Kiss on stage in 1988 is no match for Kiss Alive! in 1975

kevin statham photo


By Steve Newton

One of the most memorable concerts of this scribbler’s young life was seeing Kiss at the Commodore Ballroom just after the release of its second album, Hotter Than Hell. A bunch of my buddies and I had crammed into a rented van and driven up from Chilliwack, where we’d spent the past year making Gene Simmons faces and playing air guitar to great tunes like “Strutter”, “Deuce”, and “Black Diamond”. The sight of these four crazy men in makeup spitting out heavy power chords (not to mention fire and fake blood) was enough to keep us in bliss for hours afterwards.

Some people still remember Kiss, but most don’t really care. Of the 4,800 or so that saw their show at the Pacific Coliseum last Friday (March 11) many were there to see the opening act, an up-and-coming metal band called Anthrax. About half as old as the members of Kiss, Anthrax put on a lively show that had the hard-core headbangers up front going wild. The band delivered theme music for a nuclear holocaust, slipping in an interesting (but highly rude) rap song, and getting back to their punk roots with the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”.

Curious, I asked a female Anthrax fan next to me what she liked about them. “The beat”, she offered quickly, “and the long hair.” Yeah, I guess the hair was okay.

When Kiss’s famous logo rose at the back of the stage, bedecked in flashing white lights, the band came bounding out and launched into one of their worst songs ever, “Love Gun”. Gene Simmons, looking pretty healthy with his movie star tan, pointed at girls at the front of the stage and flashed them his reptilian tongue. Paul Stanley, the other original member, screeched “How aw yaa!” with the cracked and strained voice he’s famous for, and it was 1975, Kiss Alive! time once again…

…almost. Back then their material was a lot more consistent; nowadays their repertoire contains such forgettables as “Bang Bang You” and “Fits Like a Glove”. The band did sound good however on one of their latter-day tunes, “Heaven’s On Fire”. (If they came up with a few more anthems like that, they could get back into the rock race.)

The lowest point in the show came during Stanley’s painfully long introductory spiel to “Lick It Up”, in which he described an erotic (imaginary?) encounter at one of Vancouver’s health clubs. If I wasn’t such a devoted, stay-till-the-end rock critic, I would have gone before you could say “obnoxious, self-centred, sexist creep”.

When the band left the stage for the first time the crowd went mild, but Kiss came back on anyway, trying to save the night’s performance with some early hits like “Rock and Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City”. It didn’t work, though.


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