August 16, 2010
by Michael Lello
Weekender Editor

Even in today's ultra-connected world, there are some things you just have to see to believe, things with a certain power that does not exactly translate to the screen of your TV, computer or phone.

Like a Kiss concert.

The legendary showmen and their Kiss Army descended on Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain Sunday night, bringing with them an over-the-top production that combines P.T. Barnum's circus, Broadway stagecraft, professional wrestling and a church revival, complete with more pyrotechnics than a Fourth Of July celebration, band members sailing over the stage, and, oh yeah, some massive musical performances of some of the bandís best-loved songs.

At 8:52 p.m., a giant, black Kiss banner dropped, a video preface began and we heard the familiar band introduction: "Scranton, Pennsylvania, you wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest show in the world!"

It's a ballsy statement the band has been making - and backing up - for decades.

The curtain dropped, explosions ensued, and as they launched into "Modern Day Delilah," Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and guitarist Tommy Thayer rose on a platform above drummer Eric Singer's riser, then in front of the riser and onto the stage. Talk about making an entrance.

After "Delilah," from Kiss' newest album "Sonic Boom," Stanley welcomed - and challenged - the crowd. Mentioning the band had recently played in larger cities Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, he said, "Tonight, Scranton, you're gonna show us it's not how big it is, it's how you use it."

The simple and heavy "Firehouse" was an early-set standout, as was "Deuce," with Simmons on lead vocals. Thayer, Simmons and Stanley convened at the front of the stage for some choreographed back-and-forth moves, and it was a cool thing to see.

The diversity of the career-spanning setlist was impressive. Several songs from "Sonic Boom" were showcased, as were five - "Cold Gin," "Firehouse," "Deuce," "100,000 Years" and "Black Diamond" - from Kiss' self-titled 1974 debut. The band also sprinkled in some of its more pop-metal-ish tunes from the '80s, like the fun "Crazy Nights" and "Lick It Up." Hell, the band even played a song from its brief disco-rock era, "I Was Made For Lovin' You."

Each band member had extended segments in which they were the focus. Thayer, who now reprises the Spaceman role of original Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, sang lead on "Shock Me," a song Frehley sang with Kiss. After "Shock Me," Stanley and Simmons left, leaving the stage to Thayer with Singer, who has now permanently replaced original drummer Peter Criss. Thayer played some Led Zeppelin riffs before Singer's drum solo. Thayer aimed his guitar, shooting flames across the stage. He returned to some heavy riffing while his and Singer's platforms were raised over the stage, white smoke billowing from under each of them. Singer fired flames from a bazooka, both musicians' risers lowered, and Simmons and Stanley returned to the stage, launching into "I'm An Animal," another track from "Sonic Boom" - of which Stanley joked, for the second time, is "available exclusively at Wal-Mart."

"100,000" years was a musical highlight. The moody track began with Simmons' ominous bass introduction - his bass lines all night were sharp and booming - some Jimi Hendrix-y Thayer guitar and an extended drum portion. Simmons, after his trademark blood-spitting routine, was rapidly raised to a small stage connected to the lighting rig, where he sang "I Love It Loud." This, and the following song, the Stanley-sung "Love Gun," were a pair of musical highlights. Fireworks mimicked the machine-gun riff of the latter song as it came to a close.

Singer took lead vocals on "Black Diamond." Stanley again addressed Scranton, asking the crowd of 10,588, "Do you feel like a rock city?" and "Do you wanna go to Detroit?," setting up "Detroit Rock City," explosions punctuating the song's famous introductory riffs. The drum platform rose above the crowd again while Stanley and Thayer engaged in some beautiful twin guitar leads. After four blasts of pyro, each Kiss member froze in mid-riff. Snapping out of the freeze, the band launched into a few more closing riffs before the lights went down, ending the pre-encore part of the show.

The encore was more like a mini-concert, featuring six songs: "Beth," sung by Singer, "Lick It Up," "Shout It Out Loud," "I Was Made For Lovin' You," "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II" and "Rock and Roll All Nite." "Lick It Up" was tremendous and included a snippet of The Who's 'Won't Get Fooled Again."

"I wanna come out there and see you," Stanley said. "I can do it, Scranton. But you have to yell my name, Paul." The crowd obliged, and Stanley climbed onto a metal ring before he was hoisted above the stage and launched via a cable over the seats to a mini-stage near the soundboard as his bandmates started off "I Was Made For Lovin' You." He sang the funky song and played guitar on the small stage before zipping back over the crowd in time for "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll." During the song, images of rockers like Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Eric Clapton appeared on the video screens. When you combine this with the band's inclusion of Zeppelin and Who music during the show, you can tell Kiss is a band that still holds respect for its rock forefathers.

The crowd was bathed in white confetti during "Rock 'n' Roll All Nite," the stage awash in sparks, as Singer, Thayer and Simmons rose above the stage one last time. Stanley swung his guitar overhead, then smashed it to bits.

After the band left the stage, a video screen displayed the message "Kiss loves you, Scranton."

Following the band's powerhouse performance Sunday night, it's safe to say that feeling is mutual.