Saturday, July 13, 2013

KISS Sticks To Its Guns | Mike Ross | Photo: AMBER BRACKEN

Just a little too early for K-Days, where all fun things begin with the letter K, KISS killed at the Koliseum.

They call it Rexall Place now, but the self-proclaimed hottest and possibly silliest rock ‘n’ roll band in history sounded exactly like they did “back in the day.” KISS, which played its first Canadian dates in the ‘70s in school cafeterias in Edmonton and Calgary, was a formative experience for many an Albertan too young to be a hippie, too old to be a punk rocker, and too cool to be into disco. KISS was all there was.

They haven’t changed a bit. They’re just more excessive. Who needs evolution? To hell with creative development. KISS is KISS and that’s that. You might as well, I don’t know, transplant the Gretzky statue than mess with this particular corporate rock institution — whose twin goals remain rocking and making lots of money doing it. Nice to see someone stick to their guns.

Fans got everything they expected: Gene Simmons’ tongue-wagging, blood-spitting, fire-breathing schtick never fails to enthrall observers — even at 63 years old.

Nor does Paul Stanley’s carnival barker spiel. He is still, at 61, one of the finest practitioners of Rock ‘n’ Rollese ever seen. Amongst the proclamations of partying on in “Ed! Mon! Ton!” he collects bonus points for getting real in a shout-out to the people in Calgary “who aren’t as lucky as you are.” Later on he said in all sincerity, “Edmonton, you are family!”

That was nice.

The original members Ace Frehley (lead guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) aren’t in the band anymore, and if anyone complained, no one heard. The “other two guys” — Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer — were capable replacements. In fact, they’re an improvement.

Then you add in all that eye candy to justify a pretty hefty ticket price, the flying band members, the enormous spider-like contraption that hovered over the stage, the fireworks. It wasn’t quite Cirque du KISS — don’t put it past them — but was as close as you can get and still have it feel like a “real” rock show.

For newer KISS Army recruits, the rules are simple. You must shout the name of the town you’re in at least once every song. There must be pyrotechnics or some other special effect in every song. And every song must be a rock song on the subject of rocking. Failing that, fire, hell or shouting it out loud, whatever “it” is, probably something to do with rocking.

And all these years later and no one has addressed the quandary in KISS’s signature song, Rock and Roll All Nite — the last song of the set proper accompanied by a continuous barrage of confetti that just kept spewing out.

But shouldn’t that be “rock and roll all nite and sleep every day so we can rock and roll the next nite?” Moreover, it is widely thought that rocking and/or rolling in any form is synonymous with partying, or should at least occur at the same time, day or night, and so the entire song that members of the KISS Army have had in their heads for nearly 40 years makes no sense. Way to blow our minds, man.

Indeed it would be hard to find a rock band this big that has added so little to the rock ‘n’ roll canon as KISS — but seriously, who cares when you’re having fun? Now who gets the call to be the opening band for KISS? It’s hard to believe Gene Simmons Inc. picked Shinedown just for its music. This is a non-descript Florida corporate rock band fitting neatly into the “hard rock” mould, as in the kind of over-dramatic and radio-friendly songs — so radio friendly they practically hump your leg — that would get you booed at a metal festival. You know, like Nickelback. It was an awkward combo with the headliner. They’re at least one generation removed, they probably get airplay on top-40 stations KISS hasn’t been near for 30 years and it’s hard to believe any member of the KISS Army had ever even heard of Shinedown.

In any case, most of the hardcore KISS fans seemed to be up in the concourse getting loaded up for the main event. Some things never change.