LIVE AT METRO ARENA
May 05, 2010
Metal Express Rating: 10.0/10

by: MICK BURGESS

It's incredible to think that it's been almost 18 long years since KISS last played in this neck of the woods during their naked faced Revenge tour and with the intervening years being marked by a sporadic festival show or London appearance, the Northern KISS Army were hungry for action.

With a Top 10 album under their belts with their first album in over a decade, Sonic Boom has revitalised the band who famously claimed that their recording days were over and with the promise of an all new stage show and a revamped set list boasting the old, the new and the new/old the stage was set for the band to deliver the goods.

As showtime approached the sense of anticipation was almost tangible and when the lights finally went out the roar of excitement reverberated across the city and with the legendary opening battle cry booming out from the PA, Newcastle were ready for the time of their lives.

Never ones to make a polite entrance, KISS descended down from above the colossal drum riser on a smoke spewing platform flanked by face melting columns of flames as "Modern Day Delilah" heralded the return of the masked maestros.

Over the ensuing two hours KISS exceeded expectations of their own glittering heritage as they dazzled the crowd with the promised old ("Deuce", "100,000 Years", "Love Gun"), the new old ("I Love It Loud", "Lick It Up") and the new ("I'm An Animal" and their new anthem, the sizzling "Say Yeah"). When they dusted down the huge UK hits for their first airing in years "Crazy, Crazy Nights" and "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" the crowd went nuts.

From the very first second of the show Paul Stanley, who is in fine voice throughout, is the ring master, the consummate showman, the one that whips the crowd into a frenzy while dancing and posing across the stage. He works every single inch of the huge stage whilst making every last person in the arena feel like he's performing just for them. During "I Was Made For Loving You" he flies out across the audience onto a huge revolving stage to reach out to those at the very back row. If there's a better frontman out there then he's yet to show his face.

Gene Simmons is the anti-thesis of Stanley as he stalks menacingly across the stage all mean and moody and prior to "I Love It Loud" he's bathed in an eerie sea of green light as he vomits blood before flying to the top of the lighting rig. Sure it's one of the oldest tricks in the KISS book but it's just as effective now as it was back then as the crowd chant "Gene, Gene" over and over again.

There has been some criticism from some quarters about the original Spaceman and Catman identities being taken by lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer however these charges are dispelled immediately as Singer in particular, who is a revelation throughout, drives the band forward with an energy that was missing in some of the latter performances prior to Criss's departure.

Much credit too must go to Tommy Thayer. Taking the place of the hugely popular Ace Frehley was never going to be easy but he nailed the parts to perfection and although he may lack Frehley's goofy, aloof persona, his reliability and ability certainly makes this line up arguably the best in terms of musicianship. Having said that, perhaps switching Frehley's signature tune, "Shock Me" for Thayer's very own "When Lightning Strikes" would help Thayer forge his own identity.

All too often a drum solo and guitar solo is the cue to head for the loo but KISS take these as an opportunity to show off a few effects and Thayer and Singer combined their solo spots with Singer high above the stage on his drum riser while Thayer shot rockets from his guitar. Not to be outdone Singer brought down a section of the lighting rig with a bazooka!!! Simply priceless.

Saving the big guns until last...literally, "Detroit Rock City" and "Black Diamond", featuring Singer on vocals, shuddered with a cacophony of explosions which merely served as an hors d'oeuvre to the confetti covered, guitar smashing, pyro-fest of "Rock'n'Roll All Nite" which saw the band hoisted high up into the air as the show reached its foundation shaking climax.

At a time when the news makes depressing reading, whether it's recession, volcanoes or General Elections, it's reassuring to know that for two hours at least all that can be forgotten as KISS take you on a Rock 'n' Rollercoaster of a ride which leaves all your troubles behind and proves yet again why KISS remain the greatest live spectacle of them all.