Review by Jon Dunmore © Aug 1996.
it all be said again for the next generation? This time round, leaving out all
the goofy, irrelevant stuff like Paul's favorite color and Ace's favorite dessert...
From being called devil-worshippers to transvestites; from being nondescript
street kids to unbridled lodestars for two generations; from being dubbed aliens
to mongoloids, the worst band on earth to the greatest band on earth...
Let's focus on the last of those distinctions - Kiss are, after all, just a band,
Kiss are not the greatest band on earth, if you only consider
the music - BUT - considering all the logistics that go into a band's makeup (is
that a pun? Oh, do forgive), Kiss are, most definitively, the greatest
band on earth.
Kiss have unwittingly explored every facet of humanity's
character in the last twenty-something years. From "following dreams"
to "unleashing the persona within"; from enticing the hordes
to offending the multitudes; from gaining the freedom that comes with power, to
being asphyxiated in a web of their own making; knowing poverty and exploiting
wealth; being wild and crazy guys, yet touted as one of the most professional
touring shows, being leaders and being unoriginal; living in sin and living clean;
creating music and destroying musicality; being doggedly visceral and subliminally
And all they did to deserve their decades of accolades and
tirades was to play rock and roll. But was it only rock and roll?
For this band, it was never "only" anything. It was all "sacred";
all a part of The Grand Plan. Kiss (admittedly with the aid of their canny management
team) did not become worshipped by accident; each high-heeled step was taken to
gear themselves to be worshipped. And that is what separated these boys
from the men they rose up amidst in the early 70s. But you, 1996 rock reader,
do not need a stroll through Kisstory. Buy the book.
What of this
show? How do Kiss measure up in 1996 (and, more darkly, how does 1996 measure
up to Kiss)? For all their otherworldly élan, the bottom line would be
drawn at this stadium, onstage in harsh reality, as it would be drawn every night
they stride up to those mics.
Though they have endured two decades,
there is still no sign that Kiss have been forced to clock-on and drudgerously
go about their moneymaking profession. Oh, they are a tad older and wiser, which
mayhaps contributes to the step being slightly less sprightly - but Kiss deliver.
With a vengeance. As always. As promised.
Though overexposed nearly
to extinction during their 70s reign of pioneering, saturation "merchandising,"
still many sober rock and roll tomes wrongly identify the Kiss band members, so
- purely for the edification of the younger set - here be the current Kiss contingent:
Paul Stanley: guitar, vocals. Gene Simmons: bass guitar, vocals. Ace
Frehley: lead guitar, vocals. Peter Criss: drums, vocals. For those who have spent
the last year on a distant planet, yes, it is The Original Lineup. On Ye
Grande World Tour, no less! The lineup that had to endure all those silly questions
about favorite foods and preferred pets and worst dining experiences. The lineup
whose original answers this generationext thankfully missed. Which is why we'll
probably learn all over again about Gene's photo album and Ace's Porsches.
At least all those musically-uneducated youngsters (who believe that heavy
music is reliant on speed and shirtless stage-diving) will learn of the bone-crushing
heaviness of Watching You, Cold Gin and Shock Me, delivered as "heavy"
due to the manner of composition. And though the Kiss set also comprises comparatively
smoother ear-candy - Rock And Roll All Night, Back In The New York Groove -
the flesh-tearers like Let Me Go Rock And Roll and Black Diamond
verify Simmons' insistent claims: that Kiss were one of the first really "heavy"
bands. We don't even need to speak of God Of Thunder...
on the predicament faced not by the teenage Green Day muttonheads, but by those
toddlers brought to the Kiss show by their were-kisser parents. Being indoctrinated
with the Kiss experience, how are these children ever to appreciate a live band
again when they eventually make their own rebellious treks out to rock gigs in
ten years, with this vestigial memory of unremitting spectacle forever burned
into their back lobes?
It is easy to dismiss this "comeback"
as once-warriors jumping the 70s-retro bandwagon; many critics and reviewers have
had a hefty old time trying to a) figure out WHY - then upon learning of the staggering
sums of money involved, have b) tried to gauge exactly how much Simmons and Stanley
stand to walk away with, then c) pan them for doing it for the money, whilst
derogating them for resting on laurels, and, in a final stagey attempt at attaching
their ephemeral voices to a long-standing legacy, have tried to d) compare Kiss
to current bands and trends in a moot display of musicology and asinine academia.
