AND IT WAS GOOD!
By elmokeep (Photo by KISSUNMASKED II from the KISSFAQ here )
It had topped nearly 40 degrees in Melbourne this Grand Prix Sunday. And the rev-heads who’d been standing in the pelting sun and drinking beer all day were surprisingly sedate as they waited, chatting amiably, for KISS as little kids in Starchild make up ran in between their parent’s legs.
The speaker stacks jumped suddenly in volume, as the Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ blared over the crowd. You could feel it thumping through the ground, it’s a throwdown if ever there was one. The giant black, KISS emblazoned flag dropped to hide the stage, and you knew they were behind there, the hottest band in the world! KIIIIIIIIIIIISS!!
Hey! Fireworks! The flag drops and the band have hit the stage with ‘Deuce’, and close-ups on Gene Simmons face show that he is already blinking sweat and greasepaint out of his eyes. It’s hot in the crowd; onstage under lights, surrounded by flames, wearing several extra kilos of spike laden costume and facepaint has got to be like having jalepeno peppers in your pants. You know your man is workin’ hard/ He’s worth a deuce. He is. Whatever a deuce is.
Paul Stanley gets off easier wearing only a unitard up to his waist. As ridiculous as this looks at first, if you’re a dude pushing sixty and looking like that, you’ll be happy. Or you’ll be Iggy Pop. If you’re still letting rip, screaming for high notes and just about getting them all, you’ll be happy about that, too.
Did I mention it was loud? This is about the loudest show I have ever heard in my life, apart from perhaps the Sex Pistols show in the late nineties at the Hordern Pavilion after which it sounded like everyone I spoke to had swallowed helium – for about a week. Yes, this is KISS at ear splitting volume and it is glorious.
OK, so KISS are like the McDonalds of rock: a globally recognised brand with a thousand product tie-ins and a giant carbon footprint. They both have clown mascots. Both are a guilty pleasure that you know isn’t good for you, but nuts if that cheeseburger isn’t the best tasting thing in the world when you’ve got a hangover. You’ll be damned to let anyone catch you enjoying it though, but you do – sweet lord, does it taste good.
KISS even went through a “we’re health conscious and are introducing a salads menu” phase when they tried to get serious and take off their make up and put out some darker records when it was clear that grunge was not a passing phase. Grunge was trying to destroy the metal! But noone wanted to eat from that salad menu! I want the Big Mac. Give me the goddamn Big Mac and fries. So KISS got back in the greasepaint, never played those songs again, and headed out on the kinds of never ending, greatest hits, wham bam, tours like we saw at the Grand Prix.
Gene Simmons spits blood during his bass ‘solo’ (come on, showman yes. Great musician? No) (Editorial note: Simmons is a proficient musician, but chooses to go for loud crunching bombast rather than boring the crowd with technical noodling.) and the effect is still awesome, even after the countless thousandth time – awesome because you can see that he is loving it. It seems with so much of KISS’ enterprise, that the music, the show, is the last thing that ever happens with the giant branding industry which swirls around it and its 100 extra-curricular activities. But when the Demon is winched straight up in the air on a wire and planted in his 8 inch heels on a lighting rig 10 feet above the stage, legs wide and roaring out ‘God of Thunder’ like his life depended on it, you can be reminded that this, is rock and roll.
“If you wanna be lectured to by someone at a rock and roll show, you’re in the wrong fucking place tonight!” Paul Stanley shrieks to the crowd, chewing out some equally well know and equally huge rock bands who use the stage as a political vantage point. “If you wanna hear bad news, turn on the TV. THIS IS A KISS SHOW!” And what is that? Pure, unadulterated escapism for 2 hours. It’s like being in a circus. Not to be outdone, Paul Stanley flies on a wire over the crowd and lands on a small stage in the middle of the field and tears into ‘Love Gun’. I decide right there that this could possibly be the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’m stuck in a moment, here, with KISS. And I can’t get out of it. I don’t want to, either.
The encore takes us through ‘I Was Made For Loving You’, a disco riff so ferocious not even Blondie came up with it. Gene Simmons spits fire. By this point, pretty much everything on the stage is on fire. ‘I Wanna Rock and Roll All Nite’ is capping off the show, and there are confetti canons showering the crowd in silver shards. There’s flames shooting up from the stage. There’s those pinwheel fireworks covering the backdrop, there’s actual fireworks in the sky. There’s fit-inducing strobes going off, there’s a showering curtain of golden sparks falling to the stage. Somehow KISS avoid spontaneous combustion and scream out “We’ll never forget you!”
I doubt that. I’m not moved by KISS’ music (amped by, yes, and admittedly a little drunk) but I am moved by what it does to people. The whole night I stand behind a KISS family, mum and dad and three kids under 10 all wearing their favourite make-up, the Cat, the Demon, the Starchild. And they spend the whole show yelling along and dancing like white people do and laughing and getting up on their parent’s shoulders. And this is probably their first ever gig. They’re the one’s who’ll never forget it.
So, if you eat nothing but McDonald’s, you’re Morgan Spurlock. If you listen to nothing but KISS, you’re the Darkness – and noone wants that. But everyone’s diet of rock has room for junk occasionally and KISS tonight, was junk of the highest order. I have been saved. God Gave Rock and Roll to me. Infact, He put it in the soul of everyone.
And it was good.