August 14, 2010
KISS stunningly overwhelming in Darien gig

By Jeff Miers

Love 'em. Hate 'em. But good luck ignoring them.

For nearly 40 years, Kiss has reigned supreme over theatrical arena rock. Marrying the thump, wallop and strut of late 60s British and American guitar-boogie to a show blending the macabre, the over-the-top, the just plain fun, and the deafeningly decibel-infused, Kiss birthed a glitter, glam and greasepaint-adorned hard rock spectacle.

On Friday, the band brought its "Hottest Show On Earth" tour to Darien Lake and made plain yet again just what the critics have never gotten their eggheads around, but the little girls (and boys) have always understood - Kiss is rock 'n' roll fantasy writ large and played loud.

Of course some of those "little girls and boys" are now in their 40s and 50s, and many of them came to Friday's packed show with their offspring - themselves representing a new generation of Kiss fanatics-in tow. In a recent conversation with The News, band cofounder and front man Paul Stanley spoke of the Kiss audience as "a tribe," and reflected with obvious pride on the multiple generations of fans now flocking to the band's shows, in the process making this summer's Kiss tours one of the few to do solid business in just about
any market imaginable.

Kiss has, for the first time in several tours, a new album to push. It has been even longer since the band had a new album worth pushing, but "Sonic Boom" is the band's best in-studio work in several decades. Not surprisingly, the quartet pushed the new stuff, though not too hard, with a total of three of the collection's songs sharing space with classics. One of them opened the show, in the form of the Zeppelin-esque boogie "Modern Day Delilah," as the band arrived on risers, the spectacle kicked off with a thunderous explosion, and Stanley commenced the energetic stage-strutting that he'd continue for the next 2-plus hours.

Kiss - Stanley, bassist/vocalist/ co-founder Gene Simmons, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer - then busted straight into a trio of stone-cold hard rock classics, as former guitarist Ace Frehley's "Cold Gin" gave way to the full-tilt raunch of the early gem "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll," and finally settled into the T. Rexlike glam anthem "Firehouse." Stanley offered his "Say Yeah," another "Sonic Boom" tune, and the additional muscle of the in-concert version eclipsed the studio track handily.

Then it was onward, as Simmons tackled what just might be his coolest song ever, "Deuce"; upped the sleaze factor with another of his finest, "Calling Dr. Love"; and then turned the microphone over to Thayer, who ably handled Frehley's trademark "Shock Me."

With the sole exception of the rather too glitzy and Bon Jovi-esque throwaway 'Crazy Crazy Nights," the set list was all killer and no filler, particularly the grouping of songs that slammed us all headlong into the encore - "100,000 Years," "I Love It Loud," "Love Gun," "Black Diamond" and "Detroit Rock City" commingled to form the finest 30 minutes of fist-in-the-air hard rock Western New York has seen in many a moon.

Western New York band DoDriver kicked off the evening's with a short set. As winners of a Guitar Center contest, the band took home the prize they'd probably dreamed about as kids - opening for Kiss.