KISS Live In Concert
(Review - Ian Bell, Photos - Rodney Magazinovic)
Y'know...there are all kinds of performers that will happily tell you that they are the greatest band in the world or chaps like that Kayne West fellow who is constantly proclaiming his own genius to anybody that will listen.
He's not by the way.
A genius that is.
There is however one band who for close to forty years have been declaring themselves the "Hottest band in the world" at the start of every concert they play. "You wanted the best, you got the best.." and I can confirm they are telling the truth. The absolute truth.
Four decades after the exploded out of New York City in studded leather pants, kabuki make-up and good time rock'n'roll, KISS endure as one of the greatest rock acts of all time. The audience is testament to their legacy, fifty year old veterans, five year old first timers, the curious and the die-hard. People in meticulous costumes to those in cheap as chips 'rock' wigs and a sea of black t-shirts. The dads who are taking their offspring to their first concert, the way their dad took them to theirs. It's..well..lovely. Kiss have been laughed at, ridiculed, dismissed and under-estimated for the entire length of their career, and yet here we are. Four decades later and they fill the Entertainment Centre with generations of people who want to Rock'n'Roll All Night & Party Every Day.
The night kicks off with The Dead Daisies. A super-group of sorts with an ever changing membership currently boasts members of Guns'n'Roses, Motley Crue, & Whitesnake. Vocalist John Corrabi (ex-Motley Crue) is rockin' out from the get go and the rest of the band look and sound the part of a solid 80's style rock outfit. Their sound is part Aerosmith, part G'n'R, part classic rock. They are looking and acting like people should know who they are even if they don't. Their current guitar player, Richard Fortus was recently in a motorcycle accident and a last minute replacement fill in the form of Dave Leslie from The Baby Animals fits in with perfection. Original songs like Mexico and Empty Heart are really solid tracks and a couple of choice covers (Deep Purples Hush and The Beatles Helter Skelter) round things out nicely.
But tonight is about one band. During the break the Kiss curtain is attached to the lighting rig and raised high into the roof which is dominated by the much talked about Spider lighting rig. As you might guess the Spider is shaped like a spider and contains what seems like a trillion light, pyrotechnics and fire cannons. It's pretty cool. Eventually the lights go down and the roar from the expectant congregation goes up. "You wanted the best..."and the curtain drops and KISS are descending from the roof on the back of the spider playing Detroit Rock City of the greatest rock songs of all time. The opening song on their 1976 Destroyer album, this song has everything you could ever wanted in a 70's rock song, killer riffs, bombastic drums, sing along 'Get Up' and 'Get Down' bit's and an reminder that we 'Gotta lose our mind in Detroit'. Through the whole song there are huge jets of fire, lights and video screens creating a feast for the punters while Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer all pose shameless for the photographers. Thayer is in the Space Ace role made famous by Ace Frehely on lead guitar and the drum seat is filled by Eric Singer in the Catman make-up originally worn by Peter Criss. In KISS circles Singer/Thayer are loved/hated/resented/respected depend on who you talk to. For many Kiss is not Kiss without Frehley and Criss, for others they appreciate that Thayer is performing these songs with skill and dedication and Singer is without doubt a superior drummer to Criss. Stanley will often make an sports team analogy which suggests if your favourite football player leaves the team, the team need to go on regardless and it's up to you whether you want to keep going to the games. What is in no doubt, is that the current line-up are kickin' some serious butt.
Detroit is followed by Deuce, from their debut album in 1974. Simmons is on lead vocals (and tongue) duties and sounding great. When the original four members reformed in 1996, it was originally just for a tour, but in 1998 the released the really strong Psycho Circus and it's title track is one of the very few 'newer' tracks tonight. Creatures of the Night is a nice surprise and I Love It Loud stomps us into bits. Simmons is again on vocal duties for War Machine during which he breathes fire (one of his staple turns) and the place erupts in response.
Do You Love Me (also from Destroyer) is full of ego and misogynist bombast as the rock star asks his lady friend, if it's the fame and glitter she is attracted to or is it the real thing? Hell or Hallelujah is the only song included from the band latest album Monster from 2012, which is a shame in some ways as it has many strong songs. Stanley does an very funny introduction to this song. "Sometimes it takes YEARS for a song to become a classic". Gene & Paul however, clearly know what the people want and it's mostly Klassic Kiss tonight. After solos from Singer and Thayer, belt out Calling Doctor Love and Lick It Up (including a nod to The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again, in musical and laser form).
