January 12, 2011
By KEN HOFFMAN / Houston Chronicle
Photo by Tre' Ridings For the Chronicle

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been trying to get KISS to perform on its famous rotating stage between the Chuck Wagon Race and Calf Scramble for years.

I know, KISS is the first act that comes to mind when you think rodeo. But neither was Julio Iglesias in 1986 or Larry the Cable Guy in 2006. How can you make the ladies swoon, or do comedy, in a football stadium? But hearts were fluttering and bellies were jiggling, all right. The rodeo likes to keep things interesting.

KISS is going to be incredible in Reliant Stadium March 15. Rodeo clowns, fried Twinkies, barrel racing, turkey legs, bumper cars, tight jeans and Gene Simmons spitting up blood ... for an $18 ticket? This is the greatest entertainment event in the history of the world.

"We actually made a hard run at them last year, but they had already booked the Toyota Center," said Leroy Shafer, chief operating officer of the rodeo. "So we said, 'Hey, we want to keep you on the hook for next year.' What sealed the deal for us was when they played the rodeo in Cheyenne (Cheyenne Frontier Days) last year, and they were the hottest act. Once we saw that, we knew, gosh, we've got to get them on our stage."

What sealed the deal for KISS was assurance they could shoot off all the fireworks they want.

"The head pyrotechnics guy for KISS also works for the company that's been doing our pyro for years. So he's extremely familiar with the KISS show, and he'll be here for the entire run of the rodeo," Shafer said. "He can work with Gene Simmons and the rest of the guys and figure out how to make it work on our stage. He told them, 'It's going to be great. You'll play in front of 72,000 people. You've got to do this.' That's when it finally came together.

"It will be a pyro spectacular."

Shafer expects Reliant Stadium to be packed with KISS Army fans ranging from "young grandpas and grandmas to Mom and Dad to their kids. There probably will be 10,000 kids with their faces painted here that night."

He saw a similar crowd, maybe less face paint, when Chicago played the rodeo in 1990.

"We literally had 50-year-olds who went to Chicago concerts when they were in college. We saw their grandkids with them. We're seeing the same kind of phenomenon happen now with KISS."

Shafer is also seeing signs that the 2011 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo could be the biggest ever.

"It's going to be fantastic. Looking at ticket counters and sales of season tickets, we're up over last year, when we shattered all of our attendance records. The one variable we always have is the weather. The last 100,000 to 150,000 tickets we sell are during the actual show, and that's impacted by the weather. Last year, we had only one half-day of rain during the whole rodeo. That was the best weather for a rodeo I've seen in the 37 years I've been here. If we get good weather this year, we've got a shot at the record."

For a list of other performers and ticket information for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, click on