August 11, 2012
By: Ted Hansen

Daytime temperatures were at 114 degrees and had not decreased much by concert time. Those painted up like their idols found their makeup running more than the mascara of a televangelist’s wife. Yes, Hell (aka the greater Phoenix area) was ready for KISS. But was KISS ready for Hell? After seventy five minutes of fire sans brimstone plus a little blood, on Friday, August 10, 2012 KISS showed the near sold out crowd at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion that they welcome such an environment.

Somehow the term spectacle isn’t sufficient to describe a KISS concert. From the outset, as the KISS logoed curtain dropped and the band launched into “Detroit Rock City,” the crowd began their mania as bassist Gene Simmons, guitarist Paul Stanley and guitarist Tommy Thayer were lowered from the rafters into Hell while drummer Eric Singer ascended upward on his platform towards the heavens.

The members of the KISS Army, both long time and the newly converted, had no trouble singing along to “Shout It Out Loud,” and chanting the arena rock anthem beginning to “I Love It Loud.” The audience was ready to do its part and KISS was more than willing to reciprocate.

Any doubt that the evening was going to be beyond hot was erased by the flames, sirens and Simmon’s fire breathing that punctuated “Firehouse.” Just in case one was too far back to feel the heat of the flames coming from the stage, a huge HD video screen behind the band projected one of the clearest pictures you’ll see at a concert.

With almost forty years of hits to choose from, it was natural that “old school” KISS, as Stanley called it, was primarily featured. But the band did play one tune, “Hell or Hallelujah,” from their upcoming “Monster” cd. Judging from the reception the song received, it should be another KISS hit.

It’s easy to dismiss KISS as just a party band when they shout it out loud or rock and roll all night. But feeling the heavy bass line of “War Machine” or listening to Simmons growl the lyrics to “God of Thunder,” as he did while standing atop the lighting rig above the stage and you rediscover how good a heavy metal band KISS really is.

The two non-founders of KISS, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, were showcased in “Shock Me,” with Thayer handling the lead vocals and while elevated, Singer and Thayer firing pyrotechnic shots at each other concluding with Singer’s bazooka blast.

It soon became Stanley’s turn to be lifted off the stage and he obliged by ziplining over the audience to a rotating elevated platform in the middle of the crowd for “Love Gun.” He returned to his band mates for a rousing version of “Lick It Up,” complete with choreographed flames and a little bit of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

It’s no secret that from the beginning, with their makeup and outrageous costumes, KISS has been as much about the performance as they have been about the music. With decades to perfect their craft, KISS does fireworks, flames, sparks and other eye popping effects better than anyone else. It’s one thing to listen to KISS Alive! (I’ve finally upgraded from my 8-track of it) but it’s quite another to actually see for yourself what all the hoopla is about.

But all the special effects in the world won’t help you if you don’t deliver on the music and KISS still does. Vocally, they sounded tight and their musicianship always is underrated. As the band closed with the iconic “Rock and Roll All Nite,” one thing was clear. It rains a lot of confetti in Hell.

Set List: Detroit Rock City | Shout It Out Loud | I Love It Loud | Firehouse | Hell or Hallelujah | War Machine | Shock Me (with extended guitar and drum interplay) | Gene Simmons Bass Solo | God of Thunder | Love Gun | Lick It Up | Encore: Black Diamond | Cold Gin | Rock and Roll All Nite