By Cathalena E. Burch / Arizona Daily Star
Photo by Dean Snowden
By the time KISS took the stage at the AVA at Casino del Sol Resort and Casino Monday night, the blistering heat of the Fourth of July had settled into a sweltering evening calm.
Until the first boom from the pyrotechnics lit up the stage and sent a furnace-worthy blast of hot air into the amphitheater.
Every subsequent blast — I lost count after a dozen or more — produced a similar heatwave, matching the energy exhibited by the legendary glam rockers.
"Tonight's the first night of the ('Freedom to Rock') tour and it couldn't be any place hotter or any place cooler," frontman Paul Stanley, in full Starchild makeup and costume, told the crowd, and the irony didn't seem lost on anyone. If it's so hot, why add to the misery with fire?
Simple: Pyrotechnics are as much a part of the Kiss experience as the makeup, high-heeled platform boots and Gene Simmons' demonic blood spattering and fire breathing.
On Monday night, Kiss tried out its patriotic-inspired tour, one that borrows from all stages of the band's illustrious, 42-year, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career both musically and magically. Stanley, whose makeup late in the night appeared to be cracking a bit under the weight of the heat, made clear that their show, and much of their career, was not about politics or following rules. It was about taking one's destiny in your own hands and controlling it.
And it was also about honoring the military — "It's not the politicians that make the country great, it's the military," Stanley proclaimed. "Politicians make promises. The military delivers." Part of their red, white and blue theme included having a Lt. Col. Mellorya Crawford, an 18-year Army veteran stationed the last six years at Fort Huachuca as an honorary roadie. The band has teamed up with D.C.-based Hiring Our Heroes to select one active duty or retired vet to work as a roadie on each of the band's 40 tour stops.
But the heart of "Freedom to Rock" was the music, going back to the band's early days in the 1970s with "Calling Dr. Love," their heydays of the 1980s with "Lick It Up" and the steady climb of the '90s including "Detroit Rock City" and "Psycho Circus." With each song came a rush of applause from the audience nearly filling the 5,000-seat AVA. Surprisingly only a handful of those folks were decked out in full Kiss costumes; some fans met the band halfway, donning the white-face makeup and whiskers of Catman drummer Eric Singer or guitarist Tommy Thayer's Space Ace.
In addition to the fireworks exploding on stage, the band let loose some fireworks backstage, shooting rockets into the starless night. Which was a good thing for those spending their Fourth of July at the concert. From our view so far removed from downtown Tucson we didn't get to experience any of the fireworks from A Mountain, and the casino had put on its fireworks display Sunday night in anticipation of the Kiss show.