The KISSWORLD 2017 tour rolled into the Arkansas Music Pavilion Thursday night. Blood was spat, fire was breathed, and platforms were lifted high. It’s safe to say the world’s greatest rock and roll circus delivered all the spectacle and bombast one could handle from the nearly 45-year-old musical experience that is KISS. [Check out our Photo Recap Gallery!]
“Alright Rogers: You wanted the best, you got the best – the hottest band in the world, KISS!” screamed the announcer as the curtain dropped and KISS took the stage. Clad in their iconic black-and-white face makeup, black platform-heeled boots, chains, armor, and spandex pants, the band immediately launched into the 1974 classic “Deuce.”
“Baby, if you’re feeling good, and baby if you’re feeling nice,
You know your man is workin’ hard, He’s worth a deuce.”
— KISS (“Deuce”)
Right out of the gate it was 100% rock show, full ’70s blitz, and rock-star posturing. All of the band members are now in their late 50s or older, but thankfully for them and for us, their makeup helps hide some of the aging – and the members of KISS are still exceptional performers. Gene Simmons, the oldest at 68, continues to rock the way he did in the ’70s, strutting with complete confidence and ease back and forth across the stage. We even got the classic Gene hip-shake-shimmy-thing.
“Shout It Out loud” was next, and it received one of the loudest crowd pops of the evening, resulting in an early sing-along for the many Baby Boomers in attendance.
Prior to dusting off a few ’80s hits (1983’s “Lick It Up” and 1982’s headbanger anthem “I Love It Loud”), KISS lead vocalist Paul Stanley gave a bit of a well-deserved middle finger to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hates KISS; they didn’t want us, but you made it happen”
— Paul Stanley
Stanley was, of course, referring to the 15-year snub of the beloved band whose induction, finally, in 2014 was the result of winning the public ballot versus being selected by the Industry Powers That Be.
“Love Gun,” the title track of their 1977 album, followed and quickly became a sing-along. While Stanley was rough vocally, an absolute killer guitar solo by resident spaceman Tommy Thayer saved the day. “Firehouse,” a KISS concert staple from their 1974 debut album, was warmly welcomed by the fans, likely on the knowledge of what was to come: With sirens blaring, bassist Gene Simmons displayed his trademark fire-breathing technique. The crowd enthusiastically approved.
“Shock Me” and “Flaming Youth” became solo vehicles for both drummer Eric Singer (Alice Cooper, Gary Moore, Badlands) and guitarist Tommy Thayer’s chops, but those did little to compare to the next solo spotlight.
“God of Thunder” was without a doubt the highlight of the entire evening. Used as a sort of theme song for legendary bassist and the second-least-likable person in rock and roll Gene Simmons (we’re looking at you, Ted Nugent), this part of the show featured not one but three possibly trademarked gimmicks. Simmons’ “Demon” persona got full theatrical treatment here with head shaking, blood spitting and the always cool bloody tongue. Once the Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation is complete, Simmons was lifted high into the rafters to handle lead vocal duties for the 1976 “Destroyer” classic. The power in this single performance gives the the entire band its due. For as much as anyone can possibly make fun of this band, there is no question that that fucking ruled!
KISS hasn’t released an album since 2012’s Monster, and though they mostly played hits from albums Destroyer, KISS and Love Gun, we did get a few surprises with “Say Yeah” from 2009’s Sonic Boom and the late ’90s reunion gem Psycho Circus.
Stanley showcase vehicle “Black Diamond” got the crowd clapping with anticipation for that famous “Hit it!” and pyrotechnics blast-off. It resulted in becoming one of the bigger sing-alongs of the night especially on the “woooos.” With what’s obviously the sickest solo in the entire KISS cannon and a stellar outtro jam of what sounded suspiciously like “Beck Bolero” from the Jeff Beck Group’s essential debut Truth, it was a stellar return from forgotten songs to the KISS we all know and love.
The classic rock radio anthem “Rock and Roll All Nite” closed the main portion of the show with enough confetti that I’m sure the AMP staff will still be cleaning it up on Monday. “Detroit Rock City” closed the show, and Rogers ended a night filled with rock and roll the way it used to be: Loud, brash, and always entertaining.
“God gave rock and roll to you, gave rock and roll to everyone…”
Robert co-founded FayetteSound in 2016 and ShindigMusic! in the summer of 2017. He is a singer-songwriter/musician from the Arkansas delta, avid vinyl collector, aquarium aficionado and connoisseur of all things rock 'n' roll. He currently is lead vocalist for Los Angeles based band Farmikos and co-conspirator at The Record Exchange. "Do You Remember Laughter?"