02/10/2016

Gene Simmons: 'Intimate' KISS show will be 'something special'

By Kelley Simms / Gannett Media

Sioux Falls, you wanted the best, you got the best. KISS!

The iconic rock band, KISS, will be playing Badlands Pawn on Thursday for a rare unmasked and unplugged concert. It’s the first time the band has played in Sioux Falls since 1997 at the Sioux Falls Arena.

“Obviously, we play in arenas and stadiums, this (Badlands Pawn) is a totally different thing,” Simmons said. “But if we brought all our equipment, there wouldn’t be any room for people. We obviously can’t bring bombs and big pyro because it’d literally blow the roof off. It’s certainly not the biggest place we’ve played. In fact it’s close to the smallest, but (owner Chuck Brennan) wanted something intimate. The idea was to do something special.”

That something special includes the band unearthing selected gems that they haven’t played in a while or have never played live before.

“We’re going to be playing pretty obscure stuff,” Simmons said. “It’ll be the stuff that fans haven’t heard and may want to hear, but we don’t get a chance to play at the usual shows. So yes, there will be some real nuggets.”

A KISS concert is normally a spectacular audio and visual event jam-packed with theatrics, explosions, lasers and loud music. KISS shows are always meant to be a spectacle. And even for an intimate, unplugged show like this one, the band treats each performance with pride, Simmons said.

“We’ve been rehearsing for three days straight, a few hours each day,” he said. “The reason for that is you don’t want to get too relaxed, and you don’t want to go through the songs and start adding parts. The worse thing I hear is when you can barely recognize a song played by a band that doesn’t sound like the record. We don’t use any backing tapes. What you see is what you get, and we pride ourselves on that.”
The height of KISS's popularity

KISS was massively popular in the mid-’70s. The band produced comic books, pinball machines, KISS dolls and other merchandise, as well as performing countless TV appearances and thousands of concerts. There was even a movie in 1978, ‘KISS Meets The Phantom of the Park,' which debuted on NBC on October 28. The made-for-TV movie was torn apart by critics yet remains a cult favorite among KISS die-hards.

“If you were a kid and you saw ‘Phantom of the Park,’ then I guess it was part of your childhood and the memories are good," Simmons said. "But I tell you what, ‘Kiss Meets Scooby Doo’ (actually ‘Scooby-Doo! And Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery’) introduced KISS to an entire new generation of little kids. It was a massive hit.”

Simmons also said that there are two new upcoming KISS movies, but he won't spill the beans just yet.

After 42 years in the band, Simmons, 66, is showing no signs of slowing down, as KISS is constantly touring all over the world. But there hasn’t been a new KISS album since 2012’s “Monster.”

“It’s difficult to be on tour and do a new record,” Simmons said. “We’ve been celebrating our 40th anniversary, but we’re approaching our 42nd year now. We’ve been running all over the world and we’re certainly not slowing down any time soon. And we’re doing lots of extra stuff; concentrating on other areas that we really hadn’t had a chance to do, like the Vegas and Broadway shows. Everything takes time.”
Simmons on politics

With caucuses, primaries and the media storm that comes with a presidential race, it's hard to avoid opinions on American politics right now. Though Simmons, who identifies as patriotic and has been vocal politically, doesn't view opinion-making as his role.

“It’s important for people in America to have a choice, and the most important thing I can say is when you get into that voting booth, that you vote your conscious, whoever it is you want,” Simmons said. “Let the people speak. The last thing I want to hear is some rock star/actor telling us why you should vote his way, which I think is arm-twisting. That’s the wrong way to do it. Listen to what everybody has to say, and then vote your conscience.”

KISS isn’t currently on tour, so the Badlands show is truly something special. Simmons promises that he and the band will be ready to rock.

“We’re looking forward to it, we’re going to have a lot of fun,” Simmons concluded. “Every day we get a chance to get up on stage and do what we do is a privilege. It’s important for everybody to know who’s reading this, that the only reason we tour is because we like doing it. We like to see the faces of the fans and we know it means something to them, but we want everybody to know that it means a whole lot to us as well. Clearly without the fans, we wouldn’t be here.”

IF YOU GO

What: KISS Unmasked and Unplugged

When: 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11

Where: Badlands Pawn, 1600 W. Russell St.

Ticket info: General admission is $175; VIP Table for 6 is $3,000; KBAD VIP Deck is $1,000; VIP Suite for 20 is $10,000

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