KISS

KISS at St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY

This past week, I was lucky to catch two local KISS shows for what appears to be the very last time. Honestly, I wasn’t ready for this. As our heroes get older, so many artists are beginning to bring their historic touring careers to a close. This year (or possibly over the next), KISS is doing exactly that with their “End of the Road” tour.

Looking back, I was a really lucky KISS fan. I got into them just ahead of their “MTV Unplugged” album back in the mid-’90s, just enough to have been a fan prior to their original reunion/return to makeup. Upon hearing that album of classics performed in a stripped-down manner, I found myself completely pulled into the craze. Fortunately for me, a big reunion was just around the corner. While Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ return to KISS was relatively short-lived, with Criss being the last to leave back in 2003, the band has carried on and enjoyed a huge resurgence in the time since then. With '90s drummer Eric Singer returning to the fold, and long-time contributor Tommy Thayer taking on the “Space Man” mantle, their additions bought us another decade-plus of KISS, along with two albums of new material (2009’s Sonic Boom and 2012’s Monster).

Fast-forward to now and KISS is blazing their way through virtually every market in the US as they say goodbye the only way they know how bigger and better than everyone else! Having had two shows on the agenda for the week, I was lucky enough to bring my 9-year-old son to one of them, complete with Gene Simmons face paint (his choice). When I attended my first show as a 17-year-old high school kid, I hadn’t dreamed that I’d be able to share this with my son, but here I was, doing what so many other fans of classic music have done in the past.

The production on this set was massive, and as always, is worth the price of admission all by itself. Fortunately, you’ll also get a full two-hour set of KISS classics covering a load of their '70s hits, but also including some of the very best tracks from the ’80s and '90s including “War Machine,” “Lick it Up” and “Psycho Circus” to name just a few.

The show itself began as they all do, with a giant black KISS curtain drop and the unmistakable “pop” as the opening salvo of pyrotechnics introduced “Detroit Rock City.” Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer all descended on individual platforms at the front of the stage as massive flames spat out on either side. In the back, Eric Singer was also high atop an extended drum riser, as all four members of KISS were lowered to stage level. Immediately, Gene Simmons, complete with his axe-shaped bass, walked to the front of the stage and began posing and licking the bass in classic fashion. The trio of Simmons, Stanley and Thayer got together at center stage for several of their poses, pointing to the crowd to rile up the KISS Army at every chance they could.

By the time “Detroit Rock City” had concluded, it was evident that this would be every bit the KISS show fans had come to expect, and one they wouldn’t soon forget. Immediately, the band transitioned into “Shout it Out Loud,” another mega-hit from their 1976 album Destroyer, followed quickly by “Deuce.”

Things took a slight turn for the modern with a handful of songs like “Say Yeah” from 2009’s Sonic Boom along with '80s hits “I Love it Loud,” “Heaven’s on Fire,” “Mar Machine” and “Lick It Up.” After “100,000 Years” and an Eric Singer drum solo, they jumped into “Cold Gin,” complete with Tommy Thayer’s rocket shooting guitar.

The next moment was one that will stay with me forever though, as the stage lights went dark, with all but a green hue, as Simmons took center stage. My son, who had recently wanted KISS’s KISS Rocks Vegas Blu-ray at home, knew exactly what was coming up next, as Simmons began to assault his bass, spewing blood before being hoisted up to the ceiling to perform “God of Thunder.”

Just a few songs further into the set, it was Stanley’s turn for some theatrics of his own as he rode a cable out into the crowd atop a small circular stage to perform “Love Gun” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” before returning to close out the main set with “Black Diamond.”

At this point in the show, some of what remained was likely pretty obvious, as Eric Singer sat at a piano on stage to perform “Beth,” leaving just a pair of songs left in the set. First up was “Crazy Crazy Nights,” a catch if underplayed hit from the ’80s and finally, one of the biggest show-stopping closers of all, “Rock and Roll All Nite,” as all the confetti you could imagine was blown from the stage to finish off the evening.

After all of that, a 20-song set, spanning two full hours of fun, and it was all over. Part of me thinks maybe KISS will fill in a few of the gaps in the tour schedule and circle back to some of the cities that were missed on this run. I’ve been fortunate to see them roughly a dozen times since their reunion in 1996, but I’d love to fit in at least one more before it’s all over. If they’ve yet to play in your town, go get your tickets, you’ll have a blast! You’ll hear all the biggest hits and some killer selections from throughout their career. I’m certainly glad and went, and even more happy I was able to take my son along to pass along some of this magic to the next generation!