by Doug MacGunnigle, WPRO
“You wanted the best, you got the best…the hottest band in the world…KISS!” It’s how almost every concert by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers KISS has started for the past 45 or so years. When the band roared into Boston’s TD Garden Tuesday night, they certainly delivered on one of the most entertaining and visually exciting and (literally) explosive shows that’s likely ever been produced.
Despite criticism of the use of the ‘farewell’ motif by the band yet again, (the first “Farewell Tour” took place in 2000 – and in some ways it was an accurate description – guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss haven’t toured with the band since) this tour dispensed with the sentimentality and delivered exactly what the band has promised in a rare case of the final product living up to the hype – the biggest show you can imagine.
YouTube videos don’t do it justice. From the moment the iconic KISS curtain drops, revealing the band descending from the rafters accompanied by one of the most impressive pyrotechnic displays one can imagine while they play “Detroit Rock City,” to the final moments of frontman Paul Stanley smashing his signature Ibanez Iceman guitar at the end of “Rock and Roll All Nite” while confetti and streamers drop on the crowd and even more pyro explodes around him, the concert is a bombardment of the senses.
Stanley, at 67 years old, has the stage presence and energy of a man 40 years his junior – and it’s not just because of the iconic facepaint – the man is ripped. He also sounds great this tour. There are reports that he is receiving prerecorded assistance, but it’s unnoticeable in the show. One of the more impressive parts of the show is when Stanley flies to the back of the arena to deliver “Love Gun” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.”
Serving as master-of-ceremonies, Stanley reminisced about the band’s early experiences playing in Boston – how they played at the Orpheum Theatre in 1975 and also how for many years they couldn’t play in the old Boston Garden because “they wouldn’t let us blow stuff up in there.” Up until the new Fleet Center (now TD Garden) was built, the band was forced to play in either Providence or Worcester on their east coast tours.
The other original member on this tour, 69 year old Gene Simmons performed his popular routines – breathing fire during a heavy, blistering, pyro-laden performance of 1983’s “War Machine,” spitting blood before ascending into the rafters to deliver a bone-crunching “God of Thunder,” and flapping his trademark tongue at every chance he had.
The camaraderie between Simmons and Stanley was strong during this show, with Stanley often sharing a mic with Simmons or playfully engaging with him on stage.
While original members Frehley and Criss were not part of this tour, the roles of Spaceman and Catman were capably filled by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer respectively. Thayer proved a worthy sub, mostly sticking to Frehley’s original guitar parts and replicating his classic solo, during which he shoots fireworks from his guitar.
Eric Singer is a much stronger drummer than Criss is these days and the power he provided behind the kit was impressive. Singer first performed with KISS following the death of second drummer Eric Carr in 1991 and on the excellent “Revenge” album before the first reunion tour with the originals.
One might wish for a ‘dream scenario’ where Frehley could’ve gotten his act together for this tour for a Stanley/Simmons/Frehley/Singer lineup. At any rate, Singer, in addition to his drum duties and harmony vocals, took lead vocals on main-set closer “Black Diamond” in place of Criss, as well as Peter Criss’ signature tune “Beth,” which he performed at a piano covered in enough rhinestones to make Elton John blush. It was perhaps a good thing that Thayer wasn’t enlisted to sing Frehley’s signature “Shock Me.”
All in all, despite some initial misgivings I may have had, Frehley wasn’t really missed. The show is so massive that you barely had time to dwell on one thing before everything around the band was exploding or levitating or something else crazy.
The setlist is standard. Stanley said in the lead up to the tour that it would be, that there would be no ‘deep cuts,’ and it was the right call. The crowd ranged in age from older folks to small children, whose mouths were agape in awe of the show that they were witnessing. If this was their first show, they’re certainly spoiled visually from anything else they’re likely to see.
While this is advertised as “the end,” the tour is also scheduled to continue for 2 years or so, meaning the band will likely come through again, probably in smaller markets like Providence or Manchester. If they do, and you’re even a casual fan, I can’t recommend this show enough.
Yes, the band is making a ton of money here (front row seats cost $1000, you can buy Stanley’s microphone from the show for $6000 or his guitar that he smashes, or Simmons’ blood splattered bass, etc etc etc) but the show is truly a victory lap that shows the younger guys ‘how the big boys do it.’
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
I Love It Loud
Heaven’s on Fire
War Machine (Gene breathes fire)
Lick It Up
Calling Dr. Love
100,000 Years (with drum solo)
Cold Gin (with Tommy Thayer guitar solo)
God of Thunder (with bass solo, Gene spits blood)
Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
Love Gun (Paul on stage in crowd)
I Was Made for Lovin’ You (Paul on stage in crowd)
Beth (Eric Singer on piano)
Do You Love Me
Rock and Roll All Nite