AT HARD ROCK LIVE
March 20, 2011
By Travis Newbill
Photos by Brady Newbill

Last night, most people were donning their greenest green garb and getting sloshed on Guinness while jigging it up at their favorite local pub. But in South Florida, a few thousand epic nerds were instead at the Hard Rock Live, decked out in black and glittery silver, rock and rolling all night.

The venue was transformed for the night into home base for the KISS Army and its aging leaders, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, who were in turn accompanied by a couple new recruits. Together, the 2011 version of KISS assaulted the small venue with a slew of hits, crazy stage maneuvers, and lots of fire balls, adding up to the total takeover of St. Patty's Day we predicted.

The energy leading up to the dropping of the giant KISS curtain was somewhere in between that of an NFL game, a comic book convention, and a strange, religious ceremony. Minutes before the lights went down the crowd roared as Shannon Tweed, Gene Simmons' longtime partner, appeared in the middle of the arena, just behind the sound board.

Soon after that moment faded, the crowd had a larger reason to react: "Alright Hollywood, you wanted the best, you got the best -- the hottest band in the world, KISS!" Down came the curtain, and out staggered Simmons and company, looking like living cartoons. The place went bananas as they opened with "Modern Day Delilah," a song off the band's new album, Sonic Boom.

After the first tune, Stanley, who acted as defacto MC all night, commented on the intimate nature of this particular show. "We don't usually get to play places this small, but it's cool and I'll tell you why," he said. "It makes us feel like we're back in the old days. We're gonna play some old classic stuff." And they did. The show featured several songs off their first couple of albums -- such as "Deuce", and "100,000 Years" -- amid an array of selections spanning their whole career.

One of the hottest burners were "Firehouse," during which Simmons brought out a flaming sword and spit huge fire from it before stabbing it into the stage. Then there was "Shock Me," during which Paul Stanley fondled his nipples and shook his tush giddily.

There was also "Black Diamond," for which the audience began the singing, at Stanley's request. "Hollywood and surrounding areas,"as he referred to the crowd the whole night, "it's time for the Kiss Army to represent!" His voice was shrill and incredibly loud, as loud and shrill as Simmon's tongue was long. They were both in great form. The tongue did not rest for a moment.

Simmons' biggest moment came in late in the show, when he was left alone on the darkened stage, which began filling with smoke. His bass droned, and eventually a light shone from above. He rose to meet it, and then began spewing blood from his mouth.

Every member had his own moment in the spotlight, even the newbies. For a while during the middle of the show, apparently when the old guys needed to sit down, Tommy Thayer (non-Ace Frehley) and Eric Singer (non-Peter Criss) rocked a duo jam which reached its peak when Thayer soloed with his guitar behind his head, then held it out to the side and let go of it, before it magically rose to the ceiling.

The band played for two solid hours. The grand finale, which concluded a four-song encore, was, of course "Rock and Roll All Nite," which filled the room with excitement, confetti, smoke, and fire. At the end, non-Frehley and real Simmons were lifted to the ceiling on hydraulic platforms, and Stanley smashed his guitar in the middle of the stage.

Not an Irish jig in sight, just a couple of ridiculous old, rich guys and a ton of worshipers, still doing their thing after all these years.