October 17, 2009
By Mike Doyle

When I was 5 years old, I remember rocking out to KISS downstairs in our family room pretty much every evening before dinner.

My Mom would yell at me to come to the table and sit with the family, but I couldn't. Not until the explosions were finished going off at the end of KISS Alive II would I appear at the dinner table.

I had the makeup kit and the trading cards. I remember applying the small rose tattoo that was included in the Alive II album sleeve to my shoulder, and pretending I was Paul Stanley. KISS was magical to kids back in the 70s.

On Friday night, I was reminded of that magic. The "Hottest Band In The World" made a stop at Hampton Coliseum on Friday night, as KISS returned to Hampton Roads.

The amazingly well-marketed masked men were in town in support of their KISS Alive 35 World Tour, celebrating 35 years since the release of their breakthrough album, KISS Alive as well as their most recent release Sonic Boom.

The band rose to an incredible level of fame in the late 70s, propelled by their in-concert experience which included massive stage shows, pyrotechnics, and of course, the bands' trademark black and white Kabuki-style make up.

With over 100 million records sold and 24 gold-certified records, KISS showed Hampton why they are considered one of the most influential bands in rock and roll.

Opening with "Deuce," the band kicked off their show in classic KISS style with explosions and giant flames. Gene Simmons prowled the stage as the 'demon,' as if he was hunting certain audience members. In the good old days, of course, Simmons was on the prowl for groupies, but today, he's a tamed family-man, as witnessed in his A&E reality show Gene Simmons' Family Jewels.

However, once the makeup is on, Simmons transforms to his dark lascivious alter ego as punctuated by the blood oozing from his mouth during his bass solo leading into "I Love It Loud". Lead singer and starchild, Paul Stanley is KISS's cheerleader, pumping up the crowd with all of the cliche one-liners, yet somehow (maybe 35 years of brewing charisma) Stanley makes you believe he's talking directly to you.

Members of the KISS Army (the band's massive and loyal fanbase) know that original guitarist and drummer, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are no longer with the band, and haven't been for quite some time.

Drummer Eric Singer is going on his 18th year with the band; and guitarist Tommy Thayer, has been playing the part of
"Spaceman" since 2003.

The setlist included primarily classic KISS songs as "Strutter," "Hotter Than Hell" (featuring a fire-breathing Gene Simmons), "Black Diamond," and "Let's Go Rock & Roll."

The band's most popular song and party anthem "Rock And Roll All Night" closed out the set with confetti showering down on the audience.

However, the band wasn't quite done. The multi-song encore included some of the best of the night. "Shout It Out Loud," "Lick It Up," "Love Gun," and the infamous "Detroit Rock City" ended the night.

KISS forged the way in live concert experiences. They were one of the first to use fire, explosions, lasers, and other features during their performances.

With KISS, it's about the experience. It's the blood, fire, explosions, makeup, smoking guitars, and costumes that make KISS special. And, it's the sum of the parts that makes us love the music and creates the memories.

On Friday night, my memory took me back to my childhood when KISS was magic.