Kiss/The Dead Girls (Thursday, December 10, 2009--Sprint Center) Ticket price: $27.50
“Kiss The Dead Girls?” Ewwww…
Thirty years, two months and ten days after I attended my first Kiss concert (on the Dynasty tour), I attended my 16th Kiss concert on Thursday night at the Sprint Center, a mere four blocks east on 13th Street from where I saw the band that first time at Municipal Auditorium. I’ve had more than one friend question my motives for seeing the band so many times (you know who you are, Tom, John and Dr. S!), and my response would be to quote Lynyrd Skynyrd: “I’ve tried everything in my life—the things I like, I try ‘em twice!” More succinctly, in one of his more lucid commentaries, K.C. Star music critic Timothy Finn noted in his review of this concert:
“About 10,000 fans came to the Sprint Center on Thursday night for Kiss Alive 35, the latest name for the band's never-ending tour. It's safe to say that more than half the fans in the place had seen the band at least once; some of us were seeing Kiss for the fourth time in 10 years or so. But at some point repetition becomes something more rewarding, like ritual or tradition; that's why some of us still watch A Christmas Story three times a year, every year. Likewise, a Kiss concert is all about knowing exactly what you're going to get and enjoying it anyway.”
And when you factor in the strife I experienced the previous night when some douche-bag broke into my car during my ever-so-brief library stop and stole my tote bag that contained my checkbook, along with a project I’d been working on and numerous personal items that were totally worthless to everyone but myself, a Kiss concert really hit the spot. After 24 hours of stressing out and feeling pissed-off, there was nothing like a Kiss show to “get me back on my feet again,” as “Cold Gin” goes. This was also my first big indoor arena concert in quite a while—the previous ten concerts I had attended were either outdoors or in small venues—and it was refreshing to see that "Arena Love" (a phrase coined by music critic Robert Duncan) was alive and well and living at the Sprint Center!
Even though you pretty much know what to expect at a Kiss gig, you have to give the band credit for adding some new twists and keeping the show fresh. This time ‘round, they employed a much more open stage and jettisoned the superfluous staircases that once flanked the drums. A huge video screen stretched nearly the entire width of the stage, and numerous other video squares featuring other visual effects dotted the rest of the set. With the main video screen being so huge, it displaced the trademark light-up Kiss logos on-high, which they reduced to a larger single logo relocated to stage level below Eric Singer’s drums, which created a rather neat background effect on the video screen whenever the guys stood in front of it at center stage. In addition to elevating up and down, Singer’s drum riser also rotated 360º during his solo, as did the mini-stage Paul Stanley “flies” out to during “Love Gun”. They also added a dash of color to the pyro, with the rising flames behind the stage tinged in red, green and orange, in addition to the natural yellow/gold hues. The costumes are all-new this time as well, with each one being a bit of an amalgam of all the previous stage outfits worn by the original four Kiss members over the years, and in a bit of a throwback, Paul Stanley switched back to his Flying V guitars from the early days in place of his shattered-mirror models of recent years.
The set list was heavily-weighted toward the early days as well, and only included two ‘80s songs (“I Love It Loud” and “Lick It Up”) and two from the new album Sonic Boom, “Modern Day Delilah” and “Say Yeah”—the two I liked the least, naturally, although “Say Yeah” sounded better live than on the CD, mostly because it was punctuated with lots of boom-booms. Everything else they played was of ’70s vintage, as they kicked things off with the opening combo from Alive!, “Deuce” and “Strutter”. To my delight, the Hotter Than Hell album got a pretty fair shake this go-round, including three of my all-time Kiss faves, “Let Me Go, Rock ’N’ Roll”, “Parasite”, and (for the first time in the 16 Kiss shows I’ve attended) the title track. In a minor surprise, Gene and Paul turned the microphone over to guitarist Tommy Thayer on Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me”—nice to see they haven’t blown Ace off altogether. Of course, there was no hope in hell they’d honor Peter Criss by doing “Beth”, but that’s another can of worms. In another slight format change, the set ended kinda early with “Black Diamond” and “Rock And Roll All Nite”, the latter of which included a white confetti storm that made the stage eerily resemble my back yard at the moment. An extended encore ensued that featured "Shout It Out Loud", "Lick It Up" (which lurched briefly into the middle section of The Who's “Won’t Get Fooled Again”), “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City”, which makes almost as dandy a concert closer as it does an opener.