But (and I rein in the bias with white knuckles - yes, I admit to dressing
as Gene back in 1985 for a costume party at which my band performed) this new
old incarnation of Kiss displays no lack of energy, no lack of vocal power, no
lack of excitement and intense audience involvement, no lack of musical prowess
(and though I could insert a tag about the minute amount of "prowess"
it would take to pull off these pre-80s songs, most of the Kiss catalogue is no
more or less challenging to perform than any other rock classics from the same
era - one might as well attack the Rolling Stones for their simplicity); there
is virtually nothing which one could pinpoint to derogate this act one iota...
...Well, maybe one iota... Ace Frehley, who is actually a much better
guitarist than the confines of this show will allow him to be; whose guitarwork
soared after leaving the Kiss camp in the 80s (as witnessed on his solo albums),
was denied the freedom to strut that musical growth, having to perform solos that
were composed by him almost twenty years ago! And his solo instrumental, for the
sake of tradition, was also rooted in 70s-Ville - all those licks ripped from
Chuck Berry and Hendrix and made his own - complete with smoking and flying guitars
(old tricks to be sure, but that voracious nostalgia bug eating it all up).
But if I chide Kiss for stultifying Frehley, commendations must go out to
Stanley and Simmons for digging Peter Criss out from under the rock he has been
residing under these past seventeen years. His trivial attempts at post-Kiss projects
very decisively falling through only heightens the fact that the poor guy has,
unfortunately, lost it completely. And one can only speculate at the level of
patience the Lover and Demon have had to exercise in playing with Criss again
after being spoiled by the prowess of one late Eric Carr and one recent Eric Singer.
One might contend, "Who the hell am I to critique someone who can buy more
cars in one month than I will own in a lifetime?" Yet all I am commenting
on is this finished product - that which is put on display to the public to find
legs of its own. This 1996 gig. And I am floating on Paul Stanley's promise that
this would be THE Comeback to end all Comebacks. Yet the Kiss-less years have
caught up with poor Peter, whose jazz influences and vaunted cat-like prowess
are nowhere to be seen. And if he keeps speeding and slowing and making mistakes
which cause the band to start songs over (ouch!), he may shortly be taking one
for the team and feeling Gene's dragon boot in his pussy behind.
griping. There are not enough superlatives to describe the underrated Paul Stanley.
He rocks, he rolls, he leaps, he pouts, he shakes, he bakes - he fucken cooks
with gas. The true essence of the rocker sex symbol. Though Gillan, Plant
and Daltrey may be archetypes of the 70s rock vocalist, the only reason Stanley
is not perceived as their equal is because he and his band did such a good job
of diverting attention away from their individual talents with the circus that
is Kiss. Stanley's niche is unchallengeable, as someone who can do all
those specialist-vocalist tricks with the voicebox and play guitar and
compose, to say nothing about his longevity. Hopefully, after all the hype
about his onstage persona has calmed, he will one day be recognized as the super-vocalist
and power-pop songwriter he truly is.
And then there is - Gene Simmons.
Is there a man between twenty-five and thirty-five who has not been affected
in some way by this self-proclaimed God Of Thunder?; this self-professed Doctor
of Love; the self-possessed Man of a Thousand Faces? Was Simmons ever "only"
a bass guitarist? He'll be the first to admit it was never about the bass guitar.
Or about music per se. It is about stardom. Super stardom. Simmons IS the
face of Kiss, the undisputed public identity of the band, its co-spokesman, co-writer
and co-conceptualist. He is the Beast, the Lover, the Brains and Brawn rolled
into the archetypal self-made, rock-god millionaire. Are there words in the human
vernacular to describe the heights of respect I lavish on this man? I don't
think so! Gene! See me, feel me, touch me, heal me!... (Time for that cold
shower, I think.)
In this modern media age, the younger generation have
forgotten what it was like for a band to create excitement simply through
the charisma of its members. Kiss were designed to meet the needs of the
graven image-worshippers. The 90s false heroes who depend on the anamorphic lenses
of MTV and the cash-push promotion of their record companies to generate their
shallow fan base look more and more like massive fecal blobs when compared with
the Real Thing.
For the generation who have no idea that rock and roll
was once a vehicle for enjoyment rather than angst; who believe that Marilyn Manson
is the first "outrageous" rock star; who are wholly unaware that every
modern riff they swear by came from the frets of Frehley and his ilk (Blackmore,
Page, Beck, Clapton, Berry, et al), Kiss has risen again to punctuate these
Must we endure all that goofy, irrelevant stuff again,
for the edification of the generational gapsters? For Kiss at least, the answer
is a resounding YES. (And don't you dare leave out Paul's favorite color and Ace's