September 02, 2008


Proving his lifelong devotion to KISS, Don Warneke pulled up his sleeve to show off his badge of honor: A red 'KISS Army' tattoo on his arm.

But it paled in comparison with the foot-long portrait of Gene Simmons on his left calf.

'Other than the Grateful Dead, there is no other fan base like the KISS fan base,' he said, waiting along with other fans (who paid between $150 and $214 for tickets) Sunday night for his white-faced icons of stadium rock to take the stage at Konocti Harbor.

It didn't matter that only two of the four founding members -- Simmons and Paul Stanley -- were still around for the 35th anniversary tour. Or that Simmons just turned 59 last Monday.

'KISS is kind of like a loner's band for the kid that really didn't fit in,' he said. 'We feel an acceptance here.'

Outside in the parking lot, die-hard fan Huey Lewis (no relation to the '80s hitmaker) mugged for photos with fans who wanted to pose with him all dressed up in makeup, dragon boots and spandex like Gene Simmons' Demon character.

'I get to be a rock star for a day,' he said on his 46th birthday. 'Where else am I going to do this?'

Taking the stage in full makeup, KISS kicked off the set with 'Deuce,' pulling out all the classic props of stadium rock: Fire cannons. Simmons' snake-like tongue. Guitars that shoot fire. Mouths that breathe fire. A never-ending guitar solo played behind the neck by Tommy Thayer. An extended drum solo by Eric Singer. The intro to Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven.' And a zip wire for Stanley to fly over the crowd.

'We just got back from playing stadiums all over Europe,' said a bare-chested Stanley. 'You people are going to prove that size doesn't matter!'

The crowd ate it up, chanting along with every chorus (especially 'Rock and Roll All Night' and 'Black Diamond'), raising devil horns for the pyrotechnics.

'There's no reason why they can't go on for another 35 years,' said fan Shawn Hammond, 39, of Clear Lake. 'I just love those guys.'

But would he like to be buried in an official KISS coffin sold by the band?

'Without a doubt, man. That would be awesome.'