FANS STILL LOVING
September 30, 2009
CONCERT: The veteran rockers, who first played London way back in 1974, were back and in fine form again last night

By JAMES REANEY
Photo by Chris Schwegler

Sweet 35 and still being KISSED like the first time.

Downtown London time-warped back to the 1970s last night when KISS headlined at a sold-out John Labatt Centre.

With 8,682 fans, many of them wearing the facepaint of their heroes jamming the downtown London arena, there was a whole lot of rock and roll all night.

KISS veterans Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are still around from the band that rocked London again and again -- 1974 being the first time when the band was young and visited twice.

The band and the fans knew what to do when it was time for Rock and Roll All Nite, as the spectacular finale to the main set. Spectacular as in Simmons and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer being lofted on huge platforms with stage smoke billowing from them like jet exhaust.

Spectacular as in the fans singing and shouting along because they love the band, the song and what KISS means to them after all these years.

KISSIN' hot it was "last nite" with a multi-song encore still to come. Stanley smacked around his guitar to prompt the pyro blasts. He then allowed the crowd to egg him into smashing the guitar.

Earlier, Thayer had managed to shoot some of the lights out with a long, long, long guitar extravaganza that saw fireworks from his instrument apparently bringing some of the lights crashing to the stage. Does anyone know if he does that every night -- or was it a downtown London special light show?

KISS had promised a lot of action on its KISS Alive 35 tour. Last night, it delivered to fans of all ages, some of them no doubt the little KISS fan grandkids of the original worshippers.

"If you want us to remember you, you better get a little louder," Stanley teased mid-set, mentioning KISS still had to play Toronto and Montreal.

Loud? Louder? Loudest? No Free Press review of KISS in the Forest City has ever failed to mention the volume. Let this review be no exception. Let it be recorded that the cheering which greeted such main set items as Deuce (the opener), Nothin' to Lose, C'mon and Love Me, Watchin' You and 100,000 Years was truly a joyful noise.

Touring in full makeup and KISS regalia alongside the fire-breathing Simmons and the talkative Stanley are Thayer, the lead guitarist, and Eric Singer, the drummer.

Singer was allowed to take the title of 100,000 Years literally with one of those interminable drum solos that should have died in the 1970s, but will live forever because the fans love them. In a typical KISS touch, Singer's platform pivoted so fans could see his brawny back as he thundered on into the night.

From well back in the arena the band looked like cartoon figures. One of the band's most famous props, that lizard-length tongue Simmons loves to flick, would be an eraser-sized nubbin were if not for huge screen projections.

"London," yelled Stanley during the opener, Deuce, which is one of the 35-year-old gems KISS can still count on.

"Here's one those gems, one of those obscure KISS songs people love," Stanley announced at one point. "This one is a classic among classics," he mused at another.

Even when he was kidding around, Stanley knew how to keep rocking.

"I get the message," he said after boos -- booing! -- greeted a nod to a Led Zep classic before he found his way to Black Diamond. That led to Rock and Roll All Nite and all was KISS-worthy once more.

The band had arrived almost 90 minutes earlier after icy smoke covered the stage with the front line -- bassist Simmons and guitarists Stanley and Thayer -- lifted up by stage machinery and accompanied by the first of many pyro blasts around the band's logo, prominent at centre stage.