The Washington Times-Herald

October 14, 2012

I want to rock n' roll all night

By Andrea McCann
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — I’ve seen a lot of concerts through the years, but I always felt like something was missing because I hadn’t had the KISS experience.

Heavy metal isn’t necessarily my thing, but I do like some of it, and I grew up in a time when KISS was king. If nothing else, I thought, I have to go to a KISS concert just to say I’ve been to a KISS concert.

Well, I’ve been to a KISS concert ... there ... I said it! A high school friend and I saw the band at Klipsch Music Center on its 2012 tour last month.

It was a pretty cool show — and interesting atmosphere — but I have to say I preferred Mötley Crüe, which co-headlined the tour with KISS. Both bands used a lot of pyrotechnics and theatrical staging.

Several scantily clad women roved the stage during Mötley Crüe’s set. Occasionally one hung from the rafters and performed aerobatics in a sort of vulgar Cirque Du Soleil knockoff. From time to time a “Crüe” member drenched the first few rows of the crowd with a high-pressure “super soaker” gun.

The band members themselves strutted and cursed and worked up a sweat. At one point, drummer Tommy Lee walked to the front of the stage and opened a bottle of champagne over the nearest audience members. After the encore, he threw out drumsticks.

Lee’s drum set was attached inside a Ferris wheel-type contraption that slowly turned — with the veteran drummer strapped into a seat — during a drum solo. It was quite possibly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! After a short time, Lee stopped and a fan selected from the audience was strapped in along with him and got to take a spin. Ohhh, to have been THAT guy!

Lead singer Vince Neil sported a denim vest with “SEX” emblazoned across the back at the beginning of the show, but later switched to an “I (heart) Single Moms” vest. During “Girls, Girls, Girls,” flames shot out the end of his microphone.

Bass player Nikki Sixx had a flame-shooting guitar, and fire spurted from the guitar’s neck during the band’s finale.

Lead guitarist Mick Mars, who suffers from a chronic inflammatory form of arthritis, quietly prowled the stage and didn’t take part in the more rambunctious activities.

The Crüe played most of their old standards, such as “Shout at the Devil,” “Same ol’ Situation” and “Home Sweet Home.” The encore included “Dr. Feelgood,” “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Kickstart My Heart.”

Following a break, KISS descended from a platform in the ceiling blasting “Detroit Rock City.” Dressed in their typical flamboyant style, with their usual  black and white Starchild, Demon, Spaceman and Catman makeup, the 51- to 63-year-old rockers amazed me with their enthusiasm and energy, never seeming to feel their age throughout their set.

They played “Shout it Out Loud” and then introduced “Hell or Hallelujah” from their new album titled “Monster,” which was just released this week. “Monster” is the legendary band’s 20th studio album. They strutted in their platform-heeled boots and screamed the lyrics to “Shock Me,” “Firehouse” and “Lick It Up,” throwing guitar picks into the crowd. The flames that burst up frequently around the stage were so hot we could feel the heat in our seats.

At one point the stage grew dark and bassist Gene Simmons was dramatically lifted to the rafters on a platform, spewing “blood” that smeared his demon makeup and demonstrating his signature tongue wiggle during “God of Thunder.”

As the guitar-heavy band performed “Love Gun,” Starchild Paul Stanley was transported over the crowd to a platform at the back of the pavilion, then back again to the main stage as the song ended.

Drummer Eric Singer was featured on “Black Diamond.” As he sang lead vocals, his drum set was lifted on a platform and a cat banner dropped down in front of it. Signifying his Catman persona, the cat on the banner had gold, glowing eyes.

Spaceman Tommy Thayer was the only band member not really highlighted in any specific song.

For their encore, the band went back to its first album and played “Cold Gin” and “Kissin Time.” The finale was “Rock and Roll All Nite,” complete with confetti cannons bombarding the crowd with so much shredded paper it looked like a blizzard.

Formed in 1973, KISS continues its legacy, as I witnessed several generations at the concert. There had to be a 50-year age range or more among the people in the audience.

One little boy, probably 3 or 4 years old, was on his daddy’s shoulders, sporting Simmons’ demon makeup with his little hand in the “rock and roll horns” gesture. A gray-haired gentleman climbing over the seats near me told he was “getting too old for this s#@t!”

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Andrea will never be too old to rock and roll! EMTs probably will have to pry a concert ticket from her cold, stiff hand at a similar show someday! She can be reached at amccann@washtimesherald.com.