This outing was a trip to the local enormo-dome, The Sommet Center, for my first KISS concert. The show really started out on the plaza where thousands of painted faces walked by and I had to yell like a carnival barker for a ticket to be heard over the local rock radio station's display. Even after scoring a club level ticket, I still wanted to hang out outside and watch the Kiss fans shuffle in. Everyone from kids to hipsters to dedicated old fans made for some awesome people watching.
I eventually made my way in to catch a little of the opening band, Buckcherry. This was your basic hard rock outfit. With a shirtless and tattooed guitar player and lead singer, these guys just sort of lacked any qualities that would make them stand out. Their bland songs, including "Rescue Me", about the kid from the disturbing book "Boy Called It", just seemed like generic biker mosh rock. The crowd applauded graciously but it was obvious that most of them just wanted to move on to the real show. The only standout song for me was their rendition of Deep Purple's "Highway Star", which I guess is the NASCAR theme song for the season. Fitting that their best moment was someone else's song.
With the end of Buckcherry, a huge black curtain covered the stage as the crews made the transitions between bands. When the house music cut off the Beastie Boys to start Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll", I knew it was about time. Right at the conclusion of the drum solo, the lights went down and the Kiss army came alive. The WWF style intro brought the curtain down and the senior aged monsters got to it. It was funny to see one side of the stage hosting Gene Simmons, the huge spike ridden mutant stomping around like Godzilla and wagging his tongue about while the opposite side was home to Paul Stanley, the skinny star-faced guitarist who pranced around like Prince slapping his own behind. The Ace Frehley stand-in lead guitarist Tommy Thayer had some great stage moves, including playing between his legs and behind his head. Seeing this display, it was not hard to see where Spinal Tap got a lot of their ideas.
After a few crowd favorites and driving the "left versus right crowd response" battle into the ground, as well as a Gene flame spit, Paul let us know that they were "here to play classics, but classic doesn't necessarily mean old." We we treated to a couple of new ones from Sonic Boom, the band's most recent record. "Modern Day Delilah" was perfectly Kiss-ish and "Say Yeah" reminded us of Stanley's lyrical prowess with exhausting repeats of "Yeah Yeah Yeah!" leading right into "Dr. Love" which had almost an identical chord progression.
Obviously needing a break, the band went into solo mode, starting with Thayer. His Nigel Tufnel-esque solo went on and on complete with ten-finger tapping and head banging fervor. Next was the drum solo which was adequate, but nothing you don't hear from any other drummer you see these days. It was cool to see the elevating and rotating drum riser. Finally it was Gene's turn. He came out looking like a kid with a mouthful of medicine he didn't want to swallow and gave a solo of mostly feedback and effects on one note. He played most of it without even using his left hand. Then we got the blood mouth tongue trick that has made Simmons famous far more than his musical talent. His big finale was "flying" up to the lighting rafters and yelling basically about how great he is. I guess if you're going to be a rock star without any notable musical talent, you have to be an egomaniac with no shame. The show's big ending was the huge surprise closing hit "Rock and Roll All Nite" complete with explosions and tons of confetti.
After promising "the longest encore you've ever heard", Kiss broke into their greatest hits section, wowing us with such masterpieces as "Lick It Up", "Shout It Out Loud", and ending with "Detroit Rock City". During one of the songs, Paul went on and on about knowing all about southern hospitality, and then like a true yank, insisted we invite him into the crowd. Then he rode a zip-line to the soundboard section and played on the rotating riser. By the end of the night, the band members looks gassed. The running and crazy moves were gone and the drummer looked like he was about to pass out, barely making it through each song. All except for Paul Stanley that is. He was still going strong, screaming song titles and doing most of the singing with no problem.
I guess this show was about exactly what I expected. Lot's of firepower and flash over some pretty bad music. However the great atmosphere provided by the die hard fans more than made up for the lack of good art. This night was a lot of fun and I left realizing how it could be possible that so many people could love this band for so long. They sure do put on a great show.