DELIVERS THE BOOM
October 13, 2009
Legendary rock band KISS brought its hard rock spectacle and "Alive/35 Tour" to the Wachovia Center on Monday, and though some things certainly must have seemed familiar to the KISS faithful, some things have also clearly changed.

And perhaps that's exactly as it should be.

Great songs? Check.

Dazzling stage show? Check.

Packed house? Check.

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley flying around the arena? Check.

A good time? Most definitely a check.

But KISS in 2009 is not your father's KISS, and even if you're only a 30- or 40-something, not the KISS you saw bump and grind its way through the '70s, '80s and '90s with a fixation on extremely loud amps, sex, sex and sex and a lock-up-your-daughters mentality. Perhaps it's because Simmons and Stanley are now family men themselves, or perhaps it's because they see all of those parents in the crowd hoisting their kids on their shoulders to get a better look at them. Whatever the reason, KISS gets it. The band knows its age, knows its audience, and knows what parts of it show to leave behind (lots of f-bombs, tales of sex-capades and onstage strippers) and what to keep (glitzy guitars that shoot rockets, plenty of pyro and a big, bright KISS logo.)

And, of course, they still know how to rock and roll.

The band opened its set with a fiery rendition of "Deuce" which featured the tried-and-tested choreographed moves of Simmons, Stanley and guitarist Tommy Thayer. The group has been swaying in unison to this song for 35 years, and it still works brilliantly. "Strutter" was next, followed by a jammy performance of "Let Me Go, Rock N' Roll," during which Thayer stepped up for notice with some particularly torrid riffs.

Most of the set featured songs from the band's first three albums and tunes such as "Hotter Than Hell," "Parasite," "She," and the underrated nugget "Got To Choose" displayed the groupís ongoing gift to combine gritty grooves with hefty hooks. Proof that this ability remains intact? A churning performance of "Modern Day Delilah," from the band's new CD "Sonic Boom." The riff is so cool it's sick, and playing a song so vibrant and new seemed to energize the band, which released its first album 35 years ago.

In addition to playing great, KISS still looks great. The band's new stage costumes combine elements of its older classic designs with a nice touch of the new, and with everybody in the band still in lean and mean physical shape, KISS in 2009 doesn't look much different than it did in 1979. Considering the group's emphasis on the visual, this is a big plus, though not always easy to maintain as Father Time marches on.

Props to the pride.

Thayer's guitar solo combined a few bars of classical music with some distorted metal riffs, drummer Eric Singer offered a powerful solo during "100,000 Years" and Simmons breathed fire and later spit blood and flew to the rafters of the arena for a pounding performance of "I Love It Loud." Stanley got the crowd singing along with "Black Diamond" and - proving that no one in the band is afraid of heights - the group seemed to be within arm's length of the ceiling's lighting rigs when it rose on elevated platforms during "Rock and Roll All Nite." Confetti rained over the crowd, Stanley smashed his guitar, and all was perfect in the KISS nation.

But "Rock and Roll All Nite" was not the show's closer. KISS returned with five more songs. First came a fun performance of "Shout It Out Loud" and then "Lick It Up," during which the band segued into a few bars of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Simmons then barked and howled through a fast-paced rendition of "Cold Gin," and Stanley flew over the audience - clear across the arena - and sang "Love Gun" on a small platform near the soundboard. The show ended with "Detroit Rock City."

KISS isn't as raunchy these days, nor is it 120 decibels loud. Despite having an excellent new CD in stores packed with strong material, the group stuck mostly to the classics on Monday. It is a band apparently trying to give its audience what it wants, though blasting some AC/DC and Led Zeppelin before the show, offering a few more tunes from "Sonic Boom" during the set and projecting a little more sweaty decadence probably would have been OK with most. The abundance of attractive women in the crowd grooving along to the songs revealed that KISS' sex appeal remains, so they should still feel free to strut it if they choose.

It's hard to imagine any KISS tour creating the amount of pure energy and excitement that surrounded the 1996/97 "Alive Worldwide" reunion tour, or one with as massive a stage show, but "Alive/35" sees KISS playing as well as ever and still packing them in. Stanley still sings better than most people that have ever stood on a stage, and he and Simmons are still grand rock stars.

Monday in Philly?

Great songs.

Dazzling stage show.

Packed house.

Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley flying around the arena.

Fathers and sons and women in tight blouses.

A good time for all.

Simply put: A very 2009 KISS concert.