Isn’t it something to read your own work in your present mindset? The above piece was written back in 1996. Nineteen-ninety fucking six! I could spend the next two-thousand words telling you about my life back in 96 and how dramatically different it is today, but I won’t. But it is cool to see the differences as well as similarities of my “style” and how it’s evolved [or devolved] since those days.
But, yeah. The above review is from the last time I’d seen KISS and it represents exactly what it was I felt after seeing, what I believed was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Did I, or any of us know that this KISS ‘reunion, farewell, last hurrah, once more for the fans’ would still be traveling the globe some 14 years later?? Fuck no! I’m sure even the band themselves couldn’t have imagined it but lo and behold it is what it is.
When the first leg of the ‘Alive 35’ tour kicked off in late 2009 I was unable to attend the Chicago date. Seemingly, as soon as the band left the stage that night the feedback and reviews boasted some of the most positive reviews I think I’ve ever read. Everyone and I mean everyone was raving how good KISS were and what a great time they had at the shows and I was regretting missing it.
I wouldn’t consider myself a member of the KISS Army by any stretch of the imagination and to this day I don’t own all of the albums and have only bought a smattering of the licensed merchandise over the years. So die hard I am not, but appreciative, respectful, and nostalgic? Guilty as hell! Like I wrote in the 96 review, they meant something to me as a kid and deep down probably always will, so when the current run was announced I really, really wanted to make up for the last time.
In what can be seen as a genius marketing strategy, kids under 14 were free with a lawn ticket. Free. WTF? I thought that had to be some sort of type-o because the words KISS and free are as oxy moronic as they come. We’re talking KISS (Gene) here, the guy who’s (probably) sitting in a business meeting as I type, trying to strategize the marketing of a yellow in color soft drink called KISS Piss!
But seriously I was on-board and really looking forward to sharing the experience with my 11 y/o son, Max. He knows several of their songs and is there any other band in the world as visually stimulating as KISS? Along the same lines I’m trying to get Max into music by trying to expose him to what I feel might grab his attention. Is it working? That’s hard to say. I know what music meant to me at a young age and how important it became as the years passed. But I’m not a fool either. My son has far more going for him at 11 than I could have ever wished for. Our childhoods are polar opposites and the pain, alienation, and trouble of my upbringing, the things that caused me to seek solace in music does not exist for him. For that I’m thankful.
So we get to the show and it’s an incredible mixture of fans. Old, young, a ton of kids and really, just a good vibe from the moment we entered. On purpose we avoided all three support bands like the plague and found our seats just as the announcement of “You Wanted The Best…” rang through the PA. I was about as shocked as anyone when they opened with “Modern Day Delilah” off of their latest album, ‘Sonic Boom.’ Don’t ask me why, but there’s certain bands that should NEVER open with new songs and KISS is one of them! Not that it’s a bad song, but similar to my feelings on, say Slayer opening with new material it’s just not the atmosphere setting song I think of.
Visually, it was all KISS. The lights, the make-up, the pyro, the vibe was 100% KISS and that was exactly what I was hoping for. The next 1-2 punch of “Cold Gin” and “Let Me Go, Rock N’ Roll” put me in a fantastic mood. I was enjoying myself not only because of the moment, but very much because I was watching my son enjoy himself. Towards the 45 minute mark or so Paul did the arena rock staple of splitting the crowd down the middle, you know the drill, right? So yeah, what a sight to see Max screaming for our side of the crowd and booing the others! The simple pleasures of life are always the best.
Some of the other highlights of the set were “Firehouse,” with a very cool “stage on fire” looking effect. “Shock Me” featuring Tommy Thayer on vocals…he did a damn good job. Sure in my heart of hearts I would have liked to have seen Ace up there, but the realist in me knows if he was there’d be no KISS. “Crazy, Crazy Nights” was beer time, what a horrible song. You thought it was bad in 1987, 23 years later it hasn’t aged well. “100,000 Years,” “Black Diamond,” and “Calling Dr. Love” were all ass kickers. Album like quality and top notch showmanship have been staples of the KISS set since the dawn of time and tonight was no different.
Speaking of showmanship. Say what you will, but there’s something so incredible about going to see a band who truly believes in what they’re singing about. When I Was a kid going to see Metallica shows, well when they broke into say “Seek and Destroy,” or “Whiplash,” well, at the time they meant it, I mean really meant it. The band was into it, the audience was way into it and that was the key to having an over the top concert experience.
So that being said…I have to say this…KISS means it. When Paul sings “Love Gun,” he really believes his penis is a pistol and he’s definitely going to fire a few rounds. And in his star covered mind every girl in the entire place would be more than happy to be the target. As goofy as that sounds, no one has ever told him it’s all way beyond cheesy, and if they did they were promptly given the axe. He believes in what he does, they all do and their conviction is what launched them, what, 40 years ago? It's still there people, it's still there.
Did we have a good time? Absolutely. KISS delivered the goods, gave 150% and the KISS Army were pleased.