1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre / Tampa, FL July 28, 2012
I recently visited my local Walmart and purchased a pair of brand new "big boy" pants in which to suck it up and (finally) embrace reality. The classic superhero Kiss of my pseudo rebellious youth has been laid to rest, and I've just got to accept it. The magical kabuki-faced gang of four is NO MORE! Ace Frehley and Peter Criss have left the building and they're not likely to come back. That's what the band's well-publicized 2000 Farewell Tour was all about. Kiss is now Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and whomever else they feel like including as their sidemen -- even if said replacements do look silly wearing the iconic Spaceman and Catman makeup and outfits.
The truth is, Kiss ceased being a rock and roll band years ago. By their own admission, the new millennium version of Kiss has little in common with their classic rock contemporaries, and everything in common with such household name brands as Coca-Cola and McDonald's. But after four decades, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Let's face it, fellow forty-somethings, it's 2012. 1976 was a VERY long time ago. Kiss has beaten the odds and survived, by whatever means necessary. And in the process they've become to rock and roll what the WWE is to sports: a show, a product. It's simply entertainment.
There is a level of expectation when plunking down $150 for a modern-day Kiss concert ticket, similar to when you order a top-dollar meal at P.F. Chang's. You know what you're gonna get and you get what you pay for. Yesterday's fans are today's customers and they rightfully expect a consistent, quality product in return for their hard-earned dollars. Kiss meets those expectations and delivers in spades.
The black, full-length stage curtain bearing the enormous iconic silver Kiss logo dropped at 9:36 pm, precisely as the battle cry was decreed: YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST! And just as I've seen so many times before for so many years, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and (this time) Tommy Thayer descended from the rafters to the stage via an elevator-like platform. With longtime drummer Eric Singer perched behind his massive kit, they immediately busted into the typical show opener, "Detroit Rock City." And amid a barrage of blinding and deafening pyrotechnics, a slew of fist-pumping anthems soon followed, including "Shout it Out Loud" and "I Love it Loud."
Although his voice seemed strained to the point of barely delivering his in-between-song pep-rally-type banter, frontman, guitarist, and co-founder Paul Stanley certainly had no problem splitting the uprights when it came to belting out his share of the dozen Kiss classics. Looking leaner, meaner, and healthier than most rockers half his age, the sixty-year-old rock legend showed aspiring pups how the big dogs do it as he placed his foot into a stirrup and was hoisted on a wire via a pulley device from the stage to his own personal platform in the middle of the crowd for the show-stopping "Love Gun." Bathed in skin-tight black spandex and framed delicately in silver sequins, Stanley's ass appeared firm, luscious, and enticing as he wiggled, danced, and pranced back and forth across the stage throughout the spectacular ninety-minute rock-based production.
Not one to be outdone by his younger partner, sixty-two-year-old reality TV star, best-selling author, bassist, co-founder, and all 'round marketing mogul Gene Simmons was as animated and entertaining as ever, stealing the spotlight several times. No matter how often I see it, Simmons' fire-breathing crescendo of "Firehouse" never gets old. And once again, "The Demon" spit blood and flew successfully (with the assistance of a harness and steel cables) to his personal platform attached to the top lighting trusses, overlooking the crowd. And as he serenaded the faithful with the flock favorite, "God of Thunder," it felt like 1977 -- all over.
Possessing Trump-like business savvy, Simmons and Stanley certainly have a firm grasp on marketing the Kiss brand. Their customer base no longer consists entirely of sixteen-year-old potheads. In fact, since digging out their makeup cases, platform boots, and Simmons' codpiece from mothballs back in '96, Kiss concerts have become a family affair, with mom, dad, gramps, Aunt Jane, and the young'ns all coming out together in droves for their big rock and roll night. Hence, Kiss delivers a high-quality, family-friendly, Vegas-style rock spectacle without the f-bomb showers and lowbrow sleaze presented proudly by so many current arena kingpins.
To their credit, kudos must be extended to Thayer and Singer. Although I miss Frehley and Criss as much as the next delusional diehard, and I'd personally be more comfortable with them being presented in their own unique outfits and makeup designs, they're clearly in no position to challenge their bosses' authority. They're both seasoned pros and amazing players who truly add value to the live Kiss experience.
On this night, the band could do no wrong and acknowledged favorites such as "Lick it Up," "Shock Me," and "Black Diamond" all met with thunderous crowd approval. Even "Hell or Hallelujah," a new track from the band's upcoming record, Monster, was received as warmly as their longtime classics.
And with all of the surprise element of a "Rocky" saga, the costumed warriors wrapped the show up with their signature hit, "Rock and Roll All Nite," as they systematically blew the entire joint to pieces with enough fire power to defeat the mightiest Middle Eastern militia.
So did Kiss offer anything new, shocking, or different during this show? Umm, not really. Fans have pretty much seen this show over and over for years. But the funny thing is, despite the predictability, Kiss concerts are still pretty flippin' awesome, dude, and worth every penny! Now pass the freaking McNuggets.