August 25, 2010
By Elliot Levin

KISS brought the hottest show on Earth to Jones Beach on Saturday night, playing a two hour set filled with classic songs and a stunning, explosive stage show.

Continuing their reign as one of the most visible and best-known rock bands of all time, KISS is now in their second straight year of touring in support of 2009's Sonic Boom, the first new KISS record in over a decade. Saturday's cool but pleasant weather brought the KISS Army out in full glory, with thousands of attendees ranging from 6 year olds to 60 year olds, many wearing the iconic face paint of Catman, Spaceman, Starchild, and the Demon as they packed the seats of the Jones Beach amphitheater.

KISS has shot to success over the decades not only by writing catchy, anthemic rock n' roll songs, but by crafting a high energy image that thoroughly permeates their live performances. No expense or effect was spared for Saturday night's show, as the four members of KISS entered the stage on a flying, smoke-filled platform with explosions and fireballs erupting all about them.

The stage itself was a marvel to behold, with a massive high definition video screen showing close ups of the band, as well as various bright, psychedelic visual effects. Giant glowing letters spelled out KISS in the center of the stage, and streams of fog and smoke poured out from the wings. The Jones Beach stage actually had to be extended several feet to accommodate a dozen smaller video screens lining the stage, which flashed between visual effects and shots of the audience singing along.

The band kicked off the night with new song Modern Day Delilah, the musicians strutting about the stage as their high volume music thundered throughout the theater. Guitarist Paul Stanley was his usual pepped up self, welcoming the crowd and introducing songs with excitement and aplomb, while the demonic, famously long-tongued Gene Simmons posed menacingly for the crowd as he rumbled through the bass lines.

While the group played other new tracks such as Say Yeah and I'm An Animal, the majority of the night's setlist was classic KISS fare. The band hit no less than five songs from their debut album, including Cold Gin, Deuce, and 100,000 years. The crowd, full of die-hard KISS fans, sang along on every song, and the band frequently allowed them to sing choruses in their stead.

While Stanley served as the frontman for the group, all four members were given ample opportunity to not only solo, but even to lead on vocals, a true rarity in the rock world. Guitarist Tommy Thayer sang the Ace Frehley-penned Shock Me, following it up with a wild solo. Drummer Eric Singer's entire platform then rose up into the air, and he hammered through his own drum solo before Tommy rejoined him on another flying platform, flames and explosions blasting from all directions as the two jammed out to the delight of the crowd.

Gene Simmons had his own chance to shine as well, crouching in waist-high clouds of smoke and spitting up blood as he played his battle axe-shaped bass. He then dramatically raised his arms, and with aerobatic wires faintly visible, flew 50 feet straight up to land on a lighting platform, where he sang the lead vocals for I Love It Loud.

Even with lengthy solo breaks, the hit songs just kept on coming. Love Gun got an especially enthusiastic response as Stanley repeatedly played to KISS's native New York audience, and then followed up with the famous riff and final chorus of Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love. Black Diamond was introduced a cappella, then sung poignantly by Singer, with Simmons eerily harmonizing on beginning of the song. Stanley introduced classic hit Detroit Rock City as the band's final song, but in truth the show was far from over.

After a quick break, KISS returned to encore with no less than six songs, including a heartfelt Beth, which saw Thayer switch to an acoustic guitar as Singer sang the vocals. The stage practically resembled a blast furnace as the band went all out with pyrotechnics and explosions during Lick It Up and Shout It Out Loud, and in a concert first for this Examiner, Stanley then led the entire venue in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as he announced the donation of a dollar from every ticket sale to the Wounded Warriors Project.

Not to be outdone by Simmon's flying stunt, Stanley also flew on a zipcord to a raised platform in the middle of the venue for I Was Made For Loving You, where he played the majority of the song before sliding back to the stage, guitar slung over his back like a soldier's rifle.

The band ended the night's setlist with their generation-defining anthem, Rock and Roll All Night, and went out with million-dollar bang. Intensely colored strobe lights bathed the stage as confetti blasted across the entire venue, and with giant balls of flame lighting up the stage, Stanley smashed apart his guitar in true rock n' roll style. Even that wasn't the end, however, as full scale fireworks began exploding in the night sky as soon as the band left the stage, leaving fans ooohing and ahhing at the July 4th-worthy display.

While the evolution of heavy metal and edgier bands such as Slayer and GWAR have made KISS's once fearsome image and lyrics appear fairly mild and innocent by today's standards, Saturday night's performance proved that KISS still reigns when it comes to sheer rocking power. Backed by an explosive stage show that could put action movie blockbusters to shame, the band ran, jumped, and flew all night long in a blazing testament to the youthfulness and raw energy of rock n' roll. Even the merchandising deals, promotions, and TV shows that could be considered textbook selling out can't stop KISS from continuing their worldwide domination of arena rock, and if anything, seems to enhance the band's ability to produce a rock performance of epic proportions.

This summer tour is truly KISS at their finest, and fans would be hard pressed to find a show that even comes close the volume, energy, and in-your-face impact of a live KISS concert.