Monday, September 28, 2009

KISS Plants Final Smooch

KISS Plants Final Smooch
BY James R. Chesna - ABC 12 NEWS

Kiss took a shot at traveling back in time Friday and Saturday night in Detroit, and legendary co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons --receiving marching orders from the loyal ranks of faithful fans enlisted in the Kiss Army -- enjoyed a successful tour of duty.

The iconic grease-painted and platform-shoed 1970s glam rockers were in Motown this weekend to celebrate a very special anniversary, and couldn't think of better followers to invite to the festivities than some of the folks who made the band's storied career possible way back in 1975 when the Demon, Starchild, Cat and Spaceman recorded their landmark multi-platinum best-seller "Alive!"

Using as a backdrop the Motor City's Cobo Hall -- the hallowed venue that started it all, now facing an uncertain future -- the band kicked off its 2009 "Alive!/35" tour in typical bombastic fashion.

Kiss had history going for them in shaking loose Cobo's dust and cobwebs. And it certainly didn't hurt that this truly felt like an event for the ages, possibly the beginning of what could be one of the band's final treks.

Tom Ingalls of Commerce Township, a 52 year old who got his mitts on a set of tickets Friday, was part of the throng who bore witness at Cobo when "Alive!" was chronicled for all time.

"Coming here I knew it would take me back a long way, just for the entertainment of it all," he said. "I always say, if you don't see these bands right now, who knows if you'll ever see 'em again?"

Detroit's beaten and battered economy didn't hold back turnout, as Friday's show was sold out and Saturday's stretched the arena's capacity just as efficiently. And the band embraced its mantra of being entertainers first and worrying about serious musical chops at some date yet to be determined.

The show was fun. And to a Kiss fan, that's all that matters.

There was no question who concert-goers came out to see.

Faces on the floor and in the multiple tiers -- some smeared with the mug of their favorite Kiss character -- ranged in age, some parents brought their awestruck and innocent young to their very first rock show.

Enormous Kiss Army banners draped the hall's walls stage left and right, and were complimented by giant closed-circuit monitors that put the group's thick, trademark makeup and black, Spandex-and-chrome-studded costumes smack-dab in front of fans' Cheshire grins.

The lights blanked out just before 9 p.m. and the big screens provided a glimpse of the classic rockers as they progressed from the bowels of the arena to the backstage curtains. The familiar booming bass rumble of the group's intro -- which caused the floor and walls to vibrate as if an airliner had touched down on Cobo's roof -- heralded the band's arrival onstage.

"You wanted the best, you got the best! The hottest band in the world, Kiss!" came the rallying bellow, and fans collectively sprung to their feet and the rock 'n' roll pawty exploded to life -- literally, courtesy of copious amounts of face-melting pyro, thunderclap flash pots and pops of fireworks and confetti.

The front line of Simmons, Stanley and lead guitarist and former road manager Tommy Thayer emerged from billowy clouds of dry ice while drummer Eric Singer -- donning the familiar feline face and costume-- rode his drum kit as it hydraulically climbed out of its nest deep within an LED Kiss logo center stage, which dwarfed the Army's first officers.

A JumboTron-style screen expansive enough to make the band appear as if it was performing for a city populated by Lilliputians hovered directly over Singer and captured every larger-than-life gesture and pose, and a stack of smaller screens were piled on one another, prominently displaying pictures of clown white-adorned fans and computer-generated flames and graphics.

The group roared through the first three tunes on "Alive!" in order of appearance on vinyl more than three decades ago: "Deuce," "Strutter" and "Got to Choose."

"This is night No. 2 in the Holy Land," ringleader and onstage spokesman Stanley quipped. "Tonight may be night No. 2, but it's up to you to make it No. 1. Tonight we're celebrating everything we've done."

But then the band dropped one of several promised surprises, launching into new song and single "Modern Day Delilah," from the upcoming Oct. 6 release of the group's first new album in 11 years, "Sonic Boom."

(Of note: A full camera crew was on hand shooting, so expect a new live DVD to come out of this, boys and girls.)

