KISS brings 'Freedom to Rock' tour to the DCU Center on Saturday
When KISS formed in 1973 as a bigger-than-life, comic book-costumed gothic hard rock band, co-lead vocalist and guitarist Paul Stanley knew they were onto something "massive from the start."
More than 40 years later, Stanley still has a good feeling about KISS as they head into the DCU Center in Worcester for a show at 8 p.m. Sept. 3 as part of their "Freedom To Rock" tour. The Dead Daisies will open).
"This is probably the best the band has ever been," Stanley said during a recent telephone interview. "It justifies, if one (justification) is needed, why this band exists. We're not a band that relies on nostalgia. We're a band that competes and beats anything out there."
But KISS, with original members Stanley and Gene Simmons (co-lead vocals, bass), and longtime players Tommy Thayer (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Eric Singer (drums, backing vocals), is doing a little looking back on its current tour.
When "Freedom To Rock" was announced it was stated that KISS would be specifically taking the show to markets that hadn't had the chance to see the band in some time. The tour opened in Boise, Idaho, July 7.
The last time KISS was in Worcester was 20 years ago in 1996 when the DCU Center was the Worcester Centrum. KISS had first come to the Centrum in 1983 on its "Creatures of the Night" tour, and also returned there in 1988 and 1992.
"For us this tour is very much about revisiting places that made us from the beginning," Stanley said. "We went to places other bands ignored. Most bands stuck to a very narrow-minded and rigid schedule."
KISS initially came to Worcester because it was "banned in Boston, so speak. They wouldn't allow pyro(technics). That being said, the Centrum for us was always an exciting gig. All of the places we're playing have great memories for us," Stanley said.
KISS with Stanley, Simmons and original members Ace Frehley (lead guitar) and Peter Criss (drums) quickly made a name for itself performing live shows that were massive theatrical-style productions with band members with painted faces (Stanley's trademark "Starchild" visage is a black star over his right eye), drum kits rising 40 feet into the air, pyrotechnics, and (fake) blood spitting.
The performances remain a spectacle, as attested by a headline in the Daily Emerald for a review of a recent KISS "Freedom To Rock" tour stop in Eugene, Oregon, that called the show "aptly excessive."
Along the way the shows have been accompanied by quite a soundtrack of 44 albums with more than 100 million sold worldwide. Hits such as "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock and Roll All Nite" are typically hard driving, but the band's biggest hit single is the quietly sad, acoustic "Beth," showing that KISS can be subtle as well as brash.
KISS was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. (The band has just released a new DVD/CD "KISS Rocks Vegas" taken from performances when it was in residency at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during November 2014.)
Stanley, who has written or co-written many of KISS' songs, is also an actor and an artist. Intelligent and articulate, the native New Yorker said he could not have envisioned at the beginning KISS' longevity even though his initial intuition has told him the group would be successful.
"You have to remember there was no precedent for a band lasting decades at that point," he said. "There was no idea that a band could be something like the blues where you play it for your life. Nobody could have envisioned that. With time, rock and roll changed from teen idols being fed by writers to writing songs that connected with your audience."
There have, however, long been precedents for disharmony within a band, and KISS has had its share of that. Over time there would be departures, reunion tours and makeups. Meanwhile, the paint makeup disappeared for a while, and then reappeared.
All of the original members of KISS have written memoirs, and Stanley's account of the KISS 2000 "Farewell Tour" with the four original members in his book "Face The Music: A Life Exposed" is very revealing ("The tour was horrible. Constant drudgery and misery … ").