In the mid-1970’s, I was a kid growing up in small town America when a band called KISS started releasing albums. Looking like demons from your worst nightmares, scaring the souls of middle-class parents who tried to shield the eyes and ears of their offspring but ultimately ended up losing the battle. I had the t-shirt, the lunch box, the posters, Double Platinum on non-stop rotation. It was a good time to be a KISS fan. Just ask any of today’s rockers who were inspired to pick up a musical instrument because of the legendary Hall Of Fame band:
“When you’re a kid, the Beatles was like everybody’s and then KISS comes along and your parents do NOT get it,” Slash bass player Todd Kerns told me during a 2011 interview. “And that’s the best thing about rock & roll, and always will be: it’s YOUR music, it’s not your parents.”
“They had the show, they had the songs that I loved, just everything about them,” explained Anthrax’s Frank Bello. “KISS made me want to play on stage.”
“That was my first band, my first favorite drummer in the world was Peter Criss, and my first favorite band before Zeppelin and Aerosmith and all that was KISS,” said Brian Tichy of the Dead Daisies. “I was in the KISS Army. I mean, I still have posters of these guys on my walls at home.”
“It was all KISS back then,” Sevendust’s John Connolly remembered with a laugh. “Probably the first time I opened KISS Alive II and I saw all the flames and the drum riser and I just went, whoa, look at that, I want to do that.”
The childhood memories go on forever. And now the band that wouldn’t die has released a new DVD from their successful 2014 residency at the Joint in Las Vegas, aptly titled KISS Rocks Vegas, and it has everything a KISS Army disciple loves about KISS: Fire, explosions, lasers, blood, guitars flying and drums being pummeled … and “Deuce” and “Detroit Rock City” and “God Of Thunder” … and lots of fans in KISS makeup.
If you attended one of the shows, then this is a good souvenir to have from that special event. With all the audience panning, there is a good chance you may have even ended up in the final edit. If the DVD is not enough for you, there are several more enhanced editions to choose from featuring CDs, vinyl and a hardcover book.
The concert itself is a rollercoaster ride through their forty-plus years as a band. “In many ways, this band started as a fantasy and evolved into a flesh and blood entity,” Paul Stanley said a few years ago about the legacy of KISS. “We’re not cartoon characters, we’re real people who have spent forty years doing what we believe in.”
Highlights on this portion of the DVD include “Black Diamond,” “Love Gun,” “Deuce” and “Detroit Rock City;” Gene Simmons belching blood and wagging his tongue, bathed in a devilish light, on “God Of Thunder,” and Tommy Thayer adding some sizzle to guitar solos in “Psycho Circus” and the more modern-day “Hell Or Hallelujah.” During “Do You Love Me,” footage documenting the many phases of KISS flash behind drummer Eric Singer – even caught a glimpse of the rarely-mentioned Vinnie Vincent in there. Unfortunately, what could have been a great moment – a child onstage with Stanley during “War Machine” – is given only a millisecond of frame time. Blink and you’ve missed it.
All that being said, one of the best things about KISS Rocks Vegas is actually in the extras: the band with no makeup, Stanley on an acoustic guitar, in a small over-packed room, performing stripped-down versions of “Hard Luck Woman,” “Goin’ Blind,” “Beth” and “Coming Home.” No extravagance, no bings, no whistles. Just four guys visiting their past – and at times almost sounding Beach Boy-ish – and bringing it back down to the words and the chords. That is what makes this DVD special and worth buying.
Photograph by Epic Rights