December 14, 2009
By Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Paul Stanley, the best in-between-song screamer in the history of rock 'n' roll, screeched last night, "We've been playing this place for so long -- it feels like church to us!"

OK, synagogue may have made more sense but that's not the point. The point is that when you think of bands that were able to transform the Igloo into some seedy house of hard rock Kiss is somewhere near the top. And the last time they came through this area it was all wrong. They were sent out to the pasture in Burgettstown and forced to open for Aerosmith in the daylight, which is like making Dracula walk on the beach. Last night, on the Kiss Alive 35 Tour, they made it right one last time under the silver dome.

It wasn't like those gigs in the '70s, of course, when the place was teeming with rowdy and stoned teenagers. There were little kids getting their faces painted in the hallways along with paunchy dads, and at one point Stanley yelled, "Hold up your children!" The stage was different, too -- considerably cleaner and more hi tech with dozens of amps that doubled as video screens and a jumbotron to provide a better look at Gene Simmons' blood, sweat and tongue.

Kiss rolled in with a new album, "Sonic Boom" -- "Go to!" Stanley screamed -- but only bothered to play two of the songs, the heavier-metal single "Modern Day Delilah" and "Say Yeah." The rest of the show was reserved for classics like the explosive opener "Deuce," the sexy "Strutter" and "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll," given a full blues-boogie jam treatment.

An 18-song set over two-plus hours left plenty of room for Kiss shtick -- like the wanky soloing that bands just don't do anymore, the best of which was Ace replacement Tommy Thayer shooting literal and figurative sparks from his Les Paul at the tail end of "Cold Gin." The latest Cat drummer, Eric Singer, had a spinning riser for his thunderous solo.

Stanley, still pretty ripped at 57, got to scream even more than he sang, and flew across the arena on a wire for "Love Gun." And then there was The Demon, who revels in this lair as much he did in '75. Why he felt the need to mess with tradition, though, is a mystery. Maybe I missed something but I thought he was supposed to breathe the fire on "Firehouse" and spew the blood on "God of Thunder." He didn't even play those two classics, doing his thing instead on the lesser "Hotter than Hell" and "I Love it Loud."

While the middle of the show sagged just a bit, the last half hour was pure Kiss heaven with Stanley opening the band's best song, "Black Diamond," with a "Stairway to Heaven" tease, before handing over the vocals to Singer.

Fan favorite "Rock and Roll All Nite" was intro-ed with some Kiss philosophy: "If you came here tonight to hear a band tell you how to end global warming," Stanley hollered, "you're in the wrong damn place! We came here to escape from the world!" What followed was a hand-clapping, sing-along with a wondrous confetti shower. "Lick it Up" morphed into "Won't Get Fooled Again" and the four-song encore was capped with Thayer's guitar fireworks and a blast of pyro on the anthem "Detroit Rock City," designed to make everyone from junior and grandma leave feeling like they just saw the circus.

While the two frontmen of Kiss are getting up there in years, Stanley issued something of a promise to the kids in the crowd. "We were there for your moms and dads," he said. "And you know somethin' -- we'll be there for you!"

As long as they can walk out onstage in those 7-inch heels, Pitttts-burrrgh! will no doubt be there for them too.