CLASSIC ... BUT SONICALLY, GRANDER!
July 24, 2009
BY CHRIS ALEXANDER

As a lifelong, card carrying member of the KISS Army, I just had to share...

This Tuesday past I had my rock rolled off seeing the band that, for me, has become mythical - KISS - live at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ontario. The two night stop was part of an appendage of their ALIVE 35 tour, celebrating the 35th anniversary of the double disc live album that put them on the map, ALIVE. The tour boasted a whack of off-kilter Canadian stops including Sarnia and Windsor, in addition to Ottawa, Halifax and Montreal and I was lucky enough to get floor seats verrrry near front of stage and managed to get close enough in the photo pit that I could see up Paul Stanley's nose, close enough to get Gene Simmons' drool in my eye...

If you scroll over my Blood Spattered Blog, you can read up on how important KISS is to my horror heritage, to my outrageous, exploitation culture leanings. They have been my heroes since I was old enough to talk in full sentences and, even when it was terribly un-cool to dig the Simmons/Stanley machine, I was there, waving the flag. When they got rid of the makeup and became full on metal, I still stayed, mainly because I believed then as I believe now that Stanley is an incredible songwriter and has the 2nd best howl in rock and roll (Robert Plant having the first). I even saw them during that naked phase, on the ASYLUM tour when I was 11.

But mark my words, no matter how old and infirm I evolve, I shall NEVER, EVER forget the balls out, blow-em-up magnificence and glory of KISS as they were at the Casino on Tuesday.

Trotting out almost exclusively old tracks pre-1975, KISS owned that stage, belching fire, dripping blood, swaggering stomping and marauding while proving that ill informed rock critics who have often labeled the band empty shtick were only half right - Simmons is a killer bassist and Stanley is perhaps the greatest living front man in music history. At the ripe age of 57, the man can still shimmy, kick and command an audience with the best of them. Incredible stuff.

And even though drummer Peter Criss and legendary lead axeman Ace Frehely have left the fold again because of reasons ranging from greed, rustiness or substance abuse, the band sounds stronger than it has since the early 80's (when Eric Carr brought his Bonzo style skins to the fold) due to drummer Eric Singer and, more importantly Tommy Thayer on guitar. Both Singer and Thayer have been controversial due to the fact they don Criss and Frehely's stage characters but the ultimate effect is classic KISS...but sonically, even grander.

The show blew my mind. From the minute the sheet dropped and the smoke drenched stage revealed the hydraulic risers lowering with the band members on board to the strains of "Deuce" (off their first, self-titled platter), to the fireworks and bomb blasted finale of Detroit Rock City, I was hooked…for 2.5 hours of bloody, larger than life, pyro laced rock and roll bombast brilliance.

KISS have never sounded better. Never been more in control of their circus, of their sound. These aren't just rock stars, not just entertainers...these are fucking craftsmen of the highest order. I can hardly wait until the new Stanley produced album is unleashed this fall...

Honestly, even if you're a casual KISS fan, you NEED to see these guys live. Someone I know said - quite accurately - that KISS are like the Grand Canyon. You have to see them both in front of your face at least once before you die.