November 21, 2009
KISS at the Rose Garden in Portland: Where do I even start?

This review is going to be totally biased because this was not my usual concert experience. First of all, I bought side stage (read "expensive") tickets because I was taking my 10 year old son and wanted him to have his mind blown. So our seats were unreal.

Second, my co-guitar player in my Portland band is a long-time friend of the Thayer family (KISS-man Tommy Thayer is from Portland). So long story short, I run into Pat at will call, and he is picking up a pass for a meet and greet. I knew about this and of course had asked if he could find out if he could bring me and my kid, and of course he couldn't. No shock there - but I thought it never hurts to ask.

But lo and behold he gets his envelope and there are five passes in it. He wanted to make sure he didn't mistakenly have someone else's passes so he went in alone and my son and I got settled. Pat then texted me that we could have two of the extra passes. Sweet!

So he comes and gets us and we stroll across the main floor backstage just in time to see the fab four in full makeup and gear walk by to go to the meet and greet. I high five Gene Simmons as he walks by. My life is complete.

We are ushered into a room where almost everyone is a friend/family member of Thayer. On the other side of a black curtain separating the room is the meet and greet, and there is a line of folks posing with KISS for a photographer.

So we went back around to where we started and eventually Tommy came into the room to greet his friends and family. Got his photo with my son, got an autograph on my Sonic Boom CD. We had just enough time to hit the bathroom, grab a couple of waters and get back to our seats.

Oh yeah, so then the show started. The band I saw tonight was the tightest version of KISS I have ever seen. Of course I was blown away by the lights, bombs, smoke, spitting blood, revolving drum set, flying bass player etc.

But they were really tight. Eric Singer has a double kick set and he used it to its fullest potential. Maybe it was because he was in his home town, but Thayer blew the doors off of his leads. I swear I didn't miss Ace once, and that is about as blasphemous as I get. Didn't hurt that we were so close to Thayer that I got one of his thrown guitar picks, which I promptly gave to my son. The night just kept getting better, huh?

Vocal harmonies were tight. Paul Stanley did more rocking than I have ever seen. Gene was great. His blood spitting bit has evolved a bit and is even more monster-movie derived, which is a good thing. He did Calling Dr. Love, which is one of my faves from childhood. In fact, the setlist was mostly stuff from Alive!, with personal faves being Hotter Than Hell and 100,000 Years. They did two new songs - both were awesome live, two 80s era songs (Lick It Up and I Love It Loud.)

One more note on Thayer. He kept mugging to our side because many of his family/friends were seated in my section. Right before Rock and Roll al Nite, I saw him go up to Eric Singer and get a drumstick, which he promptly slid into one of his hip-high boots and walked towards our side. Under cover of the raining down confetti, he leaned over the stage and handed the stick to a guy who came over to our section and gave it to a kid who must have been about 3 or 4. High class, that Tommy Thayer.

So to sum up, this is not the classic KISS lineup, and they don't sound like the classic KISS lineup. It's something else and damn it, it is good. I bought this ticket thinking, I will take my kid and then I'll be done with KISS. But if they came back tomorrow, I'd be there.

And, if I am able to do half the stuff Paul Stanley did onstage when I am pushing 60, I will be a very lucky guy. That dude is immortal.