07/13/2014

REVIEW: KISS REALLY IS ROCK AND ROLL!

Photo and writing by TourBusLive.com

“You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world...KISS!!!” Every KISS fan knows those words – and every KISS fan would agree.

For those who never understood what the big deal is with KISS, let me try to explain: It's been said that KISS music isn't exactly the most intricate (although I've heard that performing their songs is a little more difficult than we novices are often led to believe), and KISS lyrics aren't necessarily the most complicated (who can forget the simple lyrics to the 7th grade dance staple "Beth"), but KISS music means everything to their fans. KISS music makes us rock. KISS music makes us happy. And, to their devotees, known as the KISS Army, KISS music takes us to a world where we believe we can be or do anything.

Marketing geniuses well ahead of their time, these four super-heroes (yes, a 1977 Marvel comic book featured KISS, even using authenticated blood from each KISS member in the vat of red ink used to print the issue) permeated our lives, our lunch boxes, our bed sheets, and even our underwear. KISS became our fantasy: Every guy wanted to be them; every girl wanted to be with them. Their image became an escape from our mundane lives. At a time when there was little choice other than disco on our radios, KISS became something this fan (and fans like me all over the world) could sink our rebellious teeth into. KISS was (and still is) rock and roll.Photo and writing by TourBusLive.com

“You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world...KISS!!!” Every KISS fan knows those words – and every KISS fan would agree.

For those who never understood what the big deal is with KISS, let me try to explain: It's been said that KISS music isn't exactly the most intricate (although I've heard that performing their songs is a little more difficult than we novices are often led to believe), and KISS lyrics aren't necessarily the most complicated (who can forget the simple lyrics to the 7th grade dance staple "Beth"), but KISS music means everything to their fans. KISS music makes us rock. KISS music makes us happy. And, to their devotees, known as the KISS Army, KISS music takes us to a world where we believe we can be or do anything.

Marketing geniuses well ahead of their time, these four super-heroes (yes, a 1977 Marvel comic book featured KISS, even using authenticated blood from each KISS member in the vat of red ink used to print the issue) permeated our lives, our lunch boxes, our bed sheets, and even our underwear. KISS became our fantasy: Every guy wanted to be them; every girl wanted to be with them. Their image became an escape from our mundane lives. At a time when there was little choice other than disco on our radios, KISS became something this fan (and fans like me all over the world) could sink our rebellious teeth into. KISS was (and still is) rock and roll.

And KISS’s influence on today’s rockers is immeasurable – an entire generation of musicians has admitted the importance of KISS in their decision to pick up an instrument in the first place, including Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett, and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters, all the guys in Alice In Chains, Mick Murphy and Wiley Hodgden of Chevy Metal/Birds of Satan, Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater, and more. Our world would have been a very different place had it not been for KISS.

The original members - vocalist/ rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley, vocalist/ bassist Gene Simmons, drummer Peter Criss, and lead guitarist Ace Frehley (the unlikely target of my teenage infatuation) - formed KISS in New York City in 1973. Shortly after, they stumbled upon the value of making themselves a virtual show - masking their identities in make-up, wearing costumes to alter their personalities, and portraying these characters whenever in public. Other than scant glimpses of their eyes or chins, the 70s KISS fan never really saw the actual faces of the band members, which added to the mystery and intrigue of KISS.

Today, of course, the band has long-since been unmasked (Simmons even starring in motion pictures and television shows), but KISS still chooses to reapply their make-up when going on stage to please their long-time admirers. I guess the KISS Army prefers the fantasy over the reality.

But what continues to really thrill old fans, and what makes new fans, is the live KISS show. We caught up with KISS in Irvine on this warm July night, on the seventh stop of their current 42-show summer tour – KISS 2014 HEROES TOUR – where they are raising money ($1 from every ticket sold) to help support our troops by donating to multiple military support organizations, including the USO.

And although the music is obviously the draw for a night out like this, wandering around the venue before the show starts is half the fun at a KISS show – as the KISS Army is out in full force! Would-be Genes, Pauls, Aces, and Peters weave their way through the crowds, stopping constantly for photo-op requests from like-minded, but less ballsy, fans. And after catching a little of the KLOS pre-show party fun, we finally made our way to the seats as it was time for the show!

After an opening set by equally-impressive rockers Def Leppard, KISS took the stage to a flourish of fireworks – even on this night after the 4th of July. Seriously, there were more pyrotechnics than any stage should ever have (so much fire that I swear I got a tan). The band literally lit up the night as they took the fans on this modern, but very familiar, ride through their ever- expanding song catalogue. Appearing larger than life (it helps that the guys sport seven-inch-tall platform boots), Stanley, Simmons, current guitarist Tommy Thayer, and current drummer Eric Singer didn't stop rocking for nearly two hours while we watched them do what they do best. Amid the fire breathing, the blood spitting, exploding guitar solos, drum solos, a snowstorm of confetti, Gene taking flight (via wires) straight up to the rafters to sing "I Love It Loud", and Paul later flying right over the crowd to a mini-stage at the back of the venue to sing "Love Gun" and “Black Diamond”, KISS performed songs mostly from their 29 Gold albums (and 13 Platinum!) that span their four decades as a band. Yes, KISS delivered exactly what their fans came to see...a rock and roll show we won't soon forget.

Oh, and lest we forget (well, Paul made sure none of us will forget as he mentioned it at his first chance at the microphone), KISS was FINALLY inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a few months ago – something many of us middle-aged KISS fans have waited a long, long time for. KISStory now proves what we fans have always known: KISS really IS rock and roll!
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