KISS dazzles at Youngstown's Covelli Centre

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers deliver rock 'n' roll spectacle

By BJ Lisko / www.cantonrep.com

KISS frontman Paul Stanley sauntered his way to the microphone with the trademark Starchild strut. The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were approaching the end of their near capacity concert Friday night at Youngstown’s Covelli Centre.

“What you hear is all four of us,” Stanley said. “There are no tracks here, ’cause we’re a rock ’n’ roll band.”

Damn straight.

The KISS Army attended in full force to see the iconic theatrical group blow off multiple pyrotechnics, fireballs and confetti as well as breathe fire, spit blood and fly up and through the arena in what is still arguably the best live rock show going. Underneath the wildly entertaining spectacle, however, was as Stanley said: A rock ’n’ roll band, and a very good one at that.

KISS performed nearly two hours of its most well-known songs including “Detroit Rock City,” “Deuce,” “Beth,” “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Lick It Up” and “Love Gun,” among others. Musically, the band (comprised of guitarist/vocalist Stanley, bassist/vocalist Gene Simmons, guitarist/vocalist Tommy Thayer and drummer/vocalist Eric Singer) is as tight as its ever been. Vocally, Stanley doesn’t quite hit all the notes he once did, but the group’s band mentality was on full display with Simmons, Thayer and Singer joining in on nearly every song to help cover KISS’ familiar melodies.

More than 40 years of singing and stage banter will do that to a person, but Stanley also ably sang his way around the original notes he couldn’t quite hit by occasionally altering the delivery, and judging by the ecstatic response, no one seemed to mind.

At one point in the show, Stanley asked the audience, “How many people are seeing Kiss for the first time?” Surprisingly, more than half of the crowd raised their hands — a testament to the fact that KISS’ music and message continues to resonate, inspire and garner new followers.
“That’s OK,” Stanley replied. “Everyone remembers their first KISS.”

Friday’s show was another on the band’s “Freedom to Rock” tour, which according to Stanley, has raised more than $150,000 for military veterans. The tour also focused on bringing the KISS spectacle to cities it hadn’t played in more than 10 years or at all. Friday’s Youngstown show marked the first time since 1974 that KISS had performed in the city.

As the band played the final bars of “Rock and Roll All Night,” confetti covered more than half of the Covelli Centre, while Simmons and Thayer were lifted high above the audience, practically to the ceiling. Simmons looked down, flashed his giant tongue and his blood-stained lips curled into a smile.

“Is it OK if we come back, Youngstown?” Stanley asked.

Given the reaction he got, it would be a shock if the band didn’t.

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