The lights go down and ominous growling bass sounds emanate from the darkness as Gene Simmons starts his bass solo. As he starts to dribble and then spit rich red blood the crowd goes crazy. It is a great bit of theatre and as the crimson ooze dribbles down his face, monster chest piece and bass shaped like an axe the crowd roars their approval. Bathed in green light and pulling demonic face, he suddenly flies up to the top of The Spider to sing God of Thunder. Anybody who has seen Kiss in the last couple of decades wouldn't have been surprised by this of course, he does it every show, but it's still a great moment. Gene Simmons is 66 Years old. Sixty Six! And every night he is stomping around the stage in giant monster boots, make-up, spitting blood and fire, flying up to the roof, and doing tongue-nastics like nobody else on Earth.
Cold Gin was the first song written for Kiss by Ace Frehley in 1973 and sung by non-drinker Simmons. Everybody around me is singing at the top of their lungs and it's a personal highlight of the night.
Not to be out done by Gene's flying a few songs earlier, Paul Stanley asks if we want us him to come out to visit. Of course we do Paul. And as the '77 classic Love Gun cranks up, he jumps on a flying fox and flies over the audiences head to a small, revolving stage at the back of the hall. Paul Stanley is 63 years old. Sixty Three. And every night he is dancing round in 7 inch leather boots, spandex pants, doing a two hour show, jumping on a flying fox and just being more amazing than anybody you have ever known. The set finishes with the epic Black Diamond the last song on their 1974 debut album. Written by Stanley but originally performed by Peter Criss, it became his set piece to show off his skills on the kit and the mic. A staple in the KISS live set, it has previously tackled by Criss's replacement Eric Carr and now Eric Singer. Singer is a fantastic drummer and has a strong voice, but his rendition adds little to the original. In some ways it's a shame that both Singer and Thayer, stick so closely to the original script of the songs as the bands desire to keep things 'classic' mean they can sometimes be under utilized and it's where some of the criticism of the not-original line.
The band returns for encores including a brief solo version of Shandi from Unmasked. The lighters are out and everybody is singing and it's a clear demonstration of how loved that song and that album is in Australia. For years they never played songs from Unmasked and Dynasty. In the States they were seen as the 'disco' era and were not popular with American audiences. But when they started coming back to Australia (after a fifteen year gap) in 1995, it quickly became obvious that Australian audiences demanded certain songs that built their legend here. After a fan-bloomin'-tastic Shout It Out Loud, one of those Aussie hits explodes like a jolt of electric energy through the stadium. I Was Made For Loving You, is much more driving rock anthem than the original 'dance' version that was the hit, but it is off the hook and everybody is going berserk, singing and dancing.
There is only one way to end a KISS gig and that is with the rock'n'roll national anthem. Rock and Roll All Night sees the stadium enveloped in a blizzard of white confetti, while parts of the spider move, lift up the drum kit, flame throwers blast all around the stage and pyros go off relentlessly. Paul Stanley smashes a guitar (as he always does) and before you know it, they are gone.
As the audience files out God Gave Rock & Roll 2 you plays and people are singing along as they head to merchandise stand. As Stanley and Simmons approach their 70s, there is some doubt they will be able to keep touring too much longer. Stanley has had two or three hip replacement operations and surgery on his vocal chords. With each tour there is speculation it could be their last. I suspect we will see them again before they hang up the 7 inch boot once and for all. Let's hope so, because tonight they proved once again they are the hottest band in the world.
Detroit Rock City
Creatures of the Night
I Love It Loud
War Machine (Gene spits fire)
Do You Love Me
Hell or Hallelujah
Guitar and Drum Solos
Calling Dr. Love
Lick It Up(with "Won't Get Fooled Again"… more )
Bass Solo(Gene spits blood and flies)
God of Thunder
Love Gun (Paul flies out to the crowd)
Shandi (Partial, only Paul)
Shout It Out Loud
I Was Made for Lovin' You
Rock and Roll All Nite
God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II