LAS VEGAS: STILL IMPRESSES
November 29, 2009
By John Katsilometes
Excerpted from Las Vegas Sun

Paul Stanley said something profound at Pearl Theater at the Palms on Saturday night. It was a pointed comment explaining his lack of onstage profundity.

"If you think a rock and roll band is going to solve the world's problems, you're in the wrong damn place!" he shouted to the sudience. Then the band attacked a robust little number called, "Rock and Roll all Nite."

Solving world hunger or global warning or any of the world's ills is not the objective of KISS, glowered the grease-painted 57-year-old rock icon, whose work attire remains an ensemble of tight black Spandex pants stamped with silver stalls, tall silver heels and a sparkled black vest exposing ample swarthiness.

Stanley's point is well-taken. KISS has never been about anything but rockin' out, escaping from whatever stress reality presents. That's one reason for the fantastic onstage alter-egos - to get away from it all. Some have a stiff drink to knock the edge off; others dial up "Rock and Roll Over."

There's little question, given the proven KISS formula, that it would be impossible to stand in front of an audience with a face full of demonic makeup, wearing a codpiece the size of a catcher's mitt, and intone, "I need to take a moment here and say this: I think it is sinful that more than 47 million Americans are living without health insurance. And now, here's, 'Dr. Love.'"

Some bands can accomplish the delicate merger of rock and moral consciousness - Bono has turned the midshow call-to-arms monologue into an art form. But those bands need to exist on separate planes. Sad to say, but we can forget about ever seeing a KISS/U2 double billing.

That's fine. KISS exists as a singular entity. It is a uniformed culture, this 35-year-old KISS Army, and it seems to be growing with every reunion, anniversary, and lineup change and time demarcation. Saturday's audience was a sea of veteran rock zealots who had grown up with KISS, many of whom seemed bent on making sure their children followed suit, even if it meant explaining to their pre-teens that there was fulfillment in being painted to look like a cat or spaceman for an event that was not Halloween.

The band borrowed from its early years, much to the delight of those who played KISS on the miracle of vinyl in those days. "Strutter" is still a favorite. "Hotter Than Hell" was in there. "Dr. Love," "Shock Me," "Shout It Out Loud," "Lick It Up," and the finale, "Detroit Rock City." Fans of KISS shtick delighted in Gene Simmons' fire-breathing moment to cap "Hotter Than Hell." Playing to his strengths as always, Simmons still regularly tongues at the audience. Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer were provided lengthy segments to prove that, if it ever came to this, they could hold an audience for six or seven minutes without the others. The current KISS lineup - with Eric Singer on drums and Tommy Thayer on lead guitar -- has produced a release, "Sonic Boom," most critics like and that debuted No. 2 on the Billboard charts in its exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart.

Theatrically, KISS still impresses visually and audibly. But KISS' famed pyrotechnic show, replete with flames and sound bursts, repeatedly rocked the small theater, and just when you thought, "One more blast from that stage would be obnoxious," - the show's over. "Rock and Roll all Nite" and the encore, capped by the great "Detroit Rock City," was set amid a blizzard of white confetti that nearly rendered the band invisible.

At the center of all this tumult was the familiarly hypnotic KISS sign. KISS continues to flash and fire away, glad to rock 'n' roll, and that's the only message today's KISS Army needs to know.