October 05, 2009
Chris Alexander MUSICK NEWS

Last night, Toronto had their eyeballs bitch slapped and their ears blissfully abused by the living breathing rock spectacle circus known as KISS. It was a classic stadium rock spectacle to be sure but, man alive, did it get off to a surreal, almost cataclysmic start...

The sold out stands at the Air Canada Centre where jammed full of the faithful, many in traditional KISS character costume, three generations of cultists who have long held the band as more than just a band, but mythic superheroes. And like any superhero with his wings clipped, the opening of the show veered into tragedy that was almost Greek in its magnitude.

As the lights dimmed, the low drone throbbed and the video screens lit up, a familiar voice growled that we wanted the best and we got the best, the hottest band in the world, KISS! Curtain drops. Paul, Gene and Tommy Thayer spit onto the smoke drenched stage to the thundering opening strains of "King of the Nighttime World" of their landmark 1976 disc Destroyer. So far, so heart palpitatingly awesome. Then, in the last quarter of the tune, without warning...nuthin'. Bubkus. The sound system had blown. The electricity had flunked. The KISS sign was dim. But the band veered ahead, apparently unaware that they were - save for the monitor sound - miming the tune for the audience. Said audience began booing. The smoke had now dried. Paul spoke into a microphone that was mute. Gene beat his chest like King Kong in rage part mock, part real. Roadies ran rampant. Techies screamed into walkies. The supermen were lost, alone on a mammoth stage that was completely soundless. It was eerie. It was bizarre. It was utterly upsetting. Band walks offstage, videoscreen's begin looping the KISS logo. Audience is in shock...

But then, ten minutes later, another pop. The speakers pulse to life. The band returns, still unsure. The audience roars. Paul leans into the mic and there's THAT voice...that campy, masculine melodramatic wail that make him the quintessential mad Baptist preacher of rock and roll. His guitar springs to life, Singer's kit steamrolls, Gene's bass creaks, Tommy's strings bend and BANG, we’re into "Deuce". The audience screams in approval.

I screamed with delight.

These are my guys after all. This is my rock and roll fairytale. And it was a fairytale last night. In fact it was almost Shakespearean as, song after song, hit after hit, more power was returned to the stage, the badass sign burst into light, the volume increased, the wall of Marshall amps shuddered, complete with hallucinatory imagery flickering on their surfaces, fire belched from the back, the drum riser levitated, blood was spat, Gene was flying, Paul was soaring (his voice has never sounded better, by the way…) and Tommy was shooting rockets from his axe, one sonic burst even blowing a light fixture off from the ACC ceiling, sending it crashing dangerously to the stage.

This was the single greatest live music recovery I have ever witnessed. It was damn near biblical. The phoenix spreading its battered wings from the fire pit slowly, steadily shooting into the stratosphere and bursting into splintering pyro glory, licking planets and owning the universe infinitely.

KISS still rocks, hard. This is a show, designed to rip you from reality and, as Paul himself stated upon returning to the newly electrified stage, fully intent on "Kicking your ass...".

One of the best shows my city has ever seen.