TOPS THEM ALL
November 17, 2009
By Jim Harrington

TWO THINGS usually happen after I tell someone what I do for a living. First, I find myself saying, "Yes, I do realize how fortunate I am." Second, I'm asked, "What's the best concert you've ever seen?"

That should be a hard one, given that I've seen thousands of shows and hundreds of really good ones. Yet it's not that tough; if I'm being honest and not trying to impress some hipster, I'll just answer: "My first Kiss concert."

The date was Nov. 25, 1979 - the greatest night of my rock 'n' roll life. The setting was the Cow Palace, the best venue for arena-rock in the Bay Area. And Kiss - playing in the Bay Area this weekend - was the most important group ever. Or at least, that's how it seemed at the time to a wide-eyed sixth-grade student seeing his second concert.

The show affected me in the way that only those initial live-music experiences can. The term "larger-than-life" is way overused, but that's exactly how these four superhero rockers-vocalist-guitarist Paul Stanley, bassist Gene Simmons, drummer Peter Criss and lead guitarist Ace Frehley-came across to me. I can still conjure up the awesome sights from that night in my head: the fake blood dripping out of Simmons' mouth; Frehley's glow-in-the-dark guitar shooting some type of rockets; Criss performing on a rotating drum set; and Stanley coming across like the coolest guy on the planet (even cooler than Fonzie, another idol at the time).

Actually, I'm not 100 percent sure any of that actually happened. It was a heck of a long time ago, and I've been known to exaggerate when it comes to my own personal history. The point is: That's the show that exists in my head and, as such, it's the best I've ever seen.

Fast-forward 30 years - almost to the day - and I'm excited about yet another date with KISS. I plan to go see the band Sunday at the Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland. It won't be as good as the first time-it never could - but, hopefully, a moment or two will bring me right back to that memorable date at the Cow Palace.

Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17.50 to $125. Buckcherry opens the show. Call 800-745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.