October 05, 2009

Forget U2 or The Rolling Stones. If you want to see the spectacle of a rock show, take in a Kiss concert. Of pretty much any group in rock history, Kiss is one whose performances display the essence of the band.

Kiss, which took the stage Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena for the Kiss Alive/35 North American Tour named after the 35th anniversary of their big-selling Top 10 live album, has pretty much always been more than a rock band, with their makeup and costumes and concert extravagance.

As bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons, whose family is in the A&E TV reality show "Family Jewels," says, Kiss is a brand, with countless merchandise and an image that has transcended decades and generations. Many of the group's fans, in fact, brought their kids to the show, and of course, a few were decked out in the Kiss look.

"Sonic Boom," the band's first album of new material in 11 years, is scheduled to go on the shelves exclusively at Wal-Mart/Sam's Club stores Tuesday along with a new greatest hits CD and DVD.

The new album returns the solos Kiss has been known for, and some of the songs such as the anthem "Say Yeah" and "Modern Day Delilah" - the album's first song on the radio, retain the vintage Kiss sound.

That despite the group being down to two original members, Simmons, 60, and guitarist/singer Paul Stanley, 57, since drummer Peter Criss left in 2004 and lead guitarist Ace Frehley - who has a new CD out, departed in 2002.
The album is a surprise given Stanley and Simmons for years indicated they were not going to release another album.

Despite never being a critic darling, Kiss became one of the biggest acts in the 70s with its shows, and pyrotechnics, shooting flames and fog continue to be a big part of their act.

During "Hotter than Hell," from 1974, the blood-spitting and tongue-wagging Simmons displayed a flaming sword.

After "C'mon and Love Me," "Parasite," and "She," lead guitarist Tommy Thayer soloed and had fireworks shoot out of his guitar.

Simmons sang lead on "Watching U," and the audience clapped along to "100,000 Years" while Eric Singer drummed on an elevated platform that rotated. Simmons was later lifted by cables to a platform far above the stage.

Singer sang "Black Diamond," and the party atmosphere really hit home with the classic 1975 rock anthem "Rock and Roll All Nite" and confetti shooting around the arena.

An extended encore featured many of the group's top hits, including "Shout it Out Loud" and "Detroit Rock City," both from the 1976 "Destroyer" album, considered the band's best and most diverse.
Stanley cruised over the crowd on a unicycle-like contraption during "Love Gun" before landing on a platform at the other end of the arena. Also capping the show was "Lick It Up" from 1983 when members removed their makeup for the first time.

Kiss has released 28 albums in which 26 have gone gold, platinum or multi-platinum, trailing only The Beatles in this category. The band has sold over 80 million records.

Stanley is a painter and actor. Simmons, born in Israel and a former teacher in New York City, is also an actor.