Thursday, September 9, 2010

Concert #109

Kiss/The Envy (Saturday, September 4, 2010—Minnesota State Fairgrounds Grandstand, St. Paul, MN) Ticket price: $70.00

I didn’t even know I would be attending this show before last week, since my weekend road trip to the Twin Cities was sort of a spur-of-the-moment thing.  But when I was looking for something to do on a Saturday night in the Twin Cities and discovered that the Hottest Band In The World would be in town, I said “What the hey,” and snagged a ticket for my second Kiss concert in nine months and 17th in 31 years.  Yes, I admit it—I’m a Kiss junkie, but you know what?  I don’t give a monkey’s what other people think about what I do anymore, and as a certain Kiss lyric goes, “it ain’t a crime to be good to yourself.”  I like to think of it this way:  If you like BBQ ribs, you don’t just eat them once and never touch them again, right?  I know what I’m getting at a Kiss show, and I enjoy it.  And to their everlasting credit, Kiss is constantly updating their show by adding new effects and tweaking the set list, and in many ways, this was an even better show than I saw at Sprint Center here back in December, in spite of the crummy venue it was played in this time.

The Fairgrounds Grandstand is a former equestrian show/rodeo facility that was converted into a concert venue, and not a particularly good one.  While I certainly didn’t expect it to be the second coming of the Hollywood Bowl or Red Rocks, it still left a lot to be desired.  Overall, I was very unimpressed with the place—it’s poorly laid-out, the rinky-dink men’s restrooms actually had longer lines than the women’s, and the ushers were quite unhelpful.  The section my ticket was in was called the Porch, which was two rows of folding chairs that were unnumbered, so it was up to me (not the usher, evidently) to start at the end and count 13 chairs over to find my seat.  My seat had a great line of sight about eye-level with Gene Simmons at stage right—that is, when no one was walking/standing in the chasm-like walkway in front of me!  It would’ve been nice if TicketBastard had warned me this was an obstructed-view ticket I was purchasing.  I'm at about 1:00 above Gene Simmons' head near the white railing in this photo—I'm the one wearing black.  Anyway, I also began to wonder if they actually cleaned this place up before they retrofit it, because I kept getting a whiff of horsie-doody wafting in the air all night long—the place smelled like the Last Roundup!  While the Grandstand is still a cut above our abysmal Sandstone Amphitheater here, I won’t be in any big rush to do another concert there.

This show was noteworthy because it was the first time I took a camera to a Kiss concert.  Instead of being dickheads about it, Kiss doesn’t mind if you take pictures or videos, so long as you aren’t using professional-grade photo/video equipment.  They figure they can’t stop people from using their camera phones anyway, so why not cut the fans some slack?  If anything, they encourage it, based on all the fan-originated photos and videos they post on Facebook, thus, I made my first ersatz attempt at concert bootlegging.  The videos for "Cold Gin""Firehouse" and "Shout It Out Loud" that I've linked on here are mine and should give you a pretty good idea of how alternately good/shitty my seat was, too.  The remainder of the videos I'm linking below are from other fans on YouTube.  Hell, I can just about piece together the whole damn concert here!  This show was also noteworthy in that it’s the first time in ages that I drank no alcohol at a Rock show—it’s gotten too damn expensive!  Besides, I was out an extra $21 between the parking and cost of admission just to get into the Fair itself on top of the $70 bucks (plus “convenience” fee) I paid for the ticket, so I was into this show for over $100 already.  And you know what?  In spite of the good/bad view and inconveniences, I still managed to enjoy the show without drinking.  Sobriety—what a concept!

The band made their entrance on the new gizmo they added since last time I saw them, a moving platform that rises from behind the stage up and over drummer Eric Singer, delivering Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer safely to center stage during the intro to “Modern Day Delilah”.  In spite of the sucky-ness of the venue, the sound was phenomenal—easily the best-sounding Kiss concert I’ve ever attended.  The mix had just the right amount of bass and treble, everyone’s instruments and mics sounded crystal clear, although it could’ve stood to be just a skosh louder.  This was the third Kiss gig in three nights, as they played Milwaukee and Chicago before St. Paul, thus no doubt contributing to the raspiness in Stanley’s voice.  It seems only fitting that we were in a former horse venue, because Paul sounded very hoarse early on, especially while talking between songs.  I kept waiting for the Starchild to make some remark about the town being named after him, but he never did.

