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Non-Prog Concert Reviews

Kiss

Live in Chicago, IL, November, 2009

Review by Travis Jensen

If you are between the ages of 8 and 80 and from the planet Earth, then you are well aware of the band Kiss. They are known as one of the most influential bands of all time, having been an inspiration to thousands of professional musicians and millions of fans over the last 35 years. Having been a Kiss fan for most of those years, I have seen the group go through its many phases of genre; early metal, glam-rock, mainstream radio, and finally full-circle, also now in its third generation of fans. Although this does say something about their age, most members now touching 60, it certainly doesn’t hinder their ability to put on a great show.

This is my fourth time seeing Kiss; once without make-up and three with, yet it still doesn’t reduce my excitement for seeing one of the most legendary bands of all time. Although I kind of know what to expect with the song selection, I still relish in the moment of awe, as it brings me back to any particular time of what memories each song has for me. Even though Kiss has just released a new album, Sonic Boom, they still know that most of the fans want to hear the old songs that made them what they are today, no matter how good the new stuff is. Let’s be realistic; Kiss army fans love to hear the tunes they grew up on.

The ringleaders are of course, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. Ace Frehley has now been replaced with Tommy Thayer, and Peter Criss with drummer Eric Singer. However, this doesn’t seem to slow the band down whatsoever, as fans seem to be more entranced by the majestic stage show and over-the-top theatrics. In some ways, I feel that these two replacement musicians seem to bring more excitement to the stage with their exuberant energy that breathes life into areas that may have gone stale from years of touring with certain issues with former members. Those who have seen the Gene Simmons reality show, know that Kiss is a very marketable and lucrative business, where he has done very well exploiting his rock-and-roll “gold-mine”.

While waiting for the stage curtains to drop, you can feel the intensity of the crowd. The masses of fans who are wearing costumes with painted faces, as well as others sporting Kiss logo t-shirts that have accumulated throughout the years fill the arena in anticipation of these rock icons. You can sense a feeling that is unexplainable, as you know that you are in the same building as these musical legends. Then, as almost if it is a surreal image, the curtain drops and BOOM, an electrifying explosion shakes the floor as the show begins in full force.

In the times that I have seen Kiss in full make-up, I see that not much has changed, and the way I see it, how can you improve on perfection?  In my eyes, Gene Simmons has full command of the stage, and has not lost his touch with entertaining the crowd. He still entrances his fans with antics such as breathing fire, spitting blood, flying into the overhead light rigs and strutting around the stage like a king in his 7 inch leather heels as a mastodon rock star. Paul Stanley still has his peacock feathers in full spread as he draws in the crowd with all of his stage moves that he has perfected throughout the years. Tommy Thayer goes on to prove that he isn’t just some guy that fit into the costume; he establishes himself vocally and shines with outstanding ability on the electric guitar with the legendary song “Shock Me”…the crowd receives him with open arms as he makes his way through the number flawlessly.

Kiss originally took off the make make-up in the early eighties as a sign of wanting to evolve and shake the image that had kept them spinning their wheels as the disco era ended, and punk rock became more main-stream. Now, as we see them today, and have over the last several years for that matter, the image of nostalgia takes precedence where fans want to see the demon, the star-child, the spaceman and the cat perform their favorites. It then comes as to no surprise of course, that their song list is comprised of hits from that era. The list of songs starts with “Deuce” and “Strutter”, which bring the crowd to its feet. “Hotter Than Hell”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Cold Gin” and “I Love it Loud” keep the crowd going. “Black Diamond” and “Rock And Roll All Night” keep them wanting more, with corresponding stage theatrics such as an elevating drum kit, pyrotechnics, explosions and 80 or so plasma screen TV’s with many types of related computer imagery. Paul Stanley’s wild ride via crane cable above the crowd onto a center stage in the middle of the arena set the scene for a triumphant encore consisting of “Shout It Out Loud”, “Lick It Up”, “Love Gun” and finally, “Detroit Rock City”.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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