I must start this review by saying that my love of KISS defies all logic. I hate clowns, hate dressing up and love complicated music. But as I detailed in a previous post, KISS was the first record I ever bought, and they made a lasting impression on me. I’m KISS Army for life, baby. So this isn’t an unbiased review at all.
I had seen KISS in recent years (twice in 2009 and once in 2011 at Heavy MTL) and while the band still put on a good show, the formula was getting stale, and Paul’s voice was really in a rough shape. Early tour videos showed that the situation had gotten worse, so I set my expectations low for my childhood heroes.
Still, I was excited to show up at the Bell Centre. Openers Shinedown were unknown to me until a week ago where I basically bought their setlist on iTunes. Pretty good band, with decent songs and great melodic hooks. Kind of generic new century rock, but the crowd loved them and they played a solid set. Their cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man is particularly well done.
After a quick change of equipment (really quick considering how complex the KISS stage was), the familiar strains of Led Zeppelin’s Rock ‘n Roll blasted through the PA. As the song finished and the lights dimmed, the crowd went on its feet, ready to welcome the band. I always get goosebumps when they announce through the PA “Alright Montreal, you wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world, KISS!” Like ’em or not, KISS has basically invented the modern rock show, and no one has ever left the arena saying “Well, that was boring”.
The new “spider” stage looks awesome, and the band descended from the ceiling on top of it for the opening song Psycho Circus. When Paul sang “I’ve been waiting for this night to come”, he could very well have been describing the crowd’s feeling. Also, Paul’s voice was in a much better shape than before, I was glad to hear. He’s not the singer he was 10 years ago, but the 61 year old Starchild is still one of the best frontmen in rock. He still has the charisma to get a crowd eating out of his hand.
The band played all the classics the casual fans expect to hear, a few recent songs from Sonic Boom and Monster, and a very heavy sounding War Machine, dating back to 1982’s Creatures of the Night album. Now that the band downtunes even further to avoiding straining their aging voices, heavier songs like this one and God of Thunder (sung by Gene on top of the spider) sound really menacing. I was glad to hear War Machine since I always felt it was a highlight of the Revenge tour and should have been on Alive III. Kudos to the sound team who made all those low frequencies sound super clear. We also got the seldom played Calling Dr Love but unfortunately at the expense of one of my favourites, Deuce. Oh well.
I’m not sure why they insist on having Tommy sing Shock Me, which was Ace’s signature song, especially on this tour where it got played up to the halfway point and then the band segued into Tommy’s own tune Out of This World. If there’s some kind of statement in there, it was lost on me. Still, Tommy rocked that one; it’s nice to hear him sing his own material.
The obligatory drums and guitar solos were combined into an entertaining instrumental exchange between Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, which was much more interesting than the usual snoozefests. Kudos also to the band for not leaving the stage after Black Diamond when Paul said “Usually that’s the end of the show, but how about we play some more?” and then they went straight into their encore. No fake encore break! (See my 7 Rock Concert Clichés That Need to Die post) The encore consisted of Detroit Rock City with its classic harmonized instrumental break, I Was Made For Loving You (which suffers from being down tuned too much) and perennial closer Rock ‘n Roll All Nite, supported by more explosions and more confettis than I’ve ever seen! You couldn’t sing along without swallowing some!
And just as an aside: a lot of KISS fans like to rag on I Was Made for Loving You and blame the band for selling out. But it’s funny, when they play it live the place goes nuts and everyone sings along. Same goes for Judas Priest with Turbo Lover. Just saying.
Rock ‘n Roll All Nite is one of my favourite KISS songs but every time they play it, I can’t help feeling that it’s the last time I’ll get to see them. Time is catching up to them, so I think the end is coming (not bad for a band who ended it’s Farewell Tour in 2001), but on nights like these, I wish they could go on forever. They came, they rocked, we sang our hearts out, and everyone left with a big smile on their faces. The Bell Centre air reeked of gunpowder from the massive pyrotechnics, our ears rang, but everyone knew there aren’t any other shows like this. Better bands? Oh yeah (but don’t get me started on how underrated KISS is a musical act), but very rare are the acts that put on a spectacle of this calibre. We got lights, decibels, explosions, flamepots, a giant mechanical spider, blood spitting, fire breathing, flying musicians and a confetti storm. Oh, and kick ass songs, with classic guitar solos, choruses you can sing along to and pump your fists in the air with. What else can you ask for?
KISS sells a lot of merchandise with the slogan “If it’s too loud, you’re too old”. Well turn it up. It’s not loud enough for me. Or for them.
- Psycho Circus
- Shout It Out Loud
- Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
- I Love It Loud
- Hell or Hallelujah
- War Machine
- Heaven’s on Fire
- Calling Dr. Love
- Say Yeah
- Shock Me / Outta This World
- Guitar and Drum Solos
- Bass Solo
- God of Thunder
- Lick It Up
- Love Gun
- Black Diamond
- Detroit Rock City
- I Was Made for Lovin’ You
- Rock and Roll All Nite
- Diamond Eyes
- I’ll Follow You
- Sound of Madness
- Second Chance
- Simple Man
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage