LIGHTS UP ROCK USA!
July 17, 2011
Review excerpted from Appleton Post Crescent

Story and photo by Mike Thiel

KISS tribute bands have been fluttering through Northeast Wisconsin this past year, but it was finally the right moment for Gene Simmons and the gang to show the boys how it’s done.

The theatrical rock spectacle known as KISS, literally lit up Ford Festival Park in Oshkosh Saturday night, with a stage rig that made 4th of July look like a fountain with a wet wick.

Though Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are long gone from the band, Simmons and Paul Stanley hold down the original KISS lineup, while lead guitarist (Frehley fill-in) Tommy Thayer and drummer (Criss fill-in) Eric Singer have handled their respective duties since the early Millennium. And though some will always yearn for the original all-star lineup, Simmons and company let Oshkosh know that KISS is still alive in 2011.

When the lights came on, so did “Modern Day Delilah” from 2009’s “Sonic Boom,” something the crowd appeared to absorb well as an opener, though most didn’t seem to be singing along.

A few songs later, the band’s signature pyrotechnics picked up with “Firehouse,” and Simmons capped off the song by spitting fire from a flaming torch.

KISS then bulldozed into “Shock Me,” which eventually led to extended solo work by the new guys (Thayer and Singer) by song’s end. Thayer wielded off a circa five-minute guitar solo, while Singer followed with an approximate five-minute solo on the drums. Stanley worked the crowd well all night, as did Simmons in a lesser role, and the energy of the show stayed at a high level from then on out.

Songs such as “I Like it Loud,” “Love Gun” and “God of Thunder” seemed to be crowd favorites and Simmons’ signature spitting of the blood – which he performed under a full moon, right at midnight – was a performance highlight.

KISS ended their set at about 12:20 a.m. with “Detroit Rock City,” casting Singer’s entire drumkit into the air –with him still playing on it. The band then stopped playing for a brief moment, held their positions for dramatic effect, and then kicked back in for a couple musical punches before exiting the stage.

It was obvious the band would come back onstage for an encore, having not played ‘Rock and Roll All Nite,” but the length of the encore was a bit surprising – about 20 minutes.

For the first song, Singer came off the drumset to sing “Beth,” but as soon as the song ended, Stanley got back on the mic and said something along the likes of not wanting to end the night soft. He then began an A cappella sing-a-long chant to “Makin’ Love,” which the crowd ate up and gave full participation. The song eventually kicked in with the full band.

“Shout it Out Loud” was another sing-a-long smash before “Rock and Roll Nite” served as the band’s grand finale with confetti and swirling pyrotechnics, while Simmons, Thayer and Singer were all hoisted about 30 feet in the air on movable floors with their instruments.

The band ended with a bang, literally and not, before taking a bow and exiting the stage for the second time of the night. The big tron then read, “KISS loves Rock USA.”

As a whole, fans seemed satisfied with the performance and from a theatrical aspect, KISS did exactly what KISS always does: Simmons spits blood, band members are hoisted high into the air, confetti blows into the crowd, etc. However, when combined with solid music production, the novelty becomes more charming.

Musically, KISS’s harmonies were spot on, instrumental solos were well crafted and vocals easy to hear. KISS’s sound is so full – and loud – that it’s hard to believe there are just four people performing. Perhaps the dozens and dozens of woofers onstage help out with that.

As for the set list, a KISS tribute band probably would’ve played more hits – sorry Guitar Hero fans, no “Strutter” tonight – and it sometimes hurt that the crowd seemed unfamiliar with songs from “Sonic Boom.”

Overall, the theatrical elements were in place and exciting, the music was well performed and the mic work, as far as engaging the crowd, was arguably the peak at Rock USA.

At the end of the day, it’s supposed to be a rock “show,” and that’s exactly what KISS put on.

It was time for the real thing.

