08/16/2014

KISS ROCKS ALPINE VALLEY MUSIC THEATRE

By Piet Levy of the Journal Sentinel

Photo by Michael McLoone

KISS wouldn't be KISS without the spectacle, and the band certainly wasn't skimping at its Alpine Valley Music Theatre show Friday as part of its 40th anniversary tour with co-headliner Def Leppard.

Fireworks erupted with the 75-minute set opener "Psycho Circus" and popped during practically every song afterward; sparks even shot skyward from co-frontman Paul Stanley's guitar, "triggering" booming bursts above him for "Lick It Up." A dense fog shrouded the band at multiple points in the night and blasted down from above, as if the stage production itself was literally blowing off steam. There were flame throwers too, and co-frontman Gene Simmons spit fire at the end of "Hotter Than Hell."

But the greatest special effect was the showmanship of Simmons and Stanley especially impressive considering the men are in their 60s and have been sporting the metal-studded black costumes and Kabuki-like face paint since the '70s.

Stanley was the relentless hype man, telling the crowd that Aug. 15, 2014, would be a night they would never forget, and doing everything in his power to live up to his promise. Before "Love Gun," he stepped onto a zip line with those monstrous silver heels to fly above the crowd toward a stage in the middle of the amphitheater but not before demanding a deafening audience roar. Like Stanley, the crowd gave everything they got.

Simmons continued to personify the superhero-inspired, larger-than-life spirit of KISS, with a barking, booming voice and comically crazed eyes. He was especially animated during a bass solo, stage blood trickling down his neck and onto his metallic chest plate, his tongue whipping about like it was a living parasite trying desperately to free itself from its host.

Musically, the band was engaged for an energetic set spanning from a roaring "War Machine" to a boisterous "Shout It Out Loud" to "Rock and Roll All Nite." And sorry, Ace Frehley fans, but lead guitarist Tommy Thayer deserves a lot of the credit.

At one point, Stanley called for the house lights and asked for fans there with their kids to hoist them up. "We were there for your parents, and we'll be there for you guys," Stanley said. And on Friday, KISS performed like it still had another 40 years left in 'em.

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