Sunday, November 29, 2009

Las Vegas: KISS Still Impresses

By John Katsilometes, Las Vegas Sun

Paul Stanley said something profound at Pearl Theater at the Palms on
Saturday night. It was a pointed comment explaining his lack of onstage

"If you think a rock and roll band is going to solve the world's
problems, you're in the wrong damn place!" he shouted to the sudience.
Then the band attacked a robust little number called, "Rock and Roll
all Nite."

Solving world hunger or global warning or any of the world's ills is
not the objective of KISS, glowered the grease-painted 57-year-old rock
icon, whose work attire remains an ensemble of tight black Spandex
pants stamped with silver stalls, tall silver heels and a sparkled
black vest exposing ample swarthiness.

Stanley's point is well-taken. KISS has never been about anything but
rockin' out, escaping from whatever stress reality presents. That's one
reason for the fantastic onstage alter-egos - to get away from it all.
Some have a stiff drink to knock the edge off; others dial up "Rock and
Roll Over."

There's little question, given the proven KISS formula, that it would
be impossible to stand in front of an audience with a face full of
demonic makeup, wearing a codpiece the size of a catcher's mitt, and
intone, "I need to take a moment here and say this: I think it is
sinful that more than 47 million Americans are living without health
insurance. And now, here's, 'Dr. Love.'"

Some bands can accomplish the delicate merger of rock and moral
consciousness - Bono has turned the midshow call-to-arms monologue into
an art form. But those bands need to exist on separate planes. Sad to
say, but we can forget about ever seeing a KISS/U2 double billing.

That's fine. KISS exists as a singular entity. It is a uniformed
culture, this 35-year-old KISS Army, and it seems to be growing with
every reunion, anniversary, and lineup change and time demarcation.
Saturday's audience was a sea of veteran rock zealots who had grown up
with KISS, many of whom seemed bent on making sure their children
followed suit, even if it meant explaining to their pre-teens that
there was fulfillment in being painted to look like a cat or spaceman
for an event that was not Halloween.

The band borrowed from its early years, much to the delight of those
who played KISS on the miracle of vinyl in those days. "Strutter" is
still a favorite. "Hotter Than Hell" was in there. "Dr. Love," "Shock
Me," "Shout It Out Loud," "Lick It Up," and the finale, "Detroit Rock
City." Fans of KISS shtick delighted in Gene Simmons' fire-breathing
moment to cap "Hotter Than Hell." Playing to his strengths as always,
Simmons still regularly tongues at the audience. Eric Singer and
guitarist Tommy Thayer were provided lengthy segments to prove that, if
it ever came to this, they could hold an audience for six or seven
minutes without the others. The current KISS lineup - with Eric Singer
on drums and Tommy Thayer on lead guitar -- has produced a release,
"Sonic Boom," most critics like and that debuted No. 2 on the Billboard
charts in its exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart.

Theatrically, KISS still impresses visually and audibly. But KISS'
famed pyrotechnic show, replete with flames and sound bursts,
repeatedly rocked the small theater, and just when you thought, "One
more blast from that stage would be obnoxious," - the show's over.
"Rock and Roll all Nite" and the encore, capped by the great "Detroit
Rock City," was set amid a blizzard of white confetti that nearly
rendered the band invisible.

At the center of all this tumult was the familiarly hypnotic KISS sign.
KISS continues to flash and fire away, glad to rock 'n' roll, and
that's the only message today's KISS Army needs to know.