September 26, 2009
Photos by KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL/Detroit Free Press

There was fire.

There was an explosion or two, followed by flashing red sirens.

And we're not talking about a Detroit freeway. We're talking about Kiss' return to Cobo Arena on Friday night.

Kiss renewed its love affair with Detroit Rock City by kicking off its North American tour with the first of two shows at the venue where most of its history-making "Alive!" album was recorded in 1975.

The face-painting, tongue-wagging, fire-spewing hard-rockers were led by founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who gave a loving welcome to the crowd along with late-era additions Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer on drums.

As the skies darkened, fans crammed inside Cobo, screaming, high-fiving and spilling beer. They tried to guess the first song.

The lights went out at 8:50 p.m. Large video screens showed the band walking down the hall and on to the stage.

They opened with "Deuce" and went right into "Strutter."

"Cobo Hall!" Stanley said during a breather, paying homage to the venue that's slated to be shuttered some time next year. "Man, let me tell you something. For us, this is the holy land. This is where it all started."

This was religion for a crowd of jovial rockers who wore Kiss makeup, spiky shoulder pads and shiny platform boots. Some dashed around in makeshift Kiss armor, tights and capes, emulating their icons from the '70s.

For Gary Mannone, 44, of Grosse Pointe Woods, the show would mark the 28th time he'd seen Kiss -- each time in Michigan.

"This is legendary," Mannone said. "Cobo is legendary. This is history in the making."

Simmons was up to his fire-spitting tricks by the fourth song, "Hotter Than Hell." The sold-out crowd stayed on their feet, bobbing their head through "Nothin' to Lose."

Stanley asked: "Is it good?"

"Yeaaaaah!" the throng answered.