Sturdy rocker "Delilah" fit fairly seamlessly into the revered Kiss catalogue this night, and though Stanley declared the song and album "classic Kiss," the track shares more common ground with Kiss' '80s output than the tunes from the group's '70s heyday.

From there, the event returned to old-school form for much of the rest of the evening. The band, as foretold, toured the "Alive!" record in its entirety save for two cuts, "Firehouse" and "Rock Bottom," and did so convincingly.

The night proved most joyous when Simmons and Stanley cut loose on cuts like "Hotter than Hell, "C'mon and Love Me" and "Nothin' to Lose," but the energy was kicked up several notches when truly classic tunes like "100,000 Years," "Cold Gin" and "Black Diamond" got their airtime.

"Diamond," as always, was punctuated by Simmons and Thayer being perched on mechanized lifts that drove them high into the lighting rigs while smoke was belched out of hoses underneath. Stanley stood tall on a platform between them, not ascending to his bandmates' dizzying heights, which allowed him to smash and splinter his guitar in half more thoroughly.

Singer pounded the skins for the band in the '90s and Thayer's been a member of the family for decades. Some fans may bemoan Singer and Thayer's involvement, but Kiss is a tighter unit minus Frehley and Criss.

And let's face it, people: Kiss knows where its bread is buttered.

Stanley kept things lively, preening and prancing about rooster-like during the group's national anthem, "Rock 'n' Roll All Nite," while canons situated at every corner of the main floor shot a virtual snowstorm of confetti into the atmosphere and onto a sea of people.

Swatting away at his colorful collection of guitars all night long, the Starchild took great delight in playing his six-string weapons behind his head, through his legs and upside down, and was positively giddy when he sailed over the crowd during "Love Gun."

A trapeze-style harness dropped the singer off on another mechanized platform at the back of the hall, which spun full circle when Stanley belted out the song's chorus, punishing his distinctive voice in reaching for ear-piercing registers.

In a change of pace, "Love Gun" was served up as part of a packaged six-song encore, which allowed the band to dump the traditional applause-meter pattern of walking offstage and reappearing when cheers reach fever pitch.

On "Lick It Up," Stanley and Thayer cleverly morphed the Who staple "Won't Get Fooled Again" into the tune's bridge. Stanley's battle cry when the power chords took their stranglehold would have made Who frontman Roger Daltrey proud.

Kiss Army recruits ate up every trick in the band's considerable collection of show-stopping gags, including Simmons' fire breathing act in "Hotter that Hell" and his blood-spewing schtick in "I Love It Loud." The show was upbeat and breezy until things got a little more serious in the latter half when Stanley took a moment to acknowledge Detroit's beleaguered image and staggering unemployment status.

"We know that in Detroit, unemployment is higher than anywhere in the nation," the singer shouted. "That is a damned sin. But we'll make it through this. We'll see you again. We'll never forget this night. We love you."

The raucous night finally came to its coda with -- what else? -- "Detroit Rock City." The fiery finale was like the Fourth of July in the middle of September, and bombs blew up one after the other.

The crowd raised their arms, lighters and cell phones in tribute, and Kiss took its final bows. And then Cobo fell silent as witnesses to its final concert lined their way out onto the concrete of the concourse, still singing their favorite songs.

It marked the end of an era in Motown, and the gravity wasn't wasted on a few fans who snapped pictures before heading back to the parking garages.

Kiss' relationship with Detroit has come full circle. Simmons and Stanley returned to the venue that rocketed them to stardom, making sure that the hall was paid its proper respects before the lights went out for good.

Kisstory made.

"Just like I remembered," Ingalls said, brushing away a tear. "Awesome."

Kiss "Alive!/35" set list:

"Got to Choose"
"Modern Day Delilah"
"Hotter than Hell"
"Nothin' to Lose"
"C'mon and Love Me"
"She" (w/ Thayer guitar solo)
"Watchin' You"
"100,000 Years" (w/ Singer drum solo)
"Cold Gin"
"Black Diamond"
"Rock 'n' Roll All Nite"


"Shout It Out Loud"
"Lick It Up"
"I Love It Loud" (w/ Simmons bass solo)
"Let Me Go Rock 'n' Roll"
"Love Gun"
"Detroit Rock City"