A case for KISS

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As a boy, my bedroom walls and roof were covered with blood, fire and masked men in black leather.

My parents weren't steering me towards a life of crime or experimenting with some weird '70s therapy.

No, from age 10 to 14, I was enlisted in the KISS Army and the band's music rocked every second of my time.

I'd lie on my bed for hours staring at KISS pictures ripped from magazines and plastered throughout my room.

With Destroyer or Alive spinning on a crackling record player, I'd envision KISS performing Deuce, or Shout It Out Loud in front of me.

There'd be deafening explosions, mesmerizing lights, and of course, Gene Simmons would be wagging his tongue, breathing fire and splitting blood.

Those daydreams, now fond memories, were as good as it got. There was zero chance of KISS coming to Corner Brook, where I grew up.

A few weeks ago, more than 30 years after that first fantasy, I finally got to see KISS in concert during a trip to Halifax.

The music which I now listen to maybe once a year was wicked fun.

They opened with Simmons yelling the classic lyrics to Deuce Get up and get your Grandma outta here and closed about two-a-half hours later with the fifth encore song, Detroit Rock City.

Paul Stanley, who does most of the singing, left nothing in the tank and lost his voice towards the end of show.

He sounded absolutely pained during I Was Made For Loving You, making the tens of thousands in the crowd appreciate his all-out efforts even more.

While the songs were enjoyable and took me back decades, the extra effects were over the top and outrageous.

Stanley in full make-up and costume, of course raised the expectation of that early when he asked the crowd if they wanted to see the foursome blow some s*t up

They proceeded to set off a lot of pyrotechnics, perhaps a million times more than the City of St. John's does on New Year's Eve.

There were also lots of smoke, confetti storms, a rocket-firing guitar, Stanley zip-lining over the crowd, a rising drum kit, and Gene doing his tongue, blood and fire thing.

The music and mayhem combined to make the concert a frighteningly entertaining spectacle, even for the non-KISS fans with me.

Every eye in the crowd was fixated on the stage to see what was coming next, and as people watched intently, they pumped fists to wondrous rock.

The show far surpassed my boyhood fantasies.

And that might be the best thing about the whole experience, because, as a fan, it's quite satisfying when a band exceeds your expectations.

I set the bar high over three decades ago and KISS cleared it in costumes and seven-inch heels.

The band doesn't appear to meet the standards of rock historians and pundits though.

KISS isn't even in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame despite 36 albums and 75 million sold.

Critics don't take the group seriously, saying KISS is more about marketing than music.

It's a point well taken, with the amount of merchandise available and Gene Simmons appearing to be into everything.

But, to me, KISS should be given credit for the memories it has given millions, myself included, since forming in the early 1970s.

Few rock bands, regardless of their sound or schtick, can catch your attention at 10 and grab it again on a damp summer night some 30 years later.

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  • Shawn
    July 27, 2010 - 13:55

    I was there too, a long time fan since I was a kid, and I bought meet and greet tickets, so I met the band. It was a huge moment for me, loved every second! Their new album is soon out and the new song shows KISS still have it, it rocks! :)