Monday, September 28, 2009

KISS Keeps Cobo Alive

KISS Keeps Cobo Alive

Detroit's legendary Cobo Center (formerly Cobo Hall) may be closing its doors for a much lamented expansion in just a few days, but KISS couldn't resist stopping by for a two night set to remind the Motor City that they truly don't make concert venues like this anymore.

"The hottest band in the land" recorded their breakthrough album Alive! behind the Cobo Center's walls 35 years ago, and not much has changed since then. It still has the feel of an oversized high school gym from the '70s and that's part of its charm; its manila stucco, cinder block walls, and fold out chairs keep things scrappy, locking the smaller than average arena in a perpetual junky time capsule (complete with water damage, too), the perfect setting for the band, who played Alive! in its (almost) entirety last night.

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, the group's only two original members--still perform with a ferocity and penchant for spectacle unseen from many of their peers. Stanley's whimsical rock 'n' roll preacher stage banter was still a hoot, whether it was promoting their upcoming album or reminding Detroit that we were all "one big family."

Simmons, on the other hand, still knows how to keep things charismatically creepy (e.g. strings of sweat and fake blood that oozed from him throughout the show. And who could forget about the good old fashioned pyrotechnics and marquee lighting? All part of a true nostalgia trip that reminded everyone how some florescent fire and thunderclaps could elevate a rock show from a performance to an event. Expected, of course, but then again, KISS knows exactly what they are, and they perform their hard rock pop, which oozes of good times, goofy evil, and even goofier sex puns, with unabashed strut and glam rock melodrama.

Leave the musicianship to Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer though. While no one can ever really take the place of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, they're explosive in their playing, adding their own thundering flair to Space Ace and The Catman's already established drum and guitar solos. The most thrilling moment of the night came with Thayer's solo at the end of "She" as his guitar launched rockets above the audience with each biting lick. Other staple moments of showmanship were the blinding snowstorm of confetti during "Rock And Roll All Nite" and Simmons' obligatory fire-spitting during "Hotter Than Hell".

The show ended with the one two punch of "Love Gun" and finally, "Detroit Rock City", sadly for the last time on that fabled stage. As the lights rose, throngs of grease-painted fans left the hall with black smiles on their faces, knowing that while Cobo Hall may be done, KISS is far from finished.