Last Friday, July 20, I had the opportunity to finally put a question that had been burning in my mind for years. What’s the big deal about Kiss? How are they still today relevant and moreover, a phenomenon?
None the less, this Incognito ventured off to the far away realm of Bristow, Virginia to see these iconic rock gods. Also on the ticket were the glam, Cali sleazy legends of Motley Crue. Porno tapes and strip clubs aside, these guys are still around and touring. So I thought, both of these bands in one night? This I must see!
There was a little bit of everything at this show. From hardcore Kiss Army fans, to new generations of children with painted Daemon and Starchild faces. The Crue had a solid fan presence too. Lot’s of Doctor Feelgood shirts, long beach blond hair a la Vince Neil and even a few trademark Niki Sixx black eye sporting fans in my row. The best part of people watching at this show? Easily all of the late 40’s, mid 50’s nine to five workers letting their hair down and proudly sporting their acid washed denim jeans, jackets and slightly faded tattoos. Many, many, Kiss, Crue and even Bon Jovi tattoos were on display. I would venture to say that the mood at this show was truly that of a summer outdoor concert. Laid back, smell of beer in the air and high euphoria for a night filled with heavy riffs and pyro; lots and lots of pyro.
The show at Jiffy Lube Live was the first night of the tour. Motley was first to take the stage. For their entrance, they came out from the center of the crowd, carrying banners and incense along with girls (of course) scantly dressed carrying medieval style banners. I’m assuming the idea was to mimic that of a religious processional, I’m still not to sure of that but hey, it caught everyone’s attention. The band arrived to a stage chock-full of industrial style fans, hot wheel track looking rigs and lot’s and lot’s of glam. They opened with the track “Saints of Los Angeles.” My first thought was that along the lines of, God Vince Neil looks beat! But his voice sounds pretty on point. So I was happy. What made me squee like a teenage 80’s schoolgirl was the one and only Niki Sixx. Niki and his bass playing persona is one of the reasons why I ever took an interest to ever playing bass. There was just always something about the way he rocked it and just played hard. He’s not the best bass player on Earth, but his personality and stage presence is something to be desired. Suffice to say that Niki rocked his glittering/fleck red bass that also doubled as a flame thrower. Yep, a flamethrower bass guitar. That was “metal”.
If you are like me, most likely the first thing you think about when you hear the name Motley Crue, is Tommy Lee and his spinning drum cage in the 80’s. I knew way before arriving or buying the ticket to this show, that this spectacle was all in the past back at the peak of the band’s success. Tommy will never again have a stage setup like that; or so I thought. The hot wheels looking loop-de-loop served as a track for his drum kit. Yes, he rode the loop playing his solo and “Roller Coaster of Love” played lightly in the background as the kit spun. Half way and hanging upside down, Tommy proved that he still has it. I think back to this moment and feel sorry for the people next and in front of me. My screams must have left them deaf for the rest of the night. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The massive amount of pyrotechnics also added a lot to the amazement.
The set went on with classics like: Kickstart My Heart, Wild Side, Looks That Kill, Dr. Feelgood, Girls-Girls-Girls, Shout at the Devil and a few more classics. Their set was high energy, high volume and exactly what Motley Crew is: lewd, crude, loud glam rock. I never lived through the 80’s scene for which they spearheaded, but for this one night, I got a taste of what it must have felt like to see these guys back in the day along the Sunset Strip in L.A.
After what felt like a short set change, it was time for Kiss. The mood in the venue completely shifted. From a party atmosphere it changed to a thicker, heavier chant. For minutes before the curtain that covered the stage dropped, the crowd chanted and fist pumped “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” for a solid minute and a half. That intro that I had only heard on live albums and DVD footage soon filled the air. “You wanted the best? You got the best! The best rock band in the world… KISS!”. True to the statement, the curtain dropped to unveil a massive HD screen with THE crispest picture I have ever seen. EVER.
The Starchild, the Daemon and the Space Man came down to the main stage on a floating platform that came from the ceiling and spewed smoke. To the tune of “Detroit Rock City”, the men from Kiss kicked off a set that was way past 11. How I, or anyone ever doubted why Kiss has been so big, successful and legendary is unforgivable. These guys define the word Spectacle. The stage upon first glance looked simple, compared to Crue’s setup but it was anything but that. Kiss’ stage was scaled to work with multiple rising platforms, smoke and firework cannons, fireballs and heavy laser projections. The stage looked simple but really, it was just functional to hold all of the crazy surprises that were in store for the show.
I am a later catalog Kiss fan. Some of my favorite songs are I Love it Loud, Take It Off, Lick it Up and Crazy Nights. After Detroit Rock City, the guys played Shout It Loud, which is an awesome headbanging and fist pumping track. I was already into all of the Kiss glamour and amazement, only two tracks in. To add to my adrenaline, they played I Love It Loud and Love Gun back to back. I went crazy. Love Gun is easily one of the most addictive guitar intros in rock music and when you add the fact that Paul Stanley flew across the crowd to another platform in the middle of the venue, that just takes it to another level.
The night progressed on to the tune of some older Kiss classics. Not to be outdone, Gene Simmons and his Deamon persona, spit fire from a sword during Firehouse, drew blood during his bass solo and played God Of Thunder from yet, another stage set upon the lighting rigs lord knows how many feet up in the air. A true spectacle in glitter, makeup and platform boots.
I felt like I was in sensory overload. Just when I thought this was the end of the show, nah, of course not! The trashy, suggestive and strip bar favorite, Lick It Up began to be played through thousands and thousands of watts of power. I wonder how many girls have paid bills thanks to that track. Anyway, it was official, I had become a Kiss fan and now understood the phenomenon.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kiss show if they didn’t play the anthem, Rock And Roll All Night. And so they did, to a massive confetti explosion that covered the entire pavilion and made us all feel like we were inside a snow globe.
Who knew that men past the age of 50 could rock platform boots, spandex and makeup better than any drag queen on Earth and still kick ass while doing so? It’s amazing. A gimmick that will and has spanned generations while still creating enough income to live a more than comfortable lifestyle. Amazing. I have truly come to understand, that when it comes to Kiss, the magic is in the makeup (and pyro, lot’s and lot’s of pyro).