September 26, 2009
Adam Graham / Detroit News Pop Music Writer

Detroit Rock City came alive Friday night as Kiss kicked off their latest tour in the venue that made them famous (and the venue they made famous): Cobo Arena.

It was there where the legendary costumed rockers recorded "Alive!" the 1975 live album that put them on the musical map. And on Friday, in front of a fervent sold-out crowd of around 12,000, the band reprised the majority of "Alive!" during the 20-song, 2-hour and 10-minute show that acted as a mutual love fest between Kiss and Detroit. The band performs again at Cobo on Saturday.

"Cobo Hall!" frontman Paul Stanley shouted early in the set Friday. "For us, this is the holy land. This is where it all started."

Fans, many of whom came dressed like their favorite Kiss members in outrageous costumes and greasy face paint, certainly treated the venue like it was sacred ground, some coming from as far away as Wisconsin and West Virginia for the concert. Cobo's future remains uncertain, but Kiss said it wanted to perform there one last time before it becomes rubble -- like Tiger Stadium, where the group kicked off its 1996 reunion tour.

"When we heard they were gonna close (Cobo) down, we said, not without us coming back," said Stanley, before launching into "C'mon and Love Me." Later he joked, "Next time we see ya, I guess it will be at what, The Palace?" to a chorus of boos from the audience.

On stage, the band was up to its old tricks: Gene Simmons spit blood, breathed fire and flew to the top of the arena to perform "I Love It Loud" atop a lighting rig, while Stanley rode out over the crowd to play "Love Gun" on a rotating satellite stage at the back of the arena. Meanwhile, guitarist Tommy Thayer -- who replaced Ace Frehley earlier this decade -- was technically up to Ace's old tricks, shooting fireballs out of the neck of his guitar during an extended solo, while drummer Eric Singer -- who replaced Peter Criss, also earlier this decade -- played atop a drum riser connected to a hydraulic lift that rose high into the air and rotated to face all sides of the arena.

The production was typical Kiss: loud, in your face, and proud of it. The band was backed by a video screen as wide as the stage, and four tiers of smaller, square-shaped video screens were stacked like boxes at the rear of the set. Meanwhile, flames and explosions burst throughout the show, and the confetti shower that rained down during the set-closing "Rock and Roll All Nite" was as thick and dense as a February snowstorm.

Stanley's constant stage banter -- he truly is one of the chattiest frontmen in rock -- was lighthearted throughout the evening, though he did touch on Detroit's economic hardships at one point, saying the fact that a city like Detroit has such a high unemployment rate "is a sin." Stanley said his sympathies go out to those in the city and said things would turn themselves around -- all as an intro to "Rock and Roll All Nite," almost to ensure the proceedings didn't get too heavy.

In addition to celebrating the 35th anniversary of "Alive!" the band is also pushing its new album "Sonic Boom," which hits stores early next month. Late in the set they debuted "Modern Day Delilah," playing it live for the first time, and in sound and feel the song fit in with the band's classic material.

The show closed the only way it could, with a rip-roaring "Detroit Rock City," and with Stanley praising his beloved "church of rock and roll." He proceeded to run down Detroit's musical history, touching on Motown, Bob Seger, Mitch Ryder, the Stooges, Alice Cooper and more, saying, "there's something about Michigan that just puts rock and roll in the blood."

And by spitting that blood up all over stage, Kiss made its mark on the city one more time, and made sure that no matter what becomes of Kiss or Cobo, the memories of their shared history will last forever.