fastball after radiation treatments from a bout with stomach cancer and eventual vocal-cord surgery hurt his performances.
He took a year or so off after"Broken Bones" to regroup and reassess the band's place in the rock marketplace.
"I was getting so bad I had to say, 'Guys, I'm just destroying our brand. I suck,' " Dokken said. "I put on 40 pounds. I couldn't sing. I just didn't look good; I didn't feel good. I just had to get the radiation over with and rehab and come back."
Despite the rejuvenation of his band, Dokken knows the end is coming eventually.
He said he thinks about what people will say about him and his band when it's all over. He points to songs like "Kiss of Death," about the AIDS epidemic of the '80s; "Lost Behind the Wall," about life in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall; and "Empire" from the latest release, about the religious fanaticism in the Middle East, as evidence the band was more than just a good-time arena act.
"I hope they think I was a good person and I contributed," he said. "I hope they think that my music was valid. For 20 years, we've been stigmatized as a hair band. I'm like, 'We had long hair, yes. For a couple years, we wore goofy clothes because it was in. Yes.' But did we write stupid songs? I don't think even our pop songs -- like 'In My Dreams,' 'It's Not Love,' 'Just Got Lucky,' 'Alone Again,' -- I don't see them personally as silly songs. I think the lyrics have merit."
Details: Dokken with Luvdogz and Crush Tone, 7 p.m. March 13, State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Tickets: $22 in advance, $25 at the door. Information: ticketmaster.com