The hits just keep on comin'...and would you believe, we're not even a quarter of the way done yet?
21) Kiss/Molly Hatchet (Tuesday, March 1, 1983—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: ???
What a difference 3½ years makes sometimes. The first time we saw Kiss in 1979, they packed the place and were still on top of the world, but 1983 was a totally different place for The Hottest Band In The World. Since we last saw them live, Peter Criss was replaced by a young whippersnapper named Eric Carr on the drums, and unbeknownst to me until literally the day of this show, lead guitarist Ace Frehley had been replaced by Vinnie Vincent. I didn’t have MTV yet, and music news traveled real slow around these parts back then, thanks in no small part to our old Rock station, KY-102, who for whatever reason, refused to acknowledge Kiss’ existence (yes, I’m still bitter!), so when I saw a new photo of the band in the paper that afternoon, I was like, “Who the fuck is this guy?!?” I’d been eager to check out young master Carr on the drums, as I had readily accepted him in the band, but I wasn’t ready for another new guy, even though he did kinda-sorta look like Ace Frehley. There was also one other new Kiss dynamic I wasn’t quite ready for that night—a very paltry crowd, as the place was barely half-full!
That’s not to say this was a bad concert. Not bad at all, really. Kiss’ Creatures Of The Night tour was also dubbed their “10th Anniversary Tour”, and it featured one of their more unique stages, which was in the shape of the front of an armored tank. Huge ramp-like “treads” on both sides flanked a rotating gun turret upon which Carr’s drums sat that doubled as a big confetti bazooka. With the Creatures album signaling a return to the down-and-dirty heavy metal Kiss sound after three-plus years in the musical wilderness, the set list leaned heavily on their new record, with the title track opening the show, along with other new songs like “I Still Love You” and “War Machine”.
Vinnie Vincent may have slightly resembled the Space Ace, but he sure didn’t play like him! His solos were lame, and it looked like he didn’t really give a shit most of the time. Unlike Vincent, Kiss fans (me included) took to new drummer Eric Carr almost right away, and he became a fan favorite over the years, and with good reason—he was pretty damn good! The only real knock on Eric was that he played the older Kiss classics like “Cold Gin”, “Black Diamond” and “Firehouse” at almost stupid-fast tempos, but I think Gene and Paul might’ve been behind all that to make Kiss sound more like the hot contemporary Metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. The rest of the show was typical Kiss—lots of pyro, Simmons burping blood and spitting fire, and Stanley working the crowd with his between-song raps. It was still rather eerie seeing all those empty seats in the back of the hall, as all the other concerts we’d attended to this point were sellouts or near-sellouts, but it was a loud and enthusiastic crowd, all the same.
Molly Hatchet is one of my favorite Southern bands of all-time, but I recall that they had a somewhat checkered history when it came to Kansas City area gigs. There was a show here in 1979 that was supposed to be simulcast live on KY-102, but they apparently had beaucoup sound problems at the venue and the broadcast was scrapped at the last minute. At another show in 1980, singer Danny Joe Brown walked out on an MH gig with opening act Blackfoot at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas. The “official” reason given was he had a bad reaction to an insulin shot for his diabetes. While Brown was indeed a diabetic (which also contributed to his untimely passing in 2005), I think the real reason had more to do with a conflict over money (or so I heard). Brown left the band not long after that to form his own group, the cleverly-named mouthful Danny Joe Brown & The Danny Joe Brown Band. He was replaced by Jimmy Farrar, a decent singer who would’ve sounded much better in a group like say, Marshall Tucker Band, but was a poor fit for Molly Hatchet.
After two mediocre albums with Farrar, DJB returned for one of my favorite Hatchet albums, 1983’s sadly-overlooked No Guts…No Glory. Hatchet also had a new rhythm section on this tour—drummer B.B. Borden and bass player Riff West, the latter of whom looked kinda like a redneck version of Rush’s Geddy Lee (at right in pic). “It’s your party, Kansas City…” Danny Joe announced during their set, which included lots of new stuff that I really liked—“What’s It Gonna Take?”, “What Does It Matter?” and “Fall of The Peacemakers”, the latter of which featured the triple-lead guitar attack of Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland (no relation to me) and the late Duane Roland. They also did old faves like “Dreams I’ll Never See”, “Gator Country” and “Flirtin’ With Disaster”, and it was a good set, overall. Still, it’s too bad we never really got to see Molly Hatchet in their prime with Danny Joe Brown as a headliner here—they were a damn good band if you caught them on the right night.
22) Pat Benatar/Red Rider (Tuesday, March 8, 1983—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $11.50
Two straight Tuesdays, two straight concerts (on nights when I probably should’ve been studying for mid-terms or something), and my second rendezvous with the divine Ms. Benatar. Damn, I love the sound of that phrase! For this tour, Pat employed a nearly all-white stage set, as opposed to the nearly all-black one last time around. She also jettisoned unnecessary rhythm guitarist Scott Sheets from her band and replaced him with keyboardist Charlie Giordano, who played on her new album Get Nervous. For some reason, I don’t remember this show quite as fondly as the first time I saw her in ’81. This may have been because the material off the new record wasn’t quite as strong, apart from “Shadows Of The Night” and “Anxiety (Get Nervous)”, the latter of which featured Pat underlit from below the stage with creepy green lighting (like what Gene Simmons uses when he pukes blood) to underscore the whole “mental ward” theme of the song. While not as memorable as the ’81 show I saw, Pat still looked hot, and she and the band gave yet another solid performance. Her guitarist/soon-to-be husband Neil Giraldo was surprisingly animated, as well, dancing around while he played, and at that time he bore a strange resemblance to actor Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing...
