Well....this is going to be a tough one to write, and probably a tough one for some to read, but I'm not going to white-wash anything because I have loved this band for 33 years now and have paid my dues in the KISS Army so I will tell it as I see it. I come to the table having seen the band on every tour since Love Gun (except Unmasked and Creatures Of The Night since they didn't play in my area in 1982-83 and I was 10 in 1980 and couldn't drive to the Palladium gig in NYC, the only U.S. date on the Unmasked tour.) I have seen probably over 45 KISS shows in my "guesstimation", maybe more but I'm too lazy to sit and figure it out, and so it is with great regret that I have to report this was probably the worst KISS show I have ever witnessed. There, I said it (whew!). To be fair, my girlfriend's 15 year old son loved it and thought it was amazing, so there's a good example of what "perspective" means. I also have a problem with having 2 guys dressed up as Ace & Peter onstage, as it's a bit of a "tribute band" thing, and kind of a slap in the face to the legacy, but I understand the marketing reasoning behind it.
Opening act BUCKCHERRY came on strong with their AEROSMITH/GUNS 'N' ROSES hybrid of intense hard rock with a punky edge. They remind me of a grittier ballsier FASTER PUSSYCAT. I'm not a huge fan, I like a few songs from them, I'm not big on ultra crude lyrics(Crazy Bitch)and the fact that they ripped off the riff for "Lit Up" from KISS' "Shock Me" is either cool or annoying, I can't decide. Singer Josh Todd came onstage looking like a junkie Peter Pan is the only way I can describe it. He's a decent frontman, even though it's obvious he worships at the altar of Axl and Steven Tyler. His incessant screaming through half the songs kind of ruins it for me though. It's like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. I got up and went out to the concourse to hang with some friends after about 5 songs because I was getting a headache. I guess I'm getting old, even though I like screamers like Tom Keifer and Bon Scott, I couldn't take it. Unfortunately, I missed them doing a cover of "Highway Star", which would have been cool to see. Oh well. I'd have loved them back in 1986.
OK, now on to KISS. First, the stage is honestly a letdown to me. I feel like I'm in the Plasma TV section at Best Buy with a drum set plopped down in the center of it. It seems like there was not much thought put into it at all....I mean, OK, there's 40 screens onstage and a huge one, so how about doing something cool with them, like having fast paced slideshows of vintage KISS photos from whatever era they are playing a song from with the album covers, etc. Do something creative with it. The stage is too big and empty, there are too many lights all flashing at the same time with no rhyme or reason, like a bad club rave or something. It's like being bludgeoned visually with no mood set, except when Gene does the blood spitting. One of the things that was always cool about the old KISS shows was the dark, evil aspect of the stage lighting, and the stages were all creatively designed. They've had boring stages before (Crazy Nights), so this is a minor beef. Maybe they don't wanna spend the money since there's no big tour budget backed by Universal Records anymore, who knows? One thing that was cool was the KISS logo being on the stage in front of the drum riser...when the band was in front of it, it reminded me of the times on the 1974 tour when the logo was on the stage in certain venues...it creates a cool visual. The finale was cool as usual, with the quasi-Alive II platforms going up at the end, flames, etc.
I've been watching YouTube clips of this tour, and the concern I had going in was that it seems that Paul Stanley is losing his voice big time. Seeing him last night confirmed this for me. I don't know if something is wrong with him health-wise, or if it's just age or what, but it was painful and depressing to watch. He simply can't sing high anymore, and vocally he was just all over the place, seeming to struggle pretty badly. It's odd, because I saw him on his solo tour 2 years ago, and I didn't notice anything major wrong. His vocals on "Sonic Boom" sound strained too, but live it's a real problem now. His in-between stage raps are getting very shrill and hard on the ears. I was actually embarrassed for him, because this is one of my heroes, and it really shocked me(no pun intended) to see. Something is wrong and I'm not sure what it is. They should consider dropping the tuning down to a lower key so it's easier for him to sing. I've seen THE WHO in recent years and Roger Daltrey can't hit the notes anymore either, but he's adjusted his vocal style to his current range, whereas Paul hasn't gotten that memo yet.
Gene was Gene....when he's in character he's great. One thing that was annoying was there seemed to be little of his bass guitar in the mix for the first half of the show.....the bottom end was lacking. Tommy Thayer did a solid job of mimicking Ace all night, I can't really fault him for his performance. I loved his silver sparkle Gibson Explorer guitar...nice vintage touch. However, Eric Singer is very over-rated in my opinion. I don't like his robotic stiff style of drumming, he lacks feel and swing, and to be blunt, he was missing fills all over the place because he was showboating and twirling sticks instead of keeping a solid foundation. I don't have a problem with showmanship, but not when it sacrifices doing drum fills. Eric Carr played circles around Singer, even though Peter Criss in his prime is my favorite KISS drummer. I'm a drummer, so I notice stuff that probably 80% of the crowd didn't, so it's just me nitpicking a bit.
The song selection was pretty decent, as the first 3 albums are my favorite era of the band, and they limited songs off of "Sonic Boom" to the single, "Modern Day Delilah", which is a smart move. Many of the songs on the album would translate well live, but honestly, with a back catalog like KISS has, you don't really want to sit through 3 or 4 new songs at one gig. They could rotate a new song in here and there to keep it fresh, but most people aren't familiar with the newer stuff to warrant having a lot in the set. I found it interesting that there was no "Psycho Circus" in the set, considering it was a song Paul claimed as one of his favorites. Also I think it's the first tour Gene doesn't breathe fire during "Firehouse", opting for "Hotter Than Hell". I would like to see them pull out something odd like "Flaming Youth" or "Love Em & Leave Em" just for us hard cores, but I'm sure there's just no room in the set. I'm glad they don't have Thayer doing the smoking guitar bit, which would really have rubbed me the wrong way as it's Ace's signature. Firing the rockets out of the guitar is bad enough already. All of the standard KISS show tricks were in place, Gene flying up to the lighting rig to spit blood, Paul flying out over the crowd to the back of the arena for "Love Gun", Tommy shot rockets out of his guitar, and Eric has a levitating drum riser that rotated for his drum solo. His drums sound like Tupperware bowls though....BUCKCHERRY'S drummer had a better live sound.
Well, there it is folks. I know this will piss some of you off, and that's ok, because I used to defend every move KISS ever made from the "disco years" to "The Elder" to crappy 80s pop fluff like "Crazy Nights"....and at the time, I meant it. Don't diss KISS man, I'll rip your head off! But as the years wore on, and I got tired of defending every boneheaded move they made, it gets to a point where you step outside your "fanboy" mentality and start to look at what it really is. I mean, I was never going to attempt to defend a KISS Koffin to anyone, sorry. Does that make me bitter or jaded? Yeah, maybe. I'd call it honest and realistic, but I guess it depends how you want to look at it. In the end it's just my opinion, although I don't see how anyone can NOT see that Paul is clearly losing his voice, it's pretty obvious. I still had a great time, the band are still great performers, for God's sakes, 60 year old men doing what they do is amazing. But, depending on if Paul can get his voice back in shape, I have a bad feeling the end of the road is just on the horizon I'm afraid.