September 14, 2010
By Laurie Lonsdale
Photo by Scott McAlpine

Exactly thirty-five years after the release of their first album, KISS celebrated the milestone at Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in Toronto, with a stage set up reminiscent of their early days and the cartoon-like personas we've grown to know and love. While the band's founders still exist in demon bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons and Starchild guitarist/vocalist Paul Stanley, the rest of the line-up now sees guitarist Tommy Thayer who has comfortably stepped into Ace Frehley's Spaceman boots, while drummer Eric Singer now dons the cat make-up that was originally worn by Peter Criss.

With the venue packed to capacity, the big screens on either side of the stage depicted a satellite view of world, coming ever closer to home as it honed in on Toronto, and then revealed backstage as the infamous New York foursome, in full make-up and dress, were led to the stage by original band manager Doc McGhee. The retro footage was cause for fans to cheer and spring to their feet in anticipation of the show. "You wanted the best, you got the best! Ladies and Gentlemen - KISS!" was heard over the loud speaker, and the excitement of the crowd was palpable as the black kabuki curtain finally fell.

The show kicked off with "Modern Day Delilah", featuring drummer Eric Singer on a riser high above the stage, with Simmons, Stanley, and Thayer on a platform that rose above the drum kit and lowered to the front. The band eventually settled onto the main stage and continued on with "Cold Gin", "Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll", and "Firehouse," the latter of which included the big screen backdrop and a bank of screened amps digitally lighting up with flames and causing the stage to look as though it had been set afire.

KISS has given fans plenty of different looks over the years, including an unmasked glam guise in the '80s and a biker-leather look in the early '90s. They’ve even gone with an elegant air in custom-fitted business suits. But for this tour it's Classic KISS, back to full make-up, black and silver spandex costumes, and impossibly high platform shoes. Their stage antics were also those from yesteryear, as Simmons thrilled fans with his infamous fire-breathing trick, and channelled his inner demon while spitting up blood and flying on guide wires to a platform high above the stage.

Early in the performance, Simmons and Stanley temporarily took a break, allowing Tommy Thayer to take over with a crowd-pleasing solo that featured pyrotechnics shooting from his guitar. The segment then included a solo from Singer, whose drum kit again was lifted into in the air as fog billowed from the corners of the platform. Thayer also was lifted on a fog-spewing riser, and the two accomplished musicians played together until they were lowered to the stage and rejoined by Simmons and Stanley.

With spokesman Stanley delivering well-rehearsed verbiage that segued nicely into song titles, the band continued on together with such classics as "Deuce" and "Crazy Crazy Nights". "Calling Dr. Love" saw Simmons take over on vocals and resume showcasing his legendary tongue while licking the neck of his bass or wagging it with lightening speed toward the audience.

"I'm an Animal", from the band's latest release and nineteenth studio offering Sonic Boom, also came with an announcement from Stanley that it was available "exclusively at Wal-Mart". Directly after, the band flipped right back to the beginning again with "100,000 Years" from their debut album. "I Love it Loud" had the audience singing en masse, as did the classic "Love Gun", and was followed closely by Stanley's delivery of a shortened but nonetheless effective cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love". At 58 years of age, he still delivers the sexy moves that had girls swooning in the aisles 35 years ago, and his obvious stamina continues to carry the bulk of the vocals and the show.

"Black Diamond" and "Detroit Rock City" rounded out the main portion of the set, then after a short break, KISS returned for a 5-song encore that included the band's most memorable ballad, "Beth". The sexually suggestive "Lick it Up" also came with a snippet of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again", before the era of disco was revived with "I Was Made for Lovin' You". With fans still on their feet and honouring the band that has given them 35 years of good time rock n' roll along with over-the-top theatrics and unforgettable live shows; fittingly the show ended with "God Gave Rock n' Roll to You" as well as the band's signature song "Rock n' Roll all Nite".

KISS Set List:
Modern Day Delilah / Cold Gin / Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll / Firehouse / Say Yeah / Deuce / Crazy Crazy Nights / Calling Dr. Love / Shock Me / I'm An Animal / 100,000 Years / I Love It Loud / Love Gun / Whole Lotta Love / Black Diamond / Detroit Rock City / Encore: Beth /Lick It Up with a snippet of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again"/ I Was Made For Lovin' You / God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You /Rock And Roll All Nite