KISS tribute bands have been fluttering through Northeast Wisconsin this past year, but it was finally the right moment for Gene Simmons and the gang to show the boys how it’s done.

The theatrical rock spectacle known as KISS, literally lit up Ford Festival Park in Oshkosh Saturday night, with a stage rig that made 4th of July look like a fountain with a wet wick.

Though Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are long gone from the band, Simmons and Paul Stanley hold down the original KISS lineup, while lead guitarist (Frehley fill-in) Tommy Thayer and drummer (Criss fill-in) Eric Singer have handled their respective duties since the early Millennium. And though some will always yearn for the original all-star lineup, Simmons and company let Oshkosh know that KISS is still alive in 2011.

When the lights came on, so did “Modern Day Delilah” from 2009’s “Sonic Boom,” something the crowd appeared to absorb well as an opener, though most didn’t seem to be singing along.

A few songs later, the band’s signature pyrotechnics picked up with “Firehouse,” and Simmons capped off the song by spitting fire from a flaming torch.

KISS then bulldozed into “Shock Me,” which eventually led to extended solo work by the new guys (Thayer and Singer) by song’s end. Thayer wielded off a circa five-minute guitar solo, while Singer followed with an approximate five-minute solo on the drums. The two would then combine for a circa 10-minute guitar and drum session – a spot where the show’s energy appeared to suffer. Concertgoers seemed restless after about 15 minutes of speechlessness, beginning to go on their cellphones, talk to each other, leave for beer, etc.

However, the band recovered as soon as Stanley got back on the mic. Stanley worked the crowd well all night, as did Simmons in a lesser role, and the energy of the show stayed at a high level from then on out.

Songs such as “I Like it Loud,” “Love Gun” and “God of Thunder” seemed to be crowd favorites and Simmons’ signature spitting of the blood – which he performed under a full moon, right at midnight – was a performance highlight.

KISS ended their set at about 12:20 a.m. with “Detroit Rock City,” casting Singer’s entire drumkit into the air –with him still playing on it. The band then stopped playing for a brief moment, held their positions for dramatic effect, and then kicked back in for a couple musical punches before exiting the stage.

It was obvious the band would come back onstage for an encore, having not played ‘Rock and Roll All Nite,” but the length of the encore was a bit surprising – about 20 minutes.

For the first song, Singer came off the drumset to sing “Beth,” but as soon as the song ended, Stanley got back on the mic and said something along the likes of not wanting to end the night soft. He then began an A cappella sing-a-long chant to “Makin’ Love,” which the crowd ate up and gave full participation. The song eventually kicked in with the full band.

“Shout it Out Loud” was another sing-a-long smash before “Rock and Roll Nite” served as the band’s grand finale with confetti and swirling pyrotechnics, while Simmons, Thayer and Singer were all hoisted about 30 feet in the air on movable floors with their instruments.

The band ended with a bang, literally and not, before taking a bow and exiting the stage for the second time of the night. The big tron then read, “KISS loves Rock USA.”

As a whole, fans seemed satisfied with the performance and from a theatrical aspect, KISS did exactly what KISS always does: Simmons spits blood, band members are hoisted high into the air, confetti blows into the crowd, etc. However, when combined with solid music production, the novelty becomes more charming.

Musically, KISS’s harmonies were spot on, instrumental solos were well crafted and vocals easy to hear. KISS’s sound is so full – and loud – that it’s hard to believe there are just four people performing. Perhaps the dozens and dozens of woofers onstage help out with that.

As for the set list, a KISS tribute band probably would’ve played more hits – sorry Guitar Hero fans, no “Strutter” tonight – and it sometimes hurt that the crowd seemed unfamiliar with songs from “Sonic Boom.”

Overall, the theatrical elements were in place and exciting, the music was well performed and the mic work, as far as engaging the crowd, was arguably the peak at Rock USA.

At the end of the day, it’s supposed to be a rock “show,” and that’s exactly what KISS put on.