By Gruesome Greg
When I was 10, the holy trinity of hard rock bands consisted of AC/DC, KISS, and…wait for it… Nazareth. The Scottish rockers had a shoulda-bin stadium stomper in “Hair of the Dog” and turned Joni Mitchell’s “This Flight Tonight” into a hard-rockin’ hit. I actually used to draw pictures of myself wearing a Nazareth T-Shirt back in grade school. I kid you not.
To this day, I still don’t own a Nazareth T-Shirt. I also haven’t seen them live, and I think I could live without doing so. But after catching AC/DC for the first time last November, my pre-teen dream was realized last nite when I finally saw KISS in concert.
It should be noted that I grew up in Calgary, which wasn’t a big enough city at the time to attract big-name bands on a regular basis. While KISS and the DC had played the Saddledome during my youth, their shows sold out really fast, as entertainment-starved Calgarians rushed to get tickets. (It also didn’t help that I was without a credit card in those days…)
That’s why last nite was my first time seeing KISS in concert. Twas also my first time sitting in the 100 section at the Air Canada Centre. When I found out that floors weren’t General Admission, I decided against spending an extra 50 bucks on a folding chair. I’d seen a few sporting events from the upper deck, and been on the floor for three concerts at the ACC, but until last nite I hadn’t experienced the comfort that fat cats spend a few hundred bucks on for Leafs games. The padded seats practically belonged in a movie theatre, and the lower-level concessions had an impressive array of choices. I went for the Hoser Special: back bacon sandwich, poutine and an oversized beer. And like the legions of KISS fans young and old, I forked over 40 dollars, along with my soul, to Gene Simmons for a concert T-Shirt. They had at least a dozen to choose from; a selection almost as varied as the stadium cuisine.
I had just settled into my front-row seat and was still picking bacon outta my teeth when disaster struck. Buckcherry, who’ve been trying to sound like Guns ‘n Roses for so long that they could almost be considered trendsetters, were the evening’s opening act. If that wasn’t disastrous in itself, the fact that they blew the PA system’s speakers within 30 seconds certainly was. The band played on without vocals as Josh Todd tried to get a new mic, strutting back on stage only to remain inaudible. For a while, their confused drummer tried to fire up the crowd as the rest of his bandmates left the stage. It was the most amusing audio accident I’ve witnessed since MegaDave’s mega-meltdown at Gigantour ’06.
After a 15-minute delay, the band came back and played “Lit Up,” the only Buckcherry song anybody wanted to hear. Unfortunately, they had a few more afterwards, including a horrendous cover of “Highway Star.” Doesn’t the Bible of Rock state “Thou Shalt Not Glam Up Deep Purple”? Well, if it doesn’t, it should.
With a large team of roadies working with amazing efficiency, it didn’t take long before the KISS banner was draped over the stage, and the strains of Led Zep’s “Rock ‘n Roll” blasted throughout the area. Apparently KISS uses Zeppelin as their entrance music these days. This of course preceeded the legendary introduction: “You wanted the best, etc…”
Although KISS opened with a bang to the strains of “King of the Nighttime World,” the song ended with a fizzle as the PA dropped out again. I’d heard some bad sound at the ACC before, but this was getting ridiculous! Paul Stanley tried to get the crowd fired up until he realized we couldn’t hear him. The whole band left the stage, but when they returned, Stanley’s mic still wasn’t working. They got back into it though with the Simmons-sung “Deuce” as things returned to normal.
What with all the video screens, lights and pyrotechnics, I kept worrying that they’d blow the power again, but I guess whatever problems the venue had were limited to the PA. This being their Alive 35 tour, KISS played a lot of classics, although with a band like KISS, you’re never gonna hear every song that you’re hoping for. Their performance, complete with explosions, flames, confetti, Gene Simmons singing “I Love It Loud” from the rafters and Paul Stanley taking a zipline into the crowd for “Love Gun” showed that they’re still one of the best arena rock bands going.
The lineup consists of two old guys and two ringers–Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer were even wearing Ace and Peter’s makeup–but they still put on a great show. Far from the egotistical creep he appears to be on television, Simmons is a master of the stage, with his tongue wagging and evil facial expressions to match his axe-shaped bass and demon wings. That being said, he missed the first verse on one song while trying to pick out who he wanted to fuck in the front row.
Tommy Thayer is clearly the best Ace Frehley impersonator Gene could find; he even replicated Ace’s guitar rocket-launcher solo. And Eric Singer, like his name suggests can actually sing from his perch atop the massive light-up KISS drum riser.
Paul Stanley also seems a lot younger on stage, although his dialogue was pretty ham-fisted. He went on about how every country had an anthem before playing the KISS anthem “Rock ‘n Roll All Nite,” told the kids in attendance that “just like we were there for your mom and dad, KISS will be there for you,” and said that they eat couch potatoes in trying to coax people to “stand up for the power of rock ‘n roll.” He also failed massively in trying to get the crowd to sing along to “Black Diamond”. Frankly, I think he was right about the fans being better in Montreal, which didn’t seem to fire up the crowd as he had hoped.
After playing Alive, along with a couple new tunes, they came back for an encore of “Shout It Out Loud,” “Lick It Up,” “Cold Gin” and a couple others before ending with “Detroit Rock City.” It’s interesting that they piped one of their own songs as the crowd was leaving, namely “God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You.” Not sure why they didn’t actually, y’know, play it… Guess they didn’t wanna upset the late Eric Carr, not that they had a problem with pissing on Peter Criss…
Nevertheless, I can now say that I’ve seen KISS in concert. My childhood innocence can rest in peace.
On that note, my favourite death metal band, Macabre, is playing the Annex Wreckroom tomorrow, along with local punk rockers Dirty Bird, Ottawa thrashers Reanimator and The Great Collapse, a female-fronted tech-death side project from the guys in The Womb. A nite of songs about serial killers and mass murderers is a perfect way to close out the weekend–I’ll cya there!