Freedom to Rock tour invades Intrust Bank Arena Wichita Tonight

Gene Simmons says KISS will rock Wichita just as hard as it did in ’77

/ WichitaEagle.com

Photo by Keith Leroux

Almost 40 years later, Gene Simmons doesn’t remember the iconic Kiss concert at Henry Levitt Arena – the Dec. 6, 1977, show that rocked so hard, people who were there are still talking about it, still comparing notes.

Simmons, who called in advance of the band’s Monday concert at Intrust Bank Arena, does however love to hear that Wichitans remember.

“That’s the highest compliment,” he said. “I would imagine there are some concerts you can’t remember. Or concerts where you can say, ‘I was born on the night my mother saw Kiss.’ Or better yet, ‘I was conceived on the night my mother and dad saw Kiss.’ 

Simmons, now 66, is the outspoken, often controversial bassist for Kiss, the iconic rock band that formed in 1973 and also includes lead singer Paul Stanley, guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer. The group has accumulated more gold records than any other American band.

Simmons is the one with the extra-long tongue, the extra-frank mouth and the reality show stardom. His life was documented in “Gene Simmons Family Jewels,” which featured his wife, son and daughter and aired on A&E from 2006 to 2012.

He and his band have just launched their “Freedom to Rock” tour, which will stop in more than 35 cities over the summer, ending in Huntington, W.Va. on Sept. 10. The band is making a point to visit markets it hasn’t been to in the past 10 years – or ever. Known for hits such as “Rock and Roll All Night” and “Beth,” Kiss last performed in Wichita in 2000, when it drew 7,200 fans to its Farewell Tour at the Kansas Coliseum.

Simmons said Wichita audiences can expect a show just as energetic and mind-blowing as the band brought in 2000 and in 1977. The band members have all gotten older, he said, but they can still rock.

“When we introduce ourselves, we say, ‘You wanted the best, you got the best, the greatest band in the world: Kiss,’ ” he said. “And we aim to prove it when you see us that the legend is true. We have a lot to live up to.

“Kiss is the hardest working band in show business, period.”

Part of that work, especially pre-tour, includes exercise, said Simmons, who talked about a five-mile hike his wife, Shannon Tweed, had recently dragged him along on. It was hot and not fun, he said, but he has to stay in shape for the road. Performing in platform heels while wearing 50 pounds of armor requires physical stamina.

“When we get off stage after we’ve played two hours without backing tracks or lip syncing or disco boys on poles – it’s all meat and potatoes, what you see is what you get – we are exhausted. It’s good for us that there’s still a work ethic when we get up on stage. It should be electric church.”

On its stops on tour so far, the group has been offering an 18-song set list that includes favorite hits plus a few of Simmons’ standard onstage antics (include the spitting of everything from fire to blood).

No one should attend the show expecting to spend much time seated.

“If you’re expecting to go see the band and sit in your seat, you’re going to be surprised to see someone’s butt staring at you,” he said. “In fact, the rest of the audience is going to be standing in their seats.”

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