KISS brings its Freedom to Rock Tour to the Richmond Coliseum Tonight

By HAYS DAVIS / Richmond Times Dispatch

After decades in makeup and surrounded by flames onstage in one of the most enduring bands of all time, Gene Simmons of KISS still views his job with the enthusiasm of a fan.

“There are bands that are great studio bands: Steely Dan and Pink Floyd,” Simmons said. “Really great bands that reach their prime in the studio. That’s not what we do. What we do, it’s much more of a live band.”

KISS, which will roar into the Richmond Coliseum tonight - Friday, Sept. 9, has always been best onstage, Simmons said. After the first three studio albums failed to catch on commercially, 1975’s “Alive!” captured the concert experience on vinyl. Going gold, the album’s live version of “Rock and Roll All Nite” became KISS’ first hit single, and a phenomenon was born.

“It’s like anthems at football stadiums; if you play the anthem in a recording studio without 50,000 people yelling in the background, it ain’t the same thing,” he said. “So, the songs really don’t come alive in the way we imagine it until and if and when we play those songs in front of an audience.”

On the current “Freedom to Rock” tour, the band is honoring the military by making someone a “Roadie for the Day.” For the Richmond concert, Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Warren Wright and Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. James Puckett have been selected by Hiring Our Heroes and Vet Tix to serve as roadies for the band.

Wright will attend the concert as part of Hiring Our Heroes’ “Roadie for a Day” program, and Puckett will attend as part of Vet Tix’s “Hero’s Wish Program.”

During the concert, there will be a five-minute tribute to the military, in collaboration with local government and military leaders.

Eligible Richmond-area veterans and service members received free tickets to the show given away through the national nonprofit Vet Tix.

“We love America and we have no problem wearing our hearts in our sleeves. Draping ourselves in the American flag? You bet … we are. And to take it a step further, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the United States government and KISS have teamed up to make sure that at every single one of our shows we’re giving jobs to vets.”

Along with Simmons on bass and vocals, the band currently includes singer-rhythm guitarist and co-founder (with Simmons) Paul Stanley, drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. As KISS puts Richmond on its radar, Simmons sees the concerts as events that are not only the spectacle that fans have come to expect but also now can be cross-generational family experiences.

“When I was growing up, rock and roll was the thing — rock bands, like the Stones — that separated their fans from their parents: ‘All that noise.’ And now it’s come really full circle, where the parents can take their kids and, in some cases, their grandkids, because we’ve been around 42 years and share something that is special, as far as we’re concerned,” Simmons said.

“Our idea is to make you forget about the traffic jam and about the fight that you had with your girlfriend, or ‘I forgot to tie my shoelaces.’ Whatever it is that bothers you in life, our time is magic time. We’re going to blow the roof off the place and make you forget about all that stuff.”

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