Having been a KISS fan since 1977, I’ve probably seen them in concert close to twenty times…and along the way, I’ve gotten a glimpse into the inner workings of the KISS machine. I have seen the original line-up in makeup, and the other various versions of KISS in and out of makeup. One common denominator in all of those versions is that they have always tried to deliver a great show for their fans and Tuesday night at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville, KY was no exception.
KISS descended upon the stage opening with “Detroit Rock City” (no big surprise there) amidst an arsenal of fire and flames. They came out guns a blazing, delivering more pyro than any KISS show up to this tour. The galloping notes of “DRC” start and the mighty KISS Army screams as this two-hour Rock‘N’Roll journey begins. KISS was definitely trying to leave their mark on this “End of The Road World Tour.”
“How many people here tonight have never seen KISS before?” Paul Stanley asked. Judging from the crowd’s response to Paul’s question, it seems that about a third of the crowd had never seen them before. For people young and old though, it didn’t matter. It is the Rock’N’Roll spirit that KISS has delivered so well over the years that brought them out. For some, this is the only KISS they’ve known. They have no idea who is behind the makeup and may not even care. For those that have seen the original KISS live, there is a degree of onstage chemistry missing in the current line-up. That doesn’t make the current line-up bad, just different and more technically sterile, perhaps. The original line-up, as dysfunctional as it was at times, had an organized looseness and attitude in their playing that resulted in the magic that the first generation of KISS fans fell in love with.
Of course it would have been great to have seen the original line-up together one more time, but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be a foreseeable possibility with all of the social media drama currently going on between the original members. Maybe it’s just hype, but there always seems to be something new popping up. Maybe they are using gorilla marketing and gearing up for something even bigger at the end of this three-year tour….I wouldn’t be surprised at that, either.
What was special about this show? It was just good Rock‘N’Roll and at least most of the makeup era music has stood the test of time. KISS seems to realize that too because that’s where the bulk of their setlist came from. Pulling 5 songs from “Destroyer”, 4 from “Kiss”, 2 from “Creatures of the Night”, and 1 song from most of the original line-up releases (skipping over “Unmasked” and Music from “the Elder”). They did a good job on touching almost every KISS line-up except “Revenge” with 2 non-makeup songs and only 1 from the current line-up’s release “Sonic Boom”. Well, I guess you can’t cover everything in two hours…can you?
The setlist was as expected for a last show…no deep cuts and the most popular songs across the history of the band. I did appreciate the little homage they did to The Who during the breakdown of “Lick It Up”. Gene breathing fire at the end of “War Machine” was a nice change of pace, however, Gene may want to refrain from his latest stage stunt of deep throating his microphone at the beginning of “Dr. Love”. “God of Thunder” seemed to drag a bit, and didn’t convey the energy that I expected. I suspect that they may have been playing to a click track to sync with the video effects.
The current line-up was extremely tight though and brought a great visual show. They delivered what you’ve come to expect from KISS: Gene breathes fire, Paul flies out into the crowd and sings a couple of songs, Tommy shoots rockets at spaceships, and Eric does a drum solo on a rising drum platform. The vocal duties were split pretty equally between Paul and Gene, with Eric singing Black Diamond and Beth. I had heard that they were running tracks and was expecting that at this show. No tracks for Louisville though…Paul’s vocals were real and at times a little rough but you can’t expect the band to sound exactly like “Alive!” or “Alive II” that was over 40 years ago.
After Black Diamond, KISS retires backstage for a moment before the encore. Eric Singer returns to the stage sitting behind a sparkly piano singing and playing along with the backing tracks to “Beth”. The band joins him at the end of the song for another round of fanfare and a bow. With one last “You don’t wanna go home yet, do ya?” from Paul Stanley and the question “Do You Love Me”. The band begins and the crowd joins in on the clapping and singing, seconds into the song silver and black balloons fall from the rafters building to the show’s climax. “Rock’N’Roll All Nite”…..no KISS show is complete without their biggest anthem. They gave it everything….even more over the top than the normal KISS finale. Confetti, streamers and yes the cranes that take Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer out above the audience. Paul smashes his guitar and more pyro and even more pyro….fire and flames shooting out from behind the rising drum riser. The two hours went by so fast…..the end is here.
Fear not, rock is not dead and will not die as long as the same people that support KISS and national acts like them, support the up and coming acts too. I’m sure this concert will inspire someone else in the audience to chase their musical dream. The KFC Yum Center show was a way different show than KISS’s first show at the Coventry….but it took that show to get here. So go see an unknown rock band at the local venue and make that connection with them…you never know how far they will go…when they have fans that believe in them.
Photos by Estill Robinson: