You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world…KISS!!
In my first Midlife Crisis – The Beginning post, I talked about how one of the decisions
I’ve made in the throes of this aging thang is to see concerts. The majority of shows I’ve seen and plan to see are from bands I loved in my youth–Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, etc. (Yes, I was a metalhead). The most recent of these was KISS on Thurs., Jan.31, 2018.
With only a few days passed since the show, my ears are still ringing with the sound of classics like Deuce, Lick it Up, Detroit Rock City, and–of course–Rock and Roll All Night, as well as the sound of more explosions than I could count. Before I talk about the show itself, let’s take a quick look at the path which led me to seeing KISS in concert.
First of all, it’s important to realize that KISS was one of the first bands I can recall hearing and knowing who they were. My brother had picked up a copy of KISS Alive!, so I would have been all of 6 or 7 years old. I recall him having a Queen album I loved, as well (I’d like to say it was the album Queen, but I can’t be sure). Sadly, he also owned albums by the Partridge Family and Shaun Cassidy, but I’m happy to say those had less effect on me than the former.
I fell in love with KISS Alive! How could I not? The make up, the bombast, the enthusiasm and love for what they were doing, not to mention that Peter Criss’ drum solo in 100,000 Years was a revelation to a kid who already knew he wanted to play drums one day. In my opinion, many of those early KISS songs–from the times before they mostly turned into a big ball of Gruyère–still hold up. Classics, to be sure. Some of them far more complex and interesting than we give them credit for, and can anyone deny Rock and Roll All Night’s place among the pantheon of classic rock?
When I announced to the world a few months ago that I would be making the trek from my peaceful little city of Victoria to the big smoke of Vancouver to see KISS, I typically got two reactions: either “you’re going to love it, I hear they put on a great show,” or “really? KISS?…Really?”
So here was my thinking behind going:
- I’d been a KISS fan as a kid and, if I was totally truthful, I never really stopped. I Was Made For Lovin’ You was my wedding song when the ex and I got married, I can sing all the words to Domino, and somewhere in my collection of now-unused CDs, I own both Psycho Circus and Sonic Boom.
- Their shows have been universally lauded as some of the most over-the-top, in-your-face, and any-other-hyphenated-adjective shows anyone puts on.
- This is purported to be their final tour. End of the Road, they’re calling it. Sounds ominous…mind you, I recall The Who having their final tour somewhere back around 1980, yet I can get a ticket to see them this year, too, should I desire.
- Given Paul Stanley just turned 67 and Gene Simmons will be 70 later this year, I thought it best to see them, well…before their dead. I never saw David Bowie and it’s something I will always regret. I plan on getting to Elton John later this year for the same reason.
- Really, who doesn’t want to see an almost-70-year-old walk around in 8-inch platform shoes, drool blood, spit fire, and flick his tongue at people? Count me in!
On to the show. The opening act for the evening was not a young, up and coming rock
band like KISS might have taken along in support during their heyday, but performance painter David Garibaldi. If you haven’t seen this guy before, I encourage you to follow the link. What he does it pretty astounding: ridiculous vision and talent.
Paint stained throw cloths removed, the capacity crowd at Rogers Arena awaited, the stage hidden behind a black curtain emblazoned with the KISS logo. From my seat 23 rows up, stage right, I saw a bit of the backdrop and some hexagonal shapes above the stage–no drum set, no props, nothing to give me any real idea of what was to come. After a suitable period for cleanup and set up, an ominous keyboard note vibrated through the arena. Cheers, whistles, and screams rose amongst the audience made up mostly of people older than me, and then the announcer came on with the traditional KISS opening:
“You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world…KISS!!”
Even I am not completely convinced that KISS is truly the hottest band in the world, nor have they been for at least a couple of decades, but as the curtain came down and the three guitar players descended from the rafters on platforms carrying them from heaven while they broke into Detroit Rock City, I might almost have believed it.
And if there is anyone out there who doesn’t think Detroit Rock City is the quintessential
opening song to a rock and roll show, I will fight you.
What followed was a 20 song odyssey from 1974’s self-titled debut album through 2009’s Sonic Boom (sorry Monster of 2012…you get nothing). To ease your curiosity about whether they played your favourite song or not, here is the complete set list:
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Heaven’s on Fire
Lick It Up
100,000 Years (with drum solo)
God of Thunder
Cold Gin (with guitar solo)
I Love It Loud
Hide Your Heart
Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Beth (Eric Singer on piano)
Do You Love Me
Rock and Roll All Nite
In that list, there were two songs I couldn’t sing all the words to…a source of pride or embarrassment? You decide.
Now the important question…how was the show itself? We all knew there’d be no shortage of familiar songs to play, the question was which ones would get left out? (What? No Uh! All Night?).
Vancouver has the dubious distinction of being the first night on many a North American tour. When I saw Alice in Chains last summer, it was the same thing. Seems like an honour to be chosen to go first, but it does mean there are sometimes a few kinks to work out, and my experience has been that this especially shows up in the sound quality, which was the case with the KISS show. I certainly wouldn’t call it bad, but it was miles away from the quality of sound when I saw Tool a couple of years ago. I’m sure tour stops a little further down the road will have no such complaint.
Let’s face it, though, Gene and Paul are no spring chickens. While they put on a good show, neither have quite the range they used to. You remember the really high falsetto in I Was Made For Lovin’ You? It’s a good thing it lives on in your memory and the original recording, ’cause that shit ain’t coming out of Mr. Stanley’s pipes no more. But was that why any of us were really there? Hell no, you go to a KISS show for the sheer spectacle of it.
And what a spectacle it was. The stage show appeared to suffer none of the hiccups the sound did, which seemed incredible to me given the number of moving parts and cues involved. Three huge screens, 16 more smaller, hexagonal screens on hydraulics that moved as required, three moveable risers, a “zipline” for Paul Stanley to move to the back lighting standards to sing two songs, lasers, fireworks, columns of fire, blood spitting, fire-breathing, guitar smashing, a drum solo, an extended guitar solo complete with Tommy Thayer shooting fireworks out of his guitar, streamers, confetti, balloons, and hydraulic booms that swung Gene and Tommy around the outside of the arena (Gene came close enough to my locale, he could probably have spit blood on me). Everything KISS has ever done in concert was here–possibly times two. The confetti was thick as snow, the fire singed my eyebrows, and the light show rivaled the Aurora Borealis. To say it was a good show would be like calling the moon landing one small step for a man (you could have done better, Neal. It was a small step off the ladder, but that rocket ride was quite the thing). This show wasn’t just good, it was fucking legendary.
Before the show, as I waited in line to buy a t-shirt (the only time I’m willing to spend $60 on a t-shirt) I was chatting with a couple who had brought their 10-year-old-ish son to KISS as his first concert. By the time it ended, all I could think was how sad I was that, for the rest of his life, this poor kid would be disappointed by pretty much ever concert he’ll see.
Thanks mom and dad.