KISS bids a fond farewell to Detroit Rock City

They may open every show with the famous anthem, but only one place actually IS Detroit Rock City for KISS.

The costumed quartet descended from the rafters onto the stage through a shower of sparks and a haze of smoke on Wednesday night, March 13, getting the Detroit stop on its End Of The Road Tour started with more than a few pyrotechnic bangs. That was just the beginning of the rock ‘n’ roll spectacle for the nearly sold-out crowd at Little Caesars Arena.

Fronted by original members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, KISS was all fire, glam, platform shoes and Kabuki makeup. It was a night of nostalgic, old-school rock surrounded by high-tech, state of the art production. Over a dozen pod-shaped panels hung over the stage and acted as both video screens and lighting as KISS worked its way through the 20-song, two-hour and 15-minute set like seasoned actors on a stage – not missing any cues and giving the KISS Army all the hits. Their voices were roughened by the years and their stage moves were a bit more stiff than years past, but Simmons, 69, made it clear from the start his signature tongue flicking was not affected by his age, vamping for fans and licking his guitar (or other band members) every chance he got.

KISS live at Little Caesars Arena, in photos

Stanley, 67, took the job of front man and crowd greeter seriously, chatting up the audience and reminiscing about how KISS has played Detroit since 1974 when it performed at the Michigan Palace. He also name-checked Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena before saying, “but TONIGHT is something special. This is the End Of The Road Tour!” Though he made the band’s love for Detroit clear several times, they missed a huge opportunity after opening the night with “Detroit Rock City” by making no mention of how or why the song came to be, instead launching directly into “Shout It Out Loud.”

The crowd, ranging from (mostly) middle-aged rockers to a smattering of pre-teens with full Gene or Paul face paint, plus a few diehards in full KISS costume, was more than willing to participate in singalongs during “I Love It Loud” and an especially impressive “Lick It Up.” The giant video screen behind the stage had enough high resolution to see all the body (and other) fluids dripping from Simmons and was the perfect backdrop for vintage footage of the band through the years as Simmons, Stanley and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer performed the same signature lock-step moves live at the front of the stage during “Deuce.”

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