August 11, 2010
By Jill Cataldo for KISSonline
Photo by Doug Cataldo for KISSonline

On August 9th, KISS blew up the Indiana State Fair. (And that's no understatement. Anyone who was there can attest to the enormous amount of pyro and post-concert fireworks that lit up Indianapolis last night.) Now, some people initially seemed surprised when KISS released its summer tour schedule, peppered with state fair dates among traditional amphitheaters. How would the state fair shows play out for KISS?

No worries. KISS owned the state fair.

And why shouldn't they? One of the deepest-enmeshed traditions in our country is the annual state fair. A fair offers a slice of everything American, and you can find it all at the state fair -- from cows, pigs and horses to vegetable-growing competitions; from corn dogs and midway barkers to carnival rides and entertainment for the masses. And as far as entertainment's concerned, what act can possibly lay claim to being the most iconic and most American of them all? KISS.

In a recent interview, drummer Eric Singer stated "KISS has become a part of the fabric of Americana," and nowhere was that more evident than last night in Indianapolis, with more than 18,000 fans packing the Hoosier Lottery grandstand area in anticipation of the hottest show on the Earth. In fact, the demand was so high for seats in Indy that the grandstand was oversold, releasing obstructed-view seats that they don't normally sell to the public. Like baseball, apple pie and lemonade, KISS is America.

Last night, like many other families, my husband and I brought our three children to the fair to see KISS. With KISS' long and illustrious career nearing the 40-year mark, their fan base now reaches across generations. And while when I was younger, it may not have been the "in" thing to have your parents liking KISS, but according to our kids, it's supremely cool now.

For many KISS Army members, passing the musical torch that is KISS to our children is almost ritual-like. We love to see their reactions as they experience the show just as much as we do. So, in ninety-degree heat, we and thousands of others awaited the drop of that famous black curtain branded with a silver KISS.

"All right Indiana... you wanted the best, you got the best!" When the curtain dropped, Eric Singer was atop his drum kit, gesturing with his drumsticks to the crowd, which was already screaming with anticipation. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer rose over the drum kit on a silver platform, and as they stepped off, the platform folded away to reveal the enormous, lit logo of the band we love.

KISS opened with "Modern Day Delilah," quickly following with "Cold Gin," "Let Me Go, Rock and Roll," and "Firehouse." Throughout the tour, the set's been a great mix of KISS classics, old and new, and tonight was no exception. Paul Stanley has always been the consummate master of showmanship (please, someone just put Paul's picture next to the definition of "frontman" in the dictionary already!) and no other rock singer captures and holds a crowd of thousands quite the way Paul can. His stage presence, energy and ability are unmatchable by rock vocalists even half his age.

KISS continued its mix of old and new throughout the night. "Say Yeah," from the band's most recent album, "Sonic Boom," got a glorious response from the audience, with nearly every man, woman and child calling out "Yeah, yeah YEAH!" 1987's super-catchy singalong "Crazy Crazy Nights" followed shortly after, and it's one of my favorite additions to this tour's set list. (Some might argue the anachronism of seeing an in-makeup KISS perform a song from the non-makeup years, but I disagree. As a fan who spent her teen years deeply in love with 80s KISS, it's a delight to hear Paul singing this song again, especially after its nearly 20 years' absence from a tour setlist. And seeing the children in the audience sing along with every word in the chorus last night? Proof that it's as timeless as any other KISS classic.)

Tommy Thayer rocked his way through "Shock Me" and a joint guitar/drum solo with Eric that ended in an explosive firefight of pyrotechnics involving rockets and a bazooka, which the crowd ate up, roaring with approval. The Gene Simmons powerhouse "Animal" was another show highlight -- Gene prowled and oozed evil, swaggering around the stage in true Demon manner, again to the audience's delight.

Another show standout? Eric Singer's "Beth." KISS fans have heard "Beth" a thousand times before, but trust me when I say this is the most beautiful rendition of this song you'll ever hear live. Eric's vocal, both strong and tender, melds perfectly with the live, acoustic treatment this song deserves -- and the crowd, a singing, swaying, glowing mass of lighters and cellphones held high, agreed wholeheartedly.

Immediately after "Beth," Paul spoke about the band's continued committment to the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project. Throughout the tour, KISS has donated $1 for every ticket sold to Wounded Warrior Care, and last night, that running total exceeded $105,000. In an emotionally-charged speech, Paul urged fans to pray for the safe return of every one of the men and women serving our country. He then led the massive Indiana State Fair audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Looking around around the grandstand, I spotted many people with tears welling up in their eyes as they held their hands over their hearts, reciting our nation' pledge. How many rock bands today could unite their fans in such an incredibly moving, patriotic way?

Answer: One band. America's band. KISS.

And on this night, the Indiana State Fair, which offers everything from livestock events to a massive carnival midway to fair delicacies like chocolate-covered bacon and deep-fried butter, served up the most delicious treat of all to fair-goers ... America's beloved KISS.