Every KISS show is special for their fans. They can play their same songs over and over again in the same order and most would still not complain. After seeing KISS five times they never do the exact same thing on their different tours, but I’ve grown accustomed to hearing most of the same songs with just a couple of switch-ups on each one. So when a buddy of mine asked me what to expect while heading to the KISS concert in Frisco, TX at Pizza Hut Park, I told him “You’ll hear all their hits. They put on the best rock show ever.” He basically replied, “Well, they can’t play my favorite song because the guys not even in the band anymore.” Obviously, he was talking about “Beth.” I quickly replied, “Yeah, that won’t happen.” THAT was my first big mistake of the night writing this “Hottest Show On The Earth” tour-stop off as just another KISS concert. These veterans of rock had most definitely done what they’ve always been known to do. Put in 110% for their fans and make the night as memorable as they can.
As their token black KISS curtain fell and the stage came to life, you could see drummer Eric Singer (The Catman) pounding away on his drums and you could hear guitars playing the opening lines of “Modern Day Delilah” from the band’s new album Sonic Boom. However, Gene Simmons (The Demon), Paul Stanley (The Starchild), and Tommy Thayer (The Spaceman) were nowhere to be seen. Suddenly, from behind the drumset the three appear being lifted over the banging Catman and to the front of the stage where they took their token spots on the stage. This was my first hint that things were not going to be the same this evening.
After the first blistering song, the band settled into three classics which included “Cold Gin” and “Let Me Go Rock ‘N Roll.” Then came the first treat of the night. The band wrapped up “Firehouse” and as the sirens were wailing, Gene Simmons did his legendary fire-blowing. No matter how many times you see this, it never gets old and is still thrilling. After that, they broke into another new track called “Say Yeah” and encouraged the crowd to sing along loudly. Next, they played another cut off their first album, “Deuce,” following that up with a song that I’m pretty sure had every legitimate KISS fan in the house salivating over entitled “Crazy Nights.” I don’t think they’ve played this late 80’s hit since maybe 1993. What a major surprise to hear that pulled out of the archives.
The next song played was “Calling Dr. Love” to which Gene began the song saying “Dr. Pepper.” The band did a great job of pushing their two partners in commerce – Wal-mart and Dr. Pepper. Stanley said many times during the set “This song is off our new album that you can get exclusively at Wal-mart.” It was funny. Then came the next surprise of the evening.
Tommy Thayer was introduced and they announce he is going to be singing “Shock Me.” Now any KISS fan out there knows that Thayer replaced the original Spaceman, Ace Frehley, who wrote and sang “Shock Me” in the classic days of KISS in the 70s. It was Frehley’s spotlight song of the band’s set. This sends most fans into a rage, but not me. I completely understand personnel changes in a band and have no problem with someone playing another person’s song. It almost seems like Thayer is paying homage to Frehley and The Spaceman character when doing the song. Needless to say, he pulled it off completely, even vocally sounding pretty right on with the original. At the end, Thayer broke into a solo and jammed with drummer Singer for a good five minutes. He played his guitar over his head, with the mirror back reflecting a sort of spotlight into the crowd before having it ascend into the sky and grabbing another one off-stage.
Thayer then did the “2001:A Space Odyssey” solo and fired off his guitar bombs into the sky. Instead of the usual two, he walked to the middle of the stage and both he and the drum riser rose up in the air. Next, Thayer fired off another rocket. Out of nowhere, drummer Singer stands up and says “Check this out” and pulls out a bazooka from behind the drums. He holds it over his shoulder and fires off his own rocket that explodes loudly to the cheers of the audience.
The spotlight shifted to Gene Simmons again for the next song, “I’m An Animal.” This is the signature Demon track off of Sonic Boom and he delivered it in full force. This was very special for me, as it is my favorite song off Sonic Boom. After one more classic off their first self-titled album, Gene took the spotlight again for his solo. He plucked his bass guitar chaotically while church bells rang and a bright light shined on him like the sun. He put his hand and winged cape over his face to block the shine in his best Bela Lugosi pose. Then, he started slowly spewing blood until it was running all down his chest-plate and onto the guitar. This triggered his ascent to a platform at lest 30 feet above the stage. Simmons then broke into “I Love It Loud” off the band’s Creatures of the Night album. After ascending from the sky, the band headed into “Love Gun”, “Black Diamond”, and seemingly ending the set with “Detroit Rock City” in a posed freeze frame like they did on their last tour. The posed freeze frame is so eerie. It’s like you’re stuck in a historic photo or caught in time. The band came back to life, said good night, and left the stage. There was no way, however, that they were going to get away that easy.
After a few minutes of chants of “KISS, KISS, KISS!” from the crowd, the band retook the show and announced that we would be getting the longest encore in history. I kept waiting for drummer Eric Singer to walk back up to the drumset, but instead he grabbed a microphone while Stanley and Thayer began strumming the opening chords of “Beth” on acoustic guitars. I literally could not believe what I was seeing. I looked over at my buddy, who just smiled as I ate my words. I can only imagine that any crazed die hard KISS fan in the stadium that night was reeling. I personally thought that Singer pulled it off without a hitch. This was the first of six songs the band played for their encore.
The band broke into “Lick It Up” and crowd favorite “Shout It Out Loud” next. Paul then announced that he wanted to come visit the crowd. After being invited, he flew across the heads of the crowd and landed on a platform in the middle of the audience. The band moved into their disco hit, “I Was Made For Loving You,” which was one of the songs played at my wedding reception and holds special meaning to me. I love that song. Heck, I love the whole album Dynasty.
Upon arriving back on stage, the band broke into another rarely-played-live track entitled “God Gave Rock “N Roll To You II” while pictures and video of the band’s history was displayed on the middle screen of the stage. Especially sentimental and emotional was the long section of flashing pictures of drummer Eric Carr, who lost his battle with cancer during the period that the band first did this song. I thought it was a very cool tribute to the late drummer.
The band finally called it a night and ended the set with “Rock ‘N Roll All Nite.” Almost the entire time they played the song, confetti was being blown out into the air and descended on the crowd and band. At one point, you couldn’t even see the band. I think their was more pyrotechnics blowing up and licking the night sky than I’ve ever seen before. As the band said good night, fireworks blew up over the stage and continued for probably about five minutes.
Needless to say, KISS did what they do best. They left the crowd somehow still wanting more after almost a two and a half hour concert and contemplating when they would get to see them again. It’s hard to believe that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, both either right at 60 years old or getting there, can still get up in front of a crowd every night and pull off the acrobatics and emulate the pure energy that they do. The band truly does put on “The Hottest Show On Earth!”
Picture Source: Dallas Observer