Kiss – Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
The Kiss Army descended on the Second City in their droves for what turned out to be the fabulous night of absolute over the top hard rock pantomime. This was the band’s first UK tour since 2010’s Sonic Boom Over Europe and unsurprisingly the streets around the Barclaycard Arena were a sea of Kiss t-shirts, with a liberal smattering of face painted fans.
The disappointment of not having Musipedia favourites RavenEye opening proceedings, unlike the mainland leg of the European tour was brought into focus when the UK support act, The Dives (6) kicked off the night with their insipid brand of Americana/rock/pop. The band are fronted by Evan Stanley, son of the Kiss main man so no real surprises for their inclusion in the short UK run. The band were certainly polished and they had great enthusiasm, pulling out a sharp 35-minute set which earnt them an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Far away from the sound of the headliners, their inclusion warmed the audience without ever igniting the fire.
As the sound of Zeppelin’s Rock N Roll blasted out of the PA, it was hairs on the neck time. The huge black curtain emblazoned with the KISS logo covered the front of the stage and as the search lights raced around the arena, that opening salvo screamed out the legendary words that have opened thousands of Kiss shows: “Alright Birmingham. You wanted the best and you got the best. The hottest band in the world, KISS!!!!” That riff kicked in, the curtain fell and there they were. Kiss (10) blasted out Deuce. Yes, the band who’ve built an entire empire out of an astonishing show which features some of the most simplistic songs ever written proceeded to deliver the most bombastic, theatrical experience that many will have ever seen.
More pyro than Rammstein, more effects than Alice Cooper and a damn brilliant show. Shout It Out Loud followed, the first of four tracks from Destroyer before Paul Stanley took to the microphone to request a minute’s silence for the victims of the Manchester bombing. Unfortunately, the first few seconds were marred by some real idiots, and maybe it’s time to follow football’s lead and opt for a minute’s applause or as Skunk Anansie decided, thirty seconds of crazy. It was a decent touch by the band, whose gig at Manchester has been cancelled due to the arena remaining a crime scene.
Stanley then launched into the first of his audience participation sessions, asking how many of the ladies in the audience liked to be “licked”. Coming across as part pantomime dame, part drag queen, Stanley’s New York drawl has now been replaced with a camp, Lily Savage meets Dame Edna delivery. Quite bizarre. Lick It Up followed, before the first heavy hitter of the night with I Love It Loud, Gene Simmons now joining in on the audience participation as he prowled the stage, every opportunity to ”tongue” the cameras taken. If you’ve never seen Kiss, you really can’t appreciate just how big this show is. A huge screen at the rear and one either side of the stage allows everyone a view, the lighting is astonishing and the smoke pots and lasers something else.
After Firehouse, which was a little tamer than expected, it was time to turn the microphone over to Tommy Thayer, who delivered a fine Shock Me, before a solo that at least didn’t go on for too long. Thayer is a fine guitarist, and live, it’s him and drummer Eric Singer who keep the band moving, their vocals and playing a cut above that of Stanley and Simmons. However, despite Thayer’s slick axe work, most of the attention remains on the original driving force. A rarish outing for Flaming Youth, the final track on Destroyer followed, a poor choice in my opinion as it is a weak song, but that was instantly forgotten as the temperature increased dramatically. The bass solo followed, full of drama, dry ice and the blood capsules that cascade down Simmons face as he played his evil notes before flying up to the platform high above the stage. God Of Thunder, always immense, was just epic.
Whilst I’ve always loved Kiss, their music can be quite ghastly and nothing epitomises this more than the horrible Crazy Crazy Nights. Unfortunately, I appeared to be in the minority of two (along with the Ed) as the rest of the arena lost their shit. Luckily for us, the crushingly War Machine, from Creatures Of The Night followed and order was restored. Simmons delivers the better, heavier songs for me and whilst Stanley is the show man, it’s Simmons who tended to grab my attention. He never stands still, striding around the stage in those ridiculous boots and armour, showing a fitness which belies his advancing years. Indeed, the whole band demonstrate a level of energy far more than expected for men of their age. Paul Stanley took the spotlight for the sing-a-long Say Yeah, the sole inclusion from Sonic Boom, before he climbed aboard his trip wire that catapulted him to the centre of the arena and a revolving platform. Simple but oh so effective.
Psycho Circus followed, another weak song but one that fits so well with the gargantuan effects exploding all around us. As Stanley flew back to the stage, Eric Singer took lead vocals on Black Diamond, possibly the most fluent vocal performance of the evening. The band then ended the main set in the only way possible, a massive Rock N Roll All Nite, with ticker tape pouring onto the crowd, pyro lighting up the stage and Simmons and Thayer soaring above the audience on hydraulic arms. Stunning stuff!
The disco-fused I Was Made For Loving You is another of their dreadful collection but as the band launched into it as the first encore, a crushingly heavy riff transformed it from appalling to a solid hard rock track, complete with a thundering solo from Thayer. As the lights went into overdrive, it was suddenly time for the final song, the mighty Detroit Rock City, an anthem which has few equals. A quite amazing evening of super theatre and so worth seeing. For all their faults, this was a show which was worth every penny. Kiss are a class apart in this arena.