Monday, October 23, 2023

A Demon, a Spaceman, a Cat and a Starchild Walk Into My Summer of Live Rock & Roll

That’s not actually correct. They didn’t walk; roadies lowered onto the stage on individual platforms. Also, it really wasn’t summer, being mid-October — it was more autumn. But the rock & roll was live. Kiss put on a great show, and since this was their third farewell tour that also aligned with their 50th anniversary, it was even more special. That it was in Detroit was an homage to their own roots, as that is where they started.

Kiss was just taking off as I reached adolescence. That takeoff was surrounded by massive hate and discontent from those who were already opposed to rock ‘n’ roll. I remember the first time I saw them in their full makeup and costumes, and that alone caused me to pause and listen to the music. The band faced opposition from church groups who believed that the name Kiss had sinister connotations. Looking back it was all a little silly: Knights in Satan’s ServiceKinder SS, Kids in Satan’s Service.  Well, to be honest, being a young teenager that only caused me to gravitate a bit more toward the group. 

I was never a big fan of the music, at the time I was leaning more towards Linda Ronstadt in the Eagles. But I was familiar with the music and there were several songs I liked. Most of that was because of the eight-track tape player I had in my car. The device was a hand-me-down from my dad’s pickup truck, and I owned four tapes: Johnny Cash - San Quentin, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Soundtrack, That’s the Way of the World Live by Earth, Wind and Fire, and Alive! by Kiss. Looking back at that collection, it is interesting that three of the four are live collections. There was also a tremendous difference in the genres of each compared with any of the others.

So how did I wind up at this concert? I bought the tickets as a birthday present for my younger brother as he was a fan of the band back in the day.

Overall, it was a great evening, and the music was good. The number of songs I was familiar with surprised me. It never occurred at the time which band was performing it. 

From the very first song, Paul Stanley (Starchild), the band’s frontman, made it clear that every song we heard was being performed in Detroit for the very last time. A constant reminder that this was their farewell tour.

You can debate the quality of the music, vocals, and actual performances. But what you cannot debate is the quality of the show itself. It was entertaining and kept you waiting for the next surprise around the corner. Gene Simmons (Demon) stuck out his tongue and at one point blew a huge fireball into the air then spat blood. You know, the usual. Eric Singer (Cat) performed an exceptional drum solo that started with a showy bit of prep while he kept dual bass drums rhythmically pounding away without pause. Tommy Thayer (Spaceman) offered up several guitar solos that are now among my favorites.

One of the bigger highlights of the show is when Paul Stanley climbed onto an aerial zipline that went from the stage to the back of the arena. Once there, he climbed off onto another stage and performed several songs. Since our seats were right next to the second stage, it was a big highlight for us. While he was singing, he was also doing a bit of soft shoe in the tall platform shoes that they all wore. Considering the man is now 71 years old, performing much as he did when Kiss started five decades prior added to the impressiveness of the performance.

I’ve always been a people watcher, but it seemed as if the uniqueness of the band brought out a fan base just as unique. I mentioned earlier all the problems that grown-ups seem to have with the band when they arrived on the scene in the 70s. It was interesting to see entire families showing up for this concert and all in makeup; in the last 50 years, a Kiss concert had become a family event. 

Of course, there were also adults who dressed up like the band, and it was fun talking with them before the music started. I even got a picture.

During the third or fourth song, my attention was drawn to two ladies who were sitting across from us. One of them, with Starchild makeup, was filming the entire concert with her phone. While she was doing it, she was watching the concert over the top of the camera and dancing. I can’t help but wonder what the video looked like since she was putting quite a bit of effort into her dance moves. Standing behind her was another lady who was very into the music. 

It took me a while to figure out exactly what she was doing, but when I did, I realized why she was having more fun than anyone else in the venue. Somehow, at least from how she acted, she had directly connected with the band on stage and they were performing solely for her. As she sang the songs back to them, she was oblivious to everything else around her. At various times, it looked like she was flirting with the members of the band even though there was no way they could see her from the distance between them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a connection that deep or eclectic between a fan and a performer.

The first time I saw Alice Cooper it surprised me how exceptional the show was. This was at the same level. The show was visual and auditory. It brought back memories and gave me a lot of new ones to walk away with.

There are several more shows left both here in Canada before the tour wraps up in December. Buy the damn tickets and go.