To my surprise, they added one more cut to the set list from the Sonic Boom CD, “I’m An Animal” but for some reason, they keep avoiding the really standout tunes from that album like “Hot And Cold”, “Never Enough”, “Stand” and “All For The Glory”.  The usual suspects were there, of course, like “Cold Gin”, “Firehouse” , “Love Gun”, "Deuce" , “I Love It Loud”, “Calling Dr. Love”, "Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll" and “100,000 Years” .  Another surprise addition was “Crazy Crazy Nights”, one of Kiss’ weaker hits from the ‘80s, IMHO, and they probably should’ve left it there.  The backing vocals during the choruses sounded awful as Gene, Eric and Tommy each sang in a different key and Paul struggled to hit his own high parts.  Young master Thayer seems to have gained some confidence in his singing since last time I saw Kiss, and he belted out Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me” with more oomph this time, almost as if he was channeling the Spaceman.  Thayer and young master Singer also did a nifty trade-off guitar and drum solo bit that was actually more entertaining than if they had performed separate solos.  Singer’s drum platform didn’t rotate around like last time, but did rise up and down several times throughout the show.

Stanley did his usual "flying" bit during "I Was Made For Lovin' You" out to the small rotating stage in the crowd that was only 20 yards or so to my right.  He also threw in the first verse of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” during the intro to “Black Diamond”.  There was a time when Kiss would play the exact same set list night after night during the Reunion and “Farewell” Tours when Frehley and Peter Criss were in the band, but this was a vastly different set list than the show I saw in December at Sprint Center.  Now I’m beginning to see Ace and Peter’s limitations as musicians, because Thayer and Singer are much more flexible and able to adapt to different material more easily, whereas Ace and Peter could only get through the same 18 songs every night, especially Peter.  When Kiss toured Japan in ’01 with Singer replacing Criss, it’s no small coincidence that they tried out some songs they hadn’t played in years like “Take Me” and “Mr. Speed”.

Kiss also flip-flopped the batting order a bit this time, with “Detroit Rock City” closing the show and “Rock And Roll All Nite” returning to its customary “clean-up” spot, so to speak, at the end of the encores where it belongs.  As with last time, the band played an extended six-song encore that included “Shout It Out Loud”, which also fits in much better toward the end than early on like they’ve done in recent years.  Before the encore, the band honored some local armed forces personnel and Paul even led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance before presenting a check to the military men for almost $350,000 for the charity Kiss sponsors called Wounded Warriors Care Fund, which goes toward helping wounded servicemen and women.  Right afterwards, someone down front threw a wad of cash that landed at Stanley’s feet, which I thought was rather cool.  And in another new wrinkle, Kiss dusted off Gene Simmons’ favorite song, “Beth” with Eric Singer on vocals and Stanley and Thayer on acoustic guitars.  This was the first time I’d ever actually seen them PLAY this song live in person all these years as opposed to Peter Criss singing along to the backing track—why in blue blazes couldn’t they have done it like this when Pete was in the band?  Oh well, Singer lived up to his surname and did a nice job.  By the time they got to “Rock And Roll All Nite”, Kiss had played 21 songs and well over two hours, but the fun wasn’t over yet.  The traditional confetti storm during RARAN transformed the Grandstand into a faux winter wonderland, although it wouldn’t surprise me if it really does snow in September around these parts!  Kiss finished up with their usual show-ending pyrotechnics, and as soon as their last bomb went off, more bombs started bursting in air behind the stage as a hellacious fireworks display got underway.  I’m not sure if this was Kiss’ doing or if it was part of the State Fair itself, but this thing went on for a good 20 minutes, and was most impressive, and the resulting mushroom cloud it left behind hovered over St. Paul and was visible for miles—I could actually see it from Bloomington on the way back to my hotel!

Opening act The Envy is a five-piece out of Toronto.  I arrived to hear the last four songs of their set, which was nothing terribly earth-shattering, but they didn't suck, either.  They sounded slightly U2-ish at times.

As I departed the venue following the rocket's red glare, I encountered this dude in the pic posing for photos with fans.  He wasn't the real Gene Simmons, but a damn good facsimilie of him.  I’m all set for Kiss concert #18 now, as this never gets old with me. Don’t know if Kiss plans any more K.C. dates any time soon, but to Gene and Paul and the boys I say, “Y’all come back now, y’hear?”

SET LIST:  Modern Day Delilah/Cold Gin/Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll/ Firehouse/Say Yeah/Deuce/Crazy Crazy Nights/Calling Dr. Love/Shock Me/I’m An Animal/100,000 Years/I Love It Loud/Love Gun/Black Diamond (w/excerpt from Whole Lotta Love)/Detroit Rock City  ENCORE:  Beth/Lick It Up/Shout It Out Loud/I Was Made For Lovin’ You/God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II/Rock And Roll All Nite

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