Concert review: KISS – Bell Centre, Montreal – August 16th 2019

KISS came back to Montreal on their ‘End of the Road’ farewell tour, after a first sold out performance in March that exceeded my expectations. This time around, the show was the same, save one change in the setlist, so I’m sitting here, my ears still ringing, trying to think of an angle to review this concert all over again. As it turns out, there’s an easy answer: this review is from my wife’s point of view. She’s a casual KISS fan, and this was only her second time seeing them in concert. She wanted to catch them one last time, especially after I raved about the March show, so let me turn the point of view over to Danielle as we look back on that last (?) KISS concert in Montreal.

It’s unusual these days to have a non-musical artist open a concert, but performance artist David Garibaldi’s unusual painting technique offered a stunning show that was well worth showing up early. To the sound of Rush, he started throwing paint on a giant canvas, using negative space until a face emerged. Quickly it became obvious that it was the face of Rush frontman Geddy Lee, and the result was stunning! As the music shifted to David Bowie’s ‘Starman’, Garibaldi started painting Ziggy Stardust, but upside down! Finally, he created a KISS portrait that was auctioned off for charity. It was amazing to see the four characters emerge from his chaotic technique. Check out his work at his official site.

By the time the stage had been readied, the anticipation was high in the packed Bell Centre. The arena was not quite sold out, but full everywhere except for some sections in the rafters. Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’ blasted through the speakers, followed by those famous words that have introduced every KISS concert for 45 years: “Alright Montreal, you wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world, KISS!” Whether or not that statement is still true was irrelevant; we were in for quite a night.

KISS – Montreal – August 16 2019

The band dropped from the rafters on platforms that looked like flying saucers while playing their classic ‘Detroit Rock City’, a most impressive way to start a concert, followed with ‘Shout It Out Loud’ and ‘Deuce’. Explosions, sparklers and flames were plentiful, creating an exciting concert opening that few acts have even come close to matching. The band’s costumes were sparkling under the lights as KISS played up a storm through these 3 classic songs. It was impossible not to share the excitement buzzing through the crowd!

‘Say Yeah’ from ‘Sonic Boom’ was next, and unfortunately it stopped the momentum dead in its tracks. The song wasn’t as well known to the crowd (many used the opportunity to rush to the beer stands), and its chorus fell flat. Paul Stanley’s voice was a bit rough and he relied on pre-recorded help for a few songs throughout the night, but strangely would simply skip many choruses. Stripped of the lead melodic line, these songs unfortunately lost some of their punch. But it would have been difficult to sustain the energy level of the first three songs.

Still, the material was all classics, and the crowd sang along to anthems like ‘Lick It Up’, ‘Heaven’s on Fire’ and ‘I Love It Loud’ with a lot of gusto. Gene Simmons was in fine form, going through all his usual schtick, but more importantly, rocking the bass and vocals. ‘Calling Dr Love’ and ‘God of Thunder’ were high spots for the Demon, literally for the latter, as he ascended to the rafters after spitting fake blood all over his armoured costume.

The show’s pace eventually picked up with a spirited rendition of ‘Psycho Circus’, followed by ‘Let Me Go, Rock ‘n Roll’. Paul Stanley asked the KISS Army to invite him to the floor by screaming his name, and as the band launched into ‘Love Gun’, he flew over the crowd to the B-Stage behind the control board to sing the song. ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ ratcheted the excitement up a notch, setting up for the finale, the classic ‘Black Diamond’ from their debut album.

For the encore, Eric Singer rose up from below the stage with a piano for an excellent rendition of ‘Beth’. ‘Crazy, Crazy Nights’ was next, the only setlist variation from the March show. It was an odd choice to play it during the encore; it would have brought a bit of energy to the middle of the set if played earlier. The band finished with their signature song, ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ with an orgy of confetti, streamers, flame, bombs, spark showers and fireworks going off.

The message was clear: KISS may be going away, but the bar is set for anyone putting on a rock show. It’s easy to imagine the guys walking off the stage thinking “Follow this, kids.”

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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