Back on August 1st, I wrote a column about KISS and my decision to purchase tickets to the August 7th show in Mansfield, Massachusetts. I feel it is proper, as a follow-up, to provide my review of the show.
Bottom line, KISS is still an amazing live show!
I timed my arrival at the venue (the Comcast Center) just right, as I arrived just as the last opening band was finishing their set, so I can offer no opinion on either "Envy" or "The Academy Is." I grabbed two beers for a mere $23.00 (one for me and one for my wife) and went off to find our seats, which were dead center in the middle of the pavilion, about 10 rows behind Paul Stanley's 'small stage.' My wife is not really a fan of the band, so I was explaining all of the nuances that KISS fans expect from the show. For example, all fans know to start paying attention when they hear "The Who" over the P.A., because the curtain is about to drop...and believe it or not, when it drops (even though you are expecting it), you still get goose bumps. Minutes after the curtain drops, the lights go dim and you hear the famous introduction. However, apparently no one informed the announcer where they were that day because we got, "Alright....[uncomfortable pause]....ALL. You wanted the best, you got the best..." I found humor in the error.
KISS doesn't just take the stage, they own it. They hit all the high spots that would be expected. Synchronized moves during "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll" and "Deuce;" blood spitting, fire breathing, levitating drum set, Gene Simmons flying to the rafters, Paul Stanley flying into the audience, guitars shooting rockets and of course insane pyrotechnics and confetti. No one can deny that a KISS show is truly a visual spectacle. As for the set list, it was a varied mix that covered their entire career, including "Lick it Up" and "Crazy, Crazy Nights" (from the non-make-up era). They did three songs from Sonic Boom, but to be honest, two would have been enough, as "I'm an Animal" went over like a lead balloon. No matter though, as I left the concert satisfied in my decision to attend and thinking it was well worth the cost of the tickets and the drive to the show.
Now, the most discussed KISS issue these days is the presence of Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer in the band (both performing in the make-up and costumes of Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, respectively). I have to admit that I was one of the many that thought it tarnished the legacy of the band to have replacement members in the make-up of the originals. However, Paul Stanley recently summed up the situation in such a way that I no longer object to what KISS is doing (and unfortunately, it was broadcast during that awful KISSteria special). Paul essentially said that Tommy and Eric are, in some ways, more important to the band right now than Peter and Ace, because they have the ability to recreate the shows from the earlier days that the fans are still expecting to see when they attend a KISS concert. Paul is 100% correct. I am sorry to say, but I do not think that Ace and Peter could deliver a show like the one I just saw.
As for Paul and Gene, both put on amazing performances, and in particular, Gene was a highlight for me. Gene still has his 'character' down, and plays the part perfectly. I remember noting that at several points during the show, he was making facial expressions and moving in the exact same way as he did back in the 70s, and his voice sounded as strong as ever. However, when it comes to Paul, everyone in the venue could tell he is having great difficulty in singing his songs. His voice is clearly strained. Even when he was addressing the crowd in-between songs (in his ever so annoying, but lovable manner..."People...I know that you love Rock 'n' Roll..." etc.), his voice was cracking and he was struggling. It reminded me of the Cinderella tour a few years back when Tom Keifer was having vocal difficulties. Nonetheless, just like Tom, Paul did not let his problems slow the show at all, and I give him all the credit in the world for doing everything he could to deliver an amazing performance. For a show like I saw that night, I will look past the minor flaws. Unfortunately, though, I think Paul may be nearing the end of the line with KISS. He has been alluding to this possibility in interviews as of late, so I think he may be packing it up sooner than many of us would care to see or expect...but hopefully I am wrong.
Finally, the last thing that really stood out to me was the crowd, and more specifically, how many kids were there. Just in my immediate area, I must have seen about 15 or 20 kids there with their parents. If my girls were a little bit older, I would have had them there with me as well. It was just a great sight to see so many kids enjoying a rock 'n' roll show.
So all the haters can say what they want about KISS, when it comes to putting on a rock show...they are untouchable.