They just want to rock & roll all night and party every decade. KISS is now into its fifth decade of licking it up live, albeit the first in which fans can enjoy a wide-screen HD simulcast like the one seen Saturday night on Yahoo Screen Live.
As one KISS Army member on a fan board wrote mid-show, “Imagine if they had this capability in the ‘70s.” You’ve come a long way from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, baby!
Some of the video highlights you’re about to see date back to the 1970s, in practice. But their entrance is definitely not one of them, since you definitely didn’t see the kind of high-tech production design back in the day that brought the band onto the stage of the PNC Pavilion in Charlotte, NC. Their current rigging is known by fans as “the spider,” although to our eyes it really looks like a combination of a Transformer and one of those multi-legged aliens from Edge of Tomorrow. Here’s one way to plant a KISS:
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“Everyone’s got a front row seat!” Paul Stanley informed the Charlotte crowd. Perhaps that causes a few attendees at the PNC Pavilion to start up arguments with security stopping them from moving up. But for everyone watching on Yahoo Screen, at least, it was true. Everyone also got to spend some quality time on Eric Singer’s drum riser, too… and as close to under Gene Simmon’s dragon boot-heel as you can get without becoming road kill.
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No KISS concert would be complete without the sight of blood, as gargled and dribbled by Simmons. After all these years and decades of ending the show each night with a stained appendage, it’s a happy miracle that Simmons still hasn’t come down with tongue cancer from holding all that Red Dye No. 2 in his mouth, or whatever gooey substance they replaced it with.
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There are probably not a lot of points of comparison to be made between Simmons and Peter Pan, but they do both fly every night. You’ll find just a little bit less of the joyous spirit of childhood in Simmons’ visage as he leers out in his kabuki makeup while playing the most ominous bass solo possible as a lead-in to “God of Thunder.” And what is arguably the biggest star of the show — Simmons’ tongue — is still not phoning it in. Does Gene do tongue pushups to stay in shape?
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KISS’ performance included two homages to the Who. One comes in the middle of “Lick It Up,” when they incorporate the extended finale of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” The other was at the very end of the show, at the climax of “Rock 'n’ Roll All Nite,” when Stanley smashed his guitar… after first planting a big lip-print on the instrument. Ladies in the crowd might think twice about begging Stanley for a smooch after that mixed message.
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“Just in case you didn’t realize it,” Stanley told the crowd early in the show, “you’re looking at a band up here that’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame!” It might seem odd for KISS to celebrate that fact now, given how many years they spent knocking the importance of the Rock Hall when they were famously excluded. But his followup comments made it clear he was taking a stand that was more populist than boastful. “You made it happen,” the singer said, suggesting — with some justification — that public pressure had a lot to do with their belated induction. “We love you for it.”
They loved him back, not just in Charlotte but worldwide Saturday night, as viewers posting comments on KISS fan boards noted how well the 62-year-old singer has rebounded after surgery on his vocal cords in 2011. Simmons’ complementary lead growl is just ageless (and he’s 64), and even fans who’ve had a hard time accepting Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer in the band as Peter Criss and Ace Frehley substitutes seemed to feel their prowess on the broadcast proved they’ve more than grown into their makeup.
Could this endurance be… an answer to prayer? Simmons is not much of a believer, but Stanley put in a plug for bowing down to the Almighty, as he’s been doing at other shows lately. “I don’t know about you but I like to pray,” the singer told the crowd. “Every night before I get on stage, I get on my knees and say thank you for letting me get on stage and allowing me to entertain all these fine people… I don’t know about you. I don’t just talk to God when things or bad or I’m in trouble. I thank God every day for the life I have, and I hope you do too.”
And then he sang “Love Gun.” God bless KISS, indeed!