Thursday, October 29, 2009

KISS At Sommet Center

By The Spin

OK, we get it: We're Nashville and KISS loves us. Paul Stanley reminded us of that ad nauseam last night at the Sommet Center, where we de-virginized ourselves of the KISS concert experience. How was it? It was exactly what we expected: a totally awesome, face-melting onslaught of gargantuan camp, fire, galloping riffs and fist-pumping shout-alongs. We came to see all those things, and we got what we wanted: the best.

As we waited for "the hottest band in the world" to take the stage, we milled around to observe the KISS Army in action. Par for the course, it really did seem like one out of every four or five people we saw had KISS make-up on. In fact, there were even booths where a make-up technician would airbrush a KISS character onto your face. Followers of the cult mixed and mingled with your garden-variety heavy metal parking lot crowd, creating a festive rock 'n' roll all night atmosphere. Not bad for a Wednesday.

These people all lost it when the lights went down and--with a startling blast of pyro--the curtain dropped, revealing the band in all their iconic glory, as they went head first through a one-two punch of "Deuce" into "Strutter"--two of our favorite KISS gems. Right off the bat, the show spared no clich', and we mean that in a good way. We didn't come to the KISS show to use our right brains, we came to let go of our inhibitions and be entertained--and entertained we were.

Let's go down the list. Pyro in the chorus and big finish of nearly every song? Check. The platform shoes and black spandex? Check. Gene Simmons spitting fire? Check. Gene Simmons coughing up blood? Check. Spotlight guitar, drum, and bass solos where all other members leave the stage? Check. A spinning drum riser? Check. Bottle-blondes in the audience flashing the band? Check. We even got Gene Simmons singing "I Love It Loud" on a platform atop a lighting rig that he levitated to. Not to be outdone, Paul Stanley took flight over the audience to his own platform to sing "Love Gun." Between all these shenanigans we got all the classic KISS moments with which they defined the arena-rock experience.

And, of course, there was the make-up. We'll just get it out of the way--founding members Peter Criss (drums) and Ace Frehley (lead guitar) are not in the current incarnation of KISS, but their trademark Catman and Spaceman make-up designs are now donned by their replacements. For many in the KISS Army this is a deal-breaker, but obviously not too many as, while not sold out, the arena appeared damn near close to it.

Just as the stage production left little to be desired, so did the '70s-centric setlist, which featured nearly all of the band's most recognizable hits, from "Hotter Than Hell" to "Calling Dr. Love," "Black Diamond" to "Lick it Up" and the inevitable "Rock and Roll All Nite." They even played a bit of "Stairway to Heaven." KISS is easily the rock show equivalent of a Ringling Bros. three-ring circus. After a straight two hours of both ironic and un-ironic headbanging, we praised all might rock 'n' roll as the lights came up to reveal an arena smokier than a Southern California wildfire.