September 3, 2010
First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
Tinley Park, IL
Back in ’77 it was different.
Bands came out and played their asses off, and that was all we needed. Cotton T’s and dungarees (bell bottomed, of course) were more than sufficient when it came to stage attire. It wasn’t until KISS started bringing their over-the-top stage show to the masses that fans started expecting more than simply music from their favorite bands. KISS set the entire Earth on fire with their spectacular show, and they quickly became untouchable when it came to the live setting. I can honestly say, seeing them in ’77 changed my life forever.
Here in 2010 it’s different.
Many bands are dependent on the glitz of the live show, and the available technology seems to make anything possible. More acts are performing in makeup. More acts are using an over-the-top live design. So, is the KISS live experience still the “top dog,” or is it just another concert? And think about it…. Gene Simmons – a 61-year old fire breathing, blood spitting demon. Can that still be effective?
Oh right, the music…..
What would the setlist be like?
Do these old guys still sound any good?
They are coming off one of the more successful albums of their later years with Sonic Boom, and they do have one of the most talented lineups in their history, with drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer joining the always permanent Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
I admit, I had some doubts going into this one. And when I saw the ticket prices of $91 and $135 for pavilion seats, I was just fine with leaving all of it a mystery. But, then I heard that they were selling lawn seats at a bundle price of 4/$99, with all kids 14 & under FREE. And I thought, every kid should see KISS. So I signed up for that deal, packed up my kids (and as many nieces and nephews under age 14 as I could find), and made my way out to the venue. Upon arrival at the venue, they were upgrading lawn seats to pavilion seats for $10 and $20, which tells me I wasn’t the only one that thought the pavilion price tag was preposterous. So, I grabbed the $10 upgrade and ended up with a pavilion seat near the back, but smack dab in the middle. I was ready for all of my questions to be answered.
It was around 8:45 when the gigantic tapestry was unfurled.
As the jet black sheet with the silver KISS logo dropped to the tune of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” the crowd could already feel the intensity of what was about to come. It was about 20 seconds after the Zeppelin tune finished that the lights went down.
I think KISS is the only act that could’ve answered almost every one of my questions within the first 30 seconds of them hitting the stage. As the three guitar-wielding members of KISS rose from behind their drummer on a platform that looked like it was powered by jets from below, the strains of their latest hit, “Modern Day Delilah” lit up the night air. The largest film screen I have ever seen came to life behind the entire stage, and you could almost hear every heartbeat start to race. KISS was still the “top dog” as far as that over-the-top stage show. KISS still looked great in their familiar costumes and face paint, with a stage presence like no other. And, when Paul Stanley started to sing he became the last member of the band to impress me musically. He might not hit all the highs he did back in ’77, but the range is decent and the strength is great. Now, with all of the pieces in place, what kind of setlist would they play?
Throughout the course of the night, I kept being impressed by the song choices. KISS classics like “Calling Dr. Love,” “Detroit Rock City,” and “Rock And Roll All Nite” I figured were automatic; but hearing great ones like “Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll,” “Black Diamond,” and “I Love It Loud” was a real treat. The real surprise here was not necessarily the choice of songs, but rather the length of the set. This extravaganza lasted just a few minutes shy of a whopping 2 1/2 hours. Now who you callin' old?
At various points throughout the show (and that's what this is....a really big show), we saw the band pay homage to some of the classic bands that so many KISS fans grew up with. With images of The Beatles and Zeppelin bolting across the gigantic backdrop, we were even treated to Paul Stanley doing a verse or two of Zep's "Whole Lotta Love." At another point, they played a portion of music from The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." I must say, this is something I never would've expected from KISS. They are a band that presents themselves as the leader and not the follower. They have never been a band to speak of their influences. However, they are often found talking about how they have influenced generations of up-and-comers, though. So, to see this display of iconic praise from the band brought them to a certain level of "human." And, while they honored these classic rock heroes of the past, they also honored the military heroes of the present. Two large checks were brought out onto the stage by three members of U.S. military forces, as they announced that they are donating $1 from every ticket to the Wounded Warrior Project, a charitable organization that benefits soldiers wounded in battle. Stanley had the entire audience "send a message" to these soldiers by getting the audience of 15,000 to collectively recite the Pledge Of Allegiance. It was a beautiful moment. He would later give praise and thanks to God for all of the things we have in this world, too. It seems the party is the same, but the hosts have most definitely matured.
As far as theatrics, it was all in there.
Fire breathing after “Firehouse.” Blood spitting around the time when Simmons gets hoisted into the rafters to sing “I Love It Loud.” Paul Stanley taking a zipline to a small platform in the middle of the pavilion seats to do “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” Enough confetti during “Rock And Roll All Nite” to cause any cleanup crew to keel over. And of course, enough fire to put Smokey Bear into therapy. It was all in there, and then some.
After the confetti settled, if all of it has yet settled, this was a classic KISS show. I guess some things never change.
Modern Day Delilah
Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll
Crazy Crazy Nights
Calling Dr. Love
I'm An Animal
I Love It Loud
Detroit Rock City
Lick It Up
Shout It Out Loud
I Was Made For Lovin' You
God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You II