July 05, 2011
by Greg Halinda

Iconic rock band KISS didn't rely on its flamethrowers and fireworks at Saturday's Macdonald Island concert to prove their show is still hot.

The nearly 10,000 fans at the night's show took care of that, stoking their own excitement to a frenzy and revelling in the heat thrown off by the flames and sparks flying above the stage.

While many were fuelled by nostalgia for the band they grew up listening to from the mid-1970s onward, others were carried by the excitement of being part of the biggest rock and roll show to ever hit Fort McMurray.

As they would attending any world-class large outdoor venue, fans had hours to build their anticipation as they rode transit or walked to the site, stood in a long entry lineup, passed a security screening, perhaps stood in another lineup for food, drink, or merchandise, and then listened to the opening acts.

The Envy and Bad City got the nod to warm up on the same stage before KISS played.

Once the main act hit the stage, everyone was on their feet, screaming their welcome to KISS.

The band licked up the attention. Pointing and waving at fans with cameras, they worked both to entertain the crowd and let them know they were happy to be in Fort McMurray. They even proclaimed it a "Rock City", a tag they applied to their hit "Detroit Rock City."

Fort McMurray residents Patrick and Michelle Boudreau made the concert the ninth KISS show they've seen since 1996.

"What was amazing to me was to see kids under the age of 25 singing along and freaking out to classic old KISS songs. It just goes to show you how ageless they are," said Patrick, a fan since the age of five.

Boudreau grew up in New Brunswick alongside three brothers who listened to the band's tunes.

"My brothers made me a cardboard drum kit. They had a wall in the house covered with KISS posters. I also remember going to a friend's house and dressing up in KISS makeup and rocking out using tennis racquets as guitars," he said.

He realized a dream at the Fort McMurray show, which was the only Alberta stop the band made on this tour: he and his wife paid a premium to attend a meet-and-greet photo session with the band before they went on stage.

"I've been waiting 35 years to meet these guys. I'm never at a loss for words, but all I could say to them at first was, 'I can't believe I'm standing here.'"

Boudreau called the show finale the best part: "It was over the top ... the last song had Gene and Tommy on risers 30 feet above the stage. Paul then smashes his guitar on stage.

"They've turned a concert into an art from when it comes to blowing your mind. Everything is calculated ... the lights, fireworks, flames ... but it never ceases to amaze me how they do it," he said.