Halloween arrived early last night, when the Kiss Army invaded downtown Cleveland, Ohio, for a concert at Quicken Loans Arena. The show was the second stop of the Kiss Alive 35 tour, following a sold-out two-night stand in Detroit Rock City. The trek celebrates the 35th anniversary of Alive!, the band’s first landmark live album — one of RS’ Greatest Albums of All Time — which helped elevate the group from a New York makeup act to international rock icons.
With some luck, Kiss will return to the city in a few months: Last week, after a decade of eligibility, the popular favorite received a nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is headquartered blocks away from Q.
Buckcherry warmed up a two-thirds capacity crowd of Kiss Army careerists, privates and generals. The arena was dotted with convention-worthy costumes and fans in pedestrian fatigues and face-paint. Couples wore black-and-white Gene-and-Paul designs, dads and sons sported matching makeup, and an elementary schoolgirl looked so comfortable painted as Starchild you’d think she was at a Dora the Explorer Live! show. Vintage designs from the ’70s outsold more recent merch, and some of fans wore T’s from the band’s 2000 (alleged) farewell tour.
As frontman Paul Stanley proclaimed early in the set, “Tonight is all about celebrating the history of the band and the relationship with the Kiss Army.”
In the years that followed Alive!, detractors have had a lot to say about Kiss, through its double-live gonzos, concept albums, disco derailments, solo indulgences, collectible dolls, unmasking, remasking, forays into reality TV, and a failed fantasy movie. But few have ever accused the band of putting on a bad show. And they still can’t, regardless of what you think about their hard-chugging music and lyrics about rock, gin, loose women, liberated women, unwilling women and coerced women.
Some historical maritime skirmishes on nearby Lake Erie didn’t use as much pyro and explosives as the group brought. Flame, fog, and fireworks surrounded rotating high-rise platforms. And the band looked like they have since bringing back the makeup in 1996. This stage set featured a trademark lit-up KISS logo under a tall large drum riser, and a video screen as wide as the stage was flanked by two smaller displays.
For this tour, reports of new costumes are hype. Kiss wore the standard ’70s-era makeup. Gene Simmons added some plate mail to his torso, and Stanley took the stage in black-and-silver glam suspenders, furry chest exposed.
With under-arm wings and a wagging tongue you can see from the cheap seats, Gene Simmons is still a convincing, deep-voiced demon. He spat blood and flew (on cables) to the top of the lighting rig, where he sang “I Love It Loud.” As the band launched into “Love Gun,” Stanley the Starchild zipped on a wire from the stage to a platform in the back of the arena. Over the set, he ran through his repertoire of reliable moves — disco strut, head-scratch, butt-shake, and stripper-style hip-wiggle. His voice hit and missed, but he made most high notes and wasn’t scratchy until end — his pipes, after all, were strong enough to score him a starring role in a production of Phantom of the Opera.
Guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer were also on point, recreating the roles (and costumes) made famous by Ace “Spaceman” Frehley and Peter “Catman” Criss. Wearing Frehley and Criss’s makeup designs, the two recent additions expertly emulated their predecessors. Thayer reenacted Frehley’s famous solo, from bent-knees posture to axeman posturing. During a spotlight solo, as Ace had, Thayer wielded a guitar that spewed sparks, and gunned down a chunk of the lighting rig.
The set was an expanded staging of Alive!, with extra — in the words of Stanley — “classic classics” from the 1976’s Destroyer, plus “Modern Day Delilah,” the promising new single from the imminent throwback-style LP, Sonic Boom. The group made just two brief nods to its underrated unmasked, no-makeup period of the ’80s and ’90s: “Lick It Up” and, as the crowd exited, “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You II” played over the P.A. system like rolling-credits music from a big-budget movie.
Animalize tour. Aside from the sludgy spotlight solos, he gave it a thumbs-up: “Best Kiss set ever.”
“Got to Choose”
Let Me Go, Rock ‘N Roll”
“Modern Day Delilah”
“Hotter Than Hell”
“Nothing to Lose”
“C’Mon and Love Me”
(Paul teases crowd with the first bar of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven, evoking more boos than laughs)
“Rock and Roll All Nite”
“Shout It Out Loud”
“Lick It Up” (with a brief instrumental interpolation of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley”)
“I Love It Loud”
“Detroit Rock City”
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