A KISS FOR PERU!!
by Ben Jonjak
Photos by Isabel Guerra
My wife had never been to a rock concert. Sure, she'd seen a variety of shows and performances here in Peru, but she'd never seen a good old-fashioned rock and roll meltdown. So, when I found out that KISS was coming to Lima, I immediately rushed out to buy some tickets. I figured that my wife might as well be baptized by fire, and what better band to introduce you to rock than KISS! She was really excited about the idea right up until she saw the episode of 'Family Guy' where the husband takes his wife to KISS only to have Paul Stanley stick a microphone in her face during the show and...gasp...she doesn't know the words! Seeing this show traumatized my wife (she was sure the same thing was going to happen to her, thus bringing the show to an embarrassing halt), so she immediately started downloading KISS songs and practicing them with her students in class!
By the time the concert date arrived, we were ready! However, the absolute craziness of the swarming masses arriving at the Estadio Nacional took us a little by surprise. Making our way up Arequipa was a series of stops and starts, but that's what you have to expect when you have a gathering of 30,000 plus people. Such things don't happen everyday, you have to feed off the energy!
The thronging masses waited in the Estadio listening to blasting music from the towering speakers and waiting for the massive 'KISS' blazoned curtain to fall. Suddenly a voice bellowed from the darkness, 'Lima, you wanted it, you've got it!' and the curtain fell, the music swelled, and a massive fireball exploded into the night.
Standing on stage in their fairly intimidating (in the case of Gene Simmons anyway) spandex, leather, metal, high-heel, face-painted ensembles, was the legendary quartet of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. Stanley started the show at the top of his voice, but by the end he was spent (although that didn't stop him from heroically continuing with all the old KISS favorites long into the night).
KISS's show is more than a concert, it's a performance, and you get the sense that every second of the proceedings has been meticulously planned. From the pyrotechnics to the stunts, everything went off without a hitch. A highlight was Eric Singer's drum solo (during which I assume the other members went off to get some therapy for their strained vocal chords...those songs aren't easy to sing). In the middle of the solo, the whole drum kit was lifted up into the air with spraying gas issuing from beneath. Later came a tremendous guitar solo from Thayer, and a psychotic bass solo from Gene in which he filled his mouth up with some kind of red liquid and then spat it all over himself as he waggled his legendary tongue (we all knew that Gene would finish the performance drenched in something that looked more or less like blood). As a matter of fact, Gene Simmons all by himself would be a fairly interesting stage show. His spike-covered armor and feral battle paint combined with his penchant for prowling around the stage like a wild animal makes him a constant focal point. At the end of Simmons's solo, he was lifted up on a cable to the top of the stage where he intimidated the audience into giving him a roaring ovation (we truly believed he was going to fly down and beat the hell out of us if we didn't worship him, a true rock moment!).
Throughout the show, Paul managed the ceremonies with tremendous wit and charisma. KISS has been around since before time, and by now the band knows how to make an audience react. There were various shouting matches between halves of the stadium, a moment when Stanley had us screaming 'YEAH!' every time he thrust his fist into the air, and, of course, whenever things started slowing down, the band exploded back to life on the force of another thunderous fireball (you felt the heat flashes even in the crowd).
For a grand finale, Stanley flew out over the crowd on a cable and performed his final song on a platform in the center of the stadium. It was a pristine moment, and on the massive screens there was a spectacular image composed of Stanley in the forefront, the screaming crowd behind him, and the lit-up, pyrotechnic stage in the background. Martin Scorsese couldn't have composed a better image.
'Lima, you are numero uno!' Stanley screamed, and then the band withdrew into the darkness as a series of fireworks lit up the night. As the crowd spilled out into the streets, there was a collective sense of awe and euphoria (plus relief, I think, on my wife's part for not, in the end, having a microphone shoved in her face), and I know myself and more than 30,000 others are all looking forward to KISS's return to Lima, Peru!