“Alright, Cleveland. You wanted the best, you got the best….the hottest band in the world, KISS!” For decades, those words have signified the beginning of a night that you won’t soon forget, and last night's KISS concert at the Q, packed to the rafters, was the latest chapter added to the group’s long-running history with the city —and potentially, the final one.
You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here
If this is indeed the “End of the Road,” as the name of their current tour suggests, the members of KISS are going out with a show that’s impressively energetic (and visually, it’s their most over the top staging and production to date), especially when you consider that it’s been nearly 45 years since they made their first appearance in town at the Cleveland Agora
They of course, made quite an entrance, descending from the ceiling on platforms as the first rounds of pyro of the evening exploded all around them. Singer-guitarist Paul Stanley greeted the audience with a jubilant “Cleveland!” as they dug into “Detroit Rock City,” and just like that, they were off and running, full throttle.
For more than two hours, the group entertained the masses with a 20-song setlist peppered with a lot of vintage video and additional explosions that went heavy on the hits with a few deeper cuts. And no matter whether you’ve seen KISS one time or hundreds of times, they brought out many of their best parlor tricks too. (Who doesn’t love watching Gene Simmons breathe fire at the conclusion of “War Machine,” right?)
Early in the evening, Stanley took a moment for a retrospective look back, with a bit of added agenda attached that he wanted to take care of.
“This is the end of the road, but we’ve got a whole lot to celebrate tonight. We’ve got a whole lot of music, a whole lot of years to go through. As a matter of fact, the first time we came to Cleveland, we played the Agora in 1974. We played Richfield Coliseum. We’ve been all around Cleveland,” he told the audience. “You know, a lot has changed since we were here last. You’re looking at a band in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! Now, Cleveland, y’all know we love you, but the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame hates KISS.
The crowd responded, as expected, with a flurry of boos, as Stanley kept going.
“It’s true; it’s true. They didn’t want to put us in there,” he said. “They didn’t want us. It took them 17 years. But we’re in there, you know why? You. Made it. Happen. So we’ve got a lot to celebrate tonight.”
And celebrate, they did, often in unison with the assembled audience who were more than ready to enthusiastically sing along with every word, as evidenced by their participation during “Shout It Out Loud,” which featured Simmons and Stanley trading vocals as the rest of the venue became one giant group of background singers.
“This one’s from 1983, now, I know that some of you weren’t even born in 1983, Stanley quipped, introducing “Lick It Up.” And in fact, a query of the audience, asking how many people were seeing their first KISS concert, brought a surprising amount of applause, suggesting that even if KISS does indeed go away (and we’ve got a few doubts about that), the KISS Army will continue to add new members.
The band’s performance of “Lick It Up,” by the way, found them teasing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the midway point, complete with Stanley emulating Roger Daltrey’s epic scream.
Bathed in a sinister green light, Simmons belched out blood in advance of “God of Thunder,” with the giant octagonal video projection of the legendary bassist amplifying the creepy feelings of the moment
Flying out over the crowd to eventually land on a smaller stage, Stanley performed two songs back to back, “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Lovin' You,” the latter which he described as the biggest international hit that the group ever had. While there was no mention that the song also happened to come from the disco era, the twinkling ball tucked up in the ceiling as they played the track put a nice subtle timestamp on the moment.
Cleveland-bred drummer Eric Singer spent the evening bashing away behind his kit, turning in a worthy lead vocal on the set closer “Black Diamond” that was one of the evening’s highlights. Meanwhile, guitarist Tommy Thayer tore through solo after solo throughout the night, of course, shooting rockets out of his guitar during the closing moments of “Cold Gin.” While they might be playing a part, in a sense, filling the roles (for a lot of years now, by the way) formerly held by Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, watching the musicianship in play, it’s pretty clear that they’re the secret weapons of KISS and the important glue that helps to hold it all together.
And songs like the previously mentioned “Black Diamond,” “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll,” “100,000 Years” along with the more well-known staples like “Cold Gin,” “Shout It Out Loud” and “Love Gun,” just to name a few, show what an impressive ability the members of KISS had for crafting memorable hard rock songs in the '70s.
Too often, the band is dismissed for using a lot of theatrics and having very little substance in the songwriting department. But over the course of last night's set, they demonstrated time and time again, there’s a good reason why their music has inspired and continues to influence generation after generation of future musicians. Yes, it’s partially about the show, but also, plenty of quality well-written hard rock songs — and it’s that combination that has kept the music of KISS on the frontlines for nearly a half century. Even if this is indeed the end of the road, the music will continue to carry forward long after the band has exited the stage.
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