My introduction to KISS was with their 1987 hit Crazy Crazy Nights. At the time I was getting into the finer points of high culture (Genesis, Iron Maiden, Middle Earth Role Playing), so I dismissed its cheesy glitziness and fake live whooping (“Here’s a little song for everyone out there!”). It was only later in life that I realised their importance – they were pivotal in (American) rock music and influenced pretty much every (American) band that followed them. I guess we never really “got” them over here. Why would we when we had Queen?
KISS have returned to their 70s roots (ie. wearing kabuki makeup and ridiculous comic book superhero style stage gear) and are touring the UK, so, obviously, we’re in attendance at Manchester’s cavernous MEN arena. Kicking off with their rather tasty new(ish) single Modern Day Delilah from the album Sonic Boom, they proceed to play a set of (mostly) classics. KISS made their reputation on the strength of their stage antics rather than their playing, but here they deliver a tight musical performance that’s worlds away from the clunky sound of live shows from their “heyday”. There’s also some blood spitting and fire breathing from Gene Simmons, which, while I realise it’s customary for a KISS show, is a little at odds with their songs, which are mostly good natured thumping party metal anthems.
In addition to that we get a solo from Tommy Thayer, which culminates in his launching flares from his guitar, and a drum solo, in which Eric Singer avoids the natural tedium that usually accompanies such things by producing a bazooka and blowing up part of the lighting rig. My wife pointed out that she enjoyed the show because there were “no lame ballads”, but if there had been you can bet something would have exploded halfway through.
The nearest thing we get is Paul Stanley flying across the arena to perform his party piece I Was Made For Lovin’ You, a bizarre disco rock hybrid, and an example of their talent for producing great pop records. Stanley, with his bare chest and glittery tassled stack heels flounces around the stage in a manner that Freddie Mercury would have considered a bit too camp. He’s the star(child) of the show, however, with his constant whoops of “Hey Man chest uh!! Man Chest Uh’s a Rock City! Let Me Hear You Man Chest Uh!”
During God Gave Rock ‘n Roll To You, another great single, the screens show shots of The Beatles, Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Stones et al. Okay, maybe they could have at least put Argent in there, but Kiss aren’t shy about giving some respect to their (mostly British) influences. They throw a bit of Won’t Get Fooled Again into Lick It Up, and play a brief version of Whole Lotta Love. And while most critics would rather die than put them alongside such auspicious company, they’re true icons. Like Mickey Mouse, only badass.
Oh and Crazy Crazy Nights? Awesome!