December 08, 2009

Nearly a decade after its farewell tour, the larger-than-life, greasepaint, leather and platform-wearing quartet still stomps out hits. Big time.

Some 35 years after its inception, Tuesday night's KISS concert at the BOK Center was Disney gone horror show. When it comes to rock 'n' roll, that's a very, very good thing.

From the audience pit railing, a pint-sized devil-faced Gene Simmons hoisted his rock hand at the real deal, who towered over him and returned the salute. The devil grinned and twirled, cape spinning out as he strutted away.

The night was full of "classic vintage KISS," yelled Stanley. He lead a cheeky, rock pep-rally and cheering contests between youngsters and oldsters. Of course, they all won.

Indeed, the set list was heavy with early classics that exploded in old-school showmanship. "Deuce," "Strutter," "Hotter Than Hell," "Calling Dr. Love," "Shock Me," "Rock and Roll All Nite," "Shout it Out Loud," "Lick it Up" and more pounded out with fierce volume and ecstatic cries from the crowd.

They struck out on a vintage hit parade that included party anthems about women, sex, private parts, women, sex acts and bombast. And sex. And bombast. And women.

There were smoke grenades, fire breathing, blinding strobes, silver-glittered platform boots, rows and rows of video screens, stories-tall LED projection screens, blood-spitting, aerial acrobatics, whirling drum kits, noodling guitar solos.

What else? And that tongue - bassist Gene Simmons' outstretched, crimson-wet, wagging,taunting tongue.

If all the showmanship didn't all so utterly embody the very essence of KISS - and genuine rock 'n' roll - it would be a tired, hilariously overdone cliche.

Many claim that KISS invented the spectacle of arena rock some 35 years ago. For this tour, the band re-invented them.

Stanley gets it. At times, the near-parody brought the crowd to laughter. It's always to laugh near, not at, right?

It was surreal when singer and guitarist Paul Stanley warned about the dangers of drunken driving before launching into "Cold Gin." Yeah, he said it. Paul Stanley, one of the most bombastic greasepainted faces in rock pushed a little bit of personal responsibility onto his fans.

He also touted new classics and Wal-Mart - about half a dozen times -before launching into the first tune of the night from their first studio album in 11 years, "Sonic Boom."

Though new, it only warranted two songs in the two-hour concert: "Modern Day Delilah" and "Say Yeah."

At times, the guys looked a bit awkward when they'd go knock-kneed, hovering over 8-inch platform boots as they leaned into blistering guitar and bass solos. But c'mon, they were playing "Detroit Rock City." Confetti cannons exploded. Fireballs flash-heated the arena.

Lead guitarist Thayer's the babe-in-ax at age 49. He also stole the show with his four-minute long solo and his rocket-shooting guitar, which happened to take out a piece of scaffolding.

So what if all of the guys in the band are firmly embedded in middle age. They've had a lifetime to perfect this. Heck, they practically invented it.