Paul Stanley’s between-song patter can be alternately predictable and extremely entertaining. While I could’ve done without his routine half-singing/half-speaking plea to not drink and drive prior to "Cold Gin" and his plug urging those who hadn't already done so to buy Sonic Boom at Walmart ("Hell, I'm not proud", he proclaimed), I loved his prescient commentary about politically-motivated Rock musicians: “If you came here tonight to hear some Rock band tell you how to save the world from Global Warming, two things—You're out of your damn mind and you came to the wrong place! They're just a Rock band, anyway...” So there—take that Sting, Bono, Don Henley, et al. Paul accurately pointed out that there’s nothing wrong with trying to save the world, but we ain’t gonna accomplish it all in one night anyway, thus he brightly suggested, “Let‘s take tonight off…” I don't attend concerts to hear political folderol anyway—I want to be Rocked!
This was also my first Sprint Center concert, and in a touch of irony, I took in the show from the arena’s uppermost back row, just as my friend Tom and I did at our first Kiss concert in 1979 at Municipal—although then it wasn't by choice. My assigned seat this time was in the second row of the upper deck, toward the back of the arena, but I decided to stake out my own space in a sparsely-filled section near the edge of stage right (Gene Simmons’ side) in the back row, and it was quite a view, in spite of the severe angle. No sooner had I sat down, then did this elderly four-foot-nothing usher woman come up to me and try to check my ticket. I shit you not, this gal stood eye-level with my chest—yeah, I can just see her trying to break up a brawl in the stands! Anyway, when she saw I was downgrading my seat location, she left me alone. Up until now, I had not heard a lot of good things about our fancy new arena’s acoustics, but I thought the sound was outstanding throughout this show. I understood every word Paul Stanley spoke between songs, and the guitars sounded crisp and clear. The bass could’ve been a bit louder and the overall volume could’ve been bumped up a skosh, but I was quite pleased with the audio in the building—a major upgrade over Kemper Arena. I never thought I'd say this, but I did miss one aspect of the Kemper Corral—the parking! It took me forever and a day to escape the bowels of the Power & Light District parking garage I paid ten bucks to park my car in, whereas the gravel Kemper lots were usually a snap to get out of. Oh well, at least no one stole anything out of my vehicle here...
Opening the night's festivities were a local band called the Dead Girls, who won some radio station contest to open the show in place of the originally-slated Chuck Berry—er uh—Buckcherry. While neither deceased nor female, the Dead Girls weren’t terribly impressive—just another bland slacker group. In the classic penthouse-to-outhouse scenario, they followed this triumphant gig the next night at a hole-in-the-wall toilet of a place called the Brick.
When I last did a Kiss concert in Ames, Iowa in 2000 on the “Farewell” Tour, I truly thought it was indeed my final Kiss show. As the '00s progressed, I bristled at the fact that Frehley and Criss were no longer with the band, and I refused to attend subsequent K.C. Kiss concerts because they seemed more like a Kiss tribute band than the real deal. But as with Michael Corleone, just when I thought I was out, Kiss pulled me back in! In retrospect, maybe it’s just as well Ace and Peter did leave—neither of their hearts have been in this thing for a long time anyway. Meanwhile, it’s amazing that at their advance ages, Simmons (60) and Stanley (who turns 58 next month) can still perform at such a high level, and Kiss is a much tighter unit on-stage with the more youthful Thayer and Singer rejuvenating the band in place of Frehley and Criss. Even after 30 years and 16 concerts, this never gets old! I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Kiss show #17 is in the offing somewhere down the road…
SET LIST: Deuce/Strutter/Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll/Hotter Than Hell/Shock Me/Calling Dr. Love/Modern Day Delilah/Cold Gin/Parasite/Say Yeah/100,000 Years/I Love It Loud/Black Diamond/Rock And Roll All Nite ENCORE: Shout It Out Loud/Lick It Up/Love Gun/Detroit Rock City