Tom Cochrane and Red Rider opened the show, but I don’t remember much about them, other than the first song was kinda cool (the title of which escapes me) and their big hit “Lunatic Fringe” was a natural high point. They were certainly a far superior opening act than David Johansen was for Benatar in ’81, anyway…
23) Berlin/Some local techno-pop band (Thursday, April 21, 1983—Uptown Theater) Ticket price: $8.50
In early 1983, my good friend Tom—the more musically open-minded of the two of us—kept raving about this new group called Berlin and their controversial song “Sex (I’m A…)”, which I was largely unimpressed by at first. It leaned a tad heavy on the synthesizers and was pretty over-the-top, lyrically--i.e., a little too slick for me. Still, Sir Thomas managed to talk me into seeing the band live, and I was glad he did, because it turned out to be a pretty good performance. The opening act (whose name I never caught) was some techno-pop outfit with a female singer/keyboardist. This was the first and only time at a major concert I’ve attended where the opening act actually had to tear down their own equipment after playing!
Berlin’s set began with just the guys in the band playing an extended intro piece that allowed lead singer Terri Nunn to make a grand entrance, and they led off with “Masquerade”, a very underrated song from their debut EP Pleasure Victim. Ms. Nunn (who is also an actress and once auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars), looked quite fetching in her little cocktail dress, black stockings and poofy blonde hair, and she had a unique stage presence—part sex kitten, part slut. The rest of the band were kinda prissy-looking in a Duran Duran sort of way, but still they played well. Other standout songs included “Tell Me Why” and “The Metro”, which later got regular rotation on the MTV, and the show consummated with “Sex” (sorry!). They stretched their signature song out a bit, with Nunn and keyboardist John Crawford getting down and dirty at center stage with some serious bumpin’ ‘n’ grindin’, while the guitar player lurched into a few bars of Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever”. Hell, this was a sexier show than the boys were probably getting at the titty bars down the street! Overall, a surprisingly good concert, and I’m sorry I ever doubted Tom about Berlin…
24) Styx (Wednesday, May 11, 1983--Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $12.50
Rock ‘N’ Roll meets Broadway! When Styx was accused by conservative Christian wing-nuts of planting subliminal demonic messages on the song “Snowblind” from Paradise Theater via the process known as backward-masking, Dennis DeYoung took things a little too personally. It inspired him to conceive his own little Rock opera, Kilroy Was Here, all about an oppressive society where Rock music was banned and everything was controlled by the dreaded MMM (Majority for Music Morality). Our hero, musician Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (R.O.C.K.—as Chandler Bing might say, can you BE any more contrived?!?), escapes imprisonment at the hands of the evil clutches of the MMM by disguising himself as a futuristic "Roboto" and encounters a young musician named Jonathan Chance who leads the revolution to bring Rock ‘N’ Roll back, and they all lived happily ever after. After seeing this catastrophe, banning Rock music didn’t sound like such a bad idea!
It was one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” kind of things, but looking back now, the presentation of Kilroy in concert was more than a tad absurd. There was no opening act for Styx once again on this tour, and the show began with DeYoung and Tommy Shaw orating lines as if they were in a low-budget porn flick before giving way to James “J.Y.” Young’s guitar solo that led into “Rockin’ The Paradise”. Once the live music began, it was the usual Styx fare, until it came time to “act” again, which totally disrupted the flow of the concert. Of all the Kilroy songs that were staged that night, the only one I found even mildly entertaining was “Heavy Metal Poisoning”, featuring J.Y. as the Jerry Falwell clone "Dr. Righteous". The song-and-dance bit with J.Y. and the Panozzo brothers as his henchman (performed to taped-accompaniment) was fairly humorous, and “Poisoning” was the only song off that album really rocked out. When they did get around to actually playing Styx songs, the show was fine, but the whole theater aspect of it made this concert rather indigestible. This was Rock ‘N’ Roll in the Twilight Zone, you might say, and sadly, Kilroy pretty much destroyed this band.
Our seats for this one were located in the upper reaches at the back of Kemper Arena, and I was rather amused by this dumb kid at the other end of our row who got drunk off his ass before the lights went down, and by show’s end, he was puking all over the brand new Styx t-shirt laying in his lap. He appeared to be a rank amateur with the alcohol, but I was curious whether his vomiting was induced by the booze or the show, or both. I didn't bother asking him, tho...
25) Jerry Reed (Friday, May 27, 1983--Tuffy’s KC Opry House) Ticket price: ???
Another musical left turn here, and a rare Country Music concert for me. My longtime friend John has always been a big Country fan, and he talked me into attending this show. I didn’t mind, since I was familiar some of JR’s material thanks to my older brother’s Best Of Jerry Reed 8-track tape that got constant play in our house, and I loved the film Smokey & The Bandit as well. This turned out to be a pretty good show, although for some reason I don’t remember too many specifics about it, other than "Eastbound And Down", "When You're Hot, You're Hot" and "Amos Moses" being high points. The best part of all was an unexpected brush with greatness after the show when we queued up in front of the stage and got to meet the man himself and he autographed the back of my ticket, for which I thanked him and he replied, “Right on, brother!” I remember Reed took one look at John—who is quite stocky—and said to his assistant, “Look at the shoulders on that boy!" And, no, he's not Hank Snow's brother...
Tuffy’s KC Opry House is actually the Englewood Theater in Independence. It’s the same classic old movie house my older sister dragged me off to see Disney’s Fantasia (against my will) when I was a kid. The Englewood was converted into a live concert venue in the early ‘80s, and has changed hands numerous times since then, but I think they still show classic movies there today. A few months after the Jerry Reed show, John and I attended another show there involving a friend of his who played guitar in a cover band called Tyrant, whose use of pyro scorched one of the curtains in the theater. I don’t guess they got paid for that gig, huh?