Subpar KISS all about the special effects in Vancouver



By Steve Newton

Boy, Vancouver’s costume and makeup shops must have done a booming business in the days leading up to November 14’s KISS show at GM Place. From the cutest little tyke to the brawniest middle-aged hooligan, there were scads of concertgoers wearing greasepaint in honour of their favourite KISS character. The most imitated by far was Gene Simmons’s Demon, probably because when you don that getup you also have free reign to flick your tongue lasciviously and leer arrogantly at those who dare enter into your godlike presence, much like Simmons does when he goes for coffee.

Simmons and Starchild Paul Stanley are the only original KISS members still clinging to the band’s legacy of 19 studio albums, half a dozen good songs, and a whole shipload of money. The spots vacated by guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss have been filled by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, respectively, who proved themselves fully capable of handling the Spacedude and Catman roles.

Stanley, on the other hand, could use replacing.

He sounded fine on the night’s opening number, “Deuce”—the best KISS song ever—mainly because he does backup vocals on that tune. But on the follow-up, “Strutter”—the second-best KISS song ever—Stanley stunk up the place big time. He simply couldn’t sing his lines, and when he kept trying and failing it was downright pitiful.

Luckily for KISS, its time-tested array of gimmicks and special effects were on hand to deflect people’s attention from such disasters. So Simmons breathed fire, spewed blood, and “flew” up onto a perch high above the stage, while Thayer shot sparks from his guitar that “exploded” against and “damaged” some lights.

“Tonight we’re playing a lot of classics,” bragged Stanley at one point, “but classic doesn’t always mean old songs.” Then he encouraged everyone to visit their nearest Wal-Mart the next day and buy the new KISS album, Sonic Boom, “because it’s really, really good!” But when the band played the first single from that CD, “Modern Day Delilah”, it put the lie to the shameless huckster’s claim of quality.

After its 1975 anthem, “Rock and Roll All Nite”, KISS departed, only to return for what Stanley promised would be “the longest encore ever!”, although plenty of bands do four-song encores. After another 1975 party tune, “Shout It Out Loud”, the group offered its 1983 hit, “Lick It Up”, and surprised everyone by integrating part of the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The biggest shock came from hearing KISS pay homage to someone besides KISS for a change.

During the title track of 1977’s triple-platinum Love Gun Stanley rode a zipline-like thingie over the heads of the floor crowd to a platform at the other end of the rink, then his group topped things off with its signature smash “Detroit Rock City” and a barrage of fiery explosions. Bolstered by more than two hours’ worth of pyrotechnics and power chords, the hordes of greasepainted KISS fanatics dispersed into the night, no doubt bent on terrorizing old ladies on the SkyTrain to Surrey with their lascivious leers.

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