For the 2nd time since the band’s farewell tour in 2000, KISS returned to Charlotte with a different line-up. Along with the departure of original drummer Peter Criss, the band dropped many of the staples of past tours and included rarely heard gems in their place. Gone were such tracks as “Calling Dr. Love,” “God of Thunder” and thankfully “Cold Gin.” Instead, the band delved deeper into their vast back catalogue dusting off tracks that haven’t been played live regularly in 25 years. The addition of these songs and the arrival of former/current drummer Eric Singer provided a much needed energy boost to a band that’s been playing the same songs for the last 8 years.
Starting things off with “Love Gun,” the band thoroughly rocked Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre for the duration of their set. In fact, every song was a rocker. The band decided not to play any ballads and provided a balls to the wall rock and roll blitz. Front man supreme Paul Stanley danced around the stage and took every opportunity to get the audience involved. Stanley’s voice seemed to be in fine shape but just a little raspy which prevented him from being able to hit the high notes of “I Was Made for Loving You.” Gene Simmons was every bit of the demon as he’s ever been. His fire breathing and blood spitting routines had the crowd smiling and chanting “Gene, Gene, Gene.” The demon seemed to relish the attention and stood there demanding more before declaring “I like it.” Eric Singer pounded the drums better than Peter Criss has been able to do in 20 years and new spaceman Tommy Thayer nailed every Ace Frehley solo. Musically, this line-up of KISS is the tightest since the 1992 Revenge line-up. Not surprisingly, that line-up also included Singer.
The band has finally found a set list that pleases both the die hard fans and the casuals. The inclusion of “lost” songs like “Got to Choose” and “Makin’ Love” are like a breath of fresh air in between the standards like “Detroit Rock City,” “Deuce,” and of course “Rock and Roll All Night.” KISS hit every era in their 30+ year career.
When the band came out for encores, Stanley delivered a passionate speech about the evils in the world and the terrorists that “want to destroy America.” He encouraged every young person to get out and vote. This is the first time that I can remember KISS doing anything quasi-political. After his speech, the band dove into an incredible slightly re-arranged version of “God Gave Rock and Roll To You II.” The band then went into “the rock and roll national anthem” of “Rock and Roll All Night” complete with confetti blizzard that was so thick that it completely obscured the stage and enough pyro to put most 4th of July celebrations to shame.
KISS of ’04 is the most exciting version of the band in quite a long time. It’s also the best musically. Stanley promised a return to Charlotte and with the way these guys are hitting right now, I can only hope it’s sooner than later.
(Photos and Review by Benji McKay)