Friday, August 27, 2010

KISS Pack Arenas With Family-Friendly Act

By Rashod Ollison The Virginian-Pilot

One group used to push the boundaries of decency; the other never has.

One group draws from 30 years worth of flamboyant costumes and over-the-top theatrics for its stage shows. It's hard to imagine the other group, just 3 years old, doing anything even mildly racy on stage.

Kiss and the Jonas Brothers descended from different dimensions of the pop universe, but they have one thing in common: They're two of the most family-friendly acts playing the Virginia Beach Amphitheater this month. Kiss headlines the venue Friday night, and the Jonas Brothers take over the stage Sunday.

Kiss formed in New York City in 1973, more than a decade before the oldest Jonas boy was born. The band is one of the most easily identifiable rock groups around. The guys still pack arenas around the world while wearing the same garish black and white makeup, thigh-high platform boots and campy one-piece costumes they donned during the disco era. Sometimes slick and cloying but mostly memorable and potent, Kiss' greatest hits ("Rock and Roll All Nite," "Strutter," "Beth" and others) still spark huge sing-alongs in concert. In the '70s Kiss captured teen imaginations, but the group draws a different crowd these days.

"Now, it's become completely multi-generational with an insurgence of kids and teenagers and parents bringing their kids. I mean, you got everything from age 6 to 66," said Kiss guitarist Tommy Thayer, calling from a tour stop in New York City. "It's incredible to have such a diverse group of Kiss fans. We're so lucky."

The Jonas Brothers have only a fraction of Kiss' experience, but they also enjoy massive popularity and fill arenas around the world. Teen girls dominate the crowd. The Jonases' hyperactive stage show and highly polished, hook-filled pop ditties are innocuous enough for the whole family, which is to be expected from a Disney-produced sensation.

"We're trying to step up our game each time we do a tour," said Joe Jonas, the eldest, on a conference call with his brothers. "The thing we're trying to do with this tour is incorporate video, maybe some interactive video. If we can make them all work for the show, it would be very cool."

For the new tour, the Jonases, like Kiss, are concentrating on their greatest hits. The New Jersey siblings will also include cuts from their popular Camp Rock movies. No plans for a new studio album have been announced.

"We just want to spend time with our fans again," Kevin Jonas said. "We enjoy going out and having fun and playing our music."

"It's probably the joy of our lives," Nick Jonas chimed in.

In recent years, Kiss, which consists these days of Thayer, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Eric Singer, has made its brand more visible. The "Glee" kids sang a Kiss song, dressed in Kiss gear, on an episode last season. The band appeared on "American Idol" last year. A few months later, Kiss released its new album, "Sonic Boom," which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard album charts, the group's highest entry.

"The band, as it is now, is more lethal and bombastic than any version of the band before," Thayer said. "We can tell by the huge crowds that come to the shows now. This is a legitimate rock 'n' roll band that kicks butt."

When asked what makes Kiss such a cross-generational, family-friendly show these days, Thayer said he's not really sure.

"We've been scratching our heads at that," he said. "It's not one thing in particular. First of all, Kiss is so unique with the image and makeup. It's one of the biggest stage shows with the theatrics and the pyro. It's like going to the Super Bowl or seeing the Grand Canyon, something everybody needs to do at least once because it's such a sensation."