KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019

KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019KISS @ The Arena Birmingham, 9 July 2019

KISS are the champions of the stadium rock show, a title that they refuse to relinquish. Yet the time has come to bring the circus to a close, hence their final End Of The World tour.

Prior to the gig, Birmingham is awash with KISS fans, adorned in make-up and merchandise, eagerly awaiting the extravagant performance. As the backstage footage shows the band heading through the corridors towards the stage, the famous introduction blares out “You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world … KISS”, causing the audience to erupt.

The band enter with maximum impact, pyrotechnics galore are released as the four piece dictate that we “get up” and “get down” in line with one of their biggest hits, Detroit Rock City. Needless to say, the audience are more than happy to oblige whether it be arms in the air, glasses raised or singing galore. KISS know how to bring the party atmosphere to any venue and by sticking with Destroyer and releasing Shout It Out Loud early on in the set, they are laying down their intent to keep the energy levels high.

The key to a classic KISS track is the groove of the riff enhanced by a catchy chorus that hooks the audience in as they are easy to pick up and sing along to. After two songs, Paul Stanley addresses the crowd to heighten the mood even further, encouraging different sides of the arena to cheer in line with his directions and I would propose that the majority of people are embracing the fun.   

Each member of KISS has an integral part to play in this experience, whether it be Paul, Gene and Tommy lining up to coordinate playing during Deuce or Eric’s lengthy and impressive drum solo during 100,000 Years. However, it is Gene Simmon’s antics that gain the most appreciation, breathing fire during War Machine and the rumbling bass solo for God Of Thunder that sees him salivate vast amounts of blood before flying up to the roof. Despite having seen KISS numerous times they never fail to impress and knowing what is going to happen makes it even more thrilling. Another expected aspect of Gene’s performance is the unleashing of his ludicrously long tongue, which he does regularly through Lick It Up unfortunately the volume of his bass rises too overpowering the rest of the band.

The stage production is immense whether it be the various hexagonal screens manoeuvring about, a selection of risers moving the musicians up and down or the light show rebounding around the venue evidently. Cold Gin sees vintage footage of the band displayed on screens as the ageing rockers strut about and on occasion get quite sexual with each other, Gene’s tongue making another appearance, whilst Thayer produces a blistering guitar solo shooting pyrotechnics from his guitar. Even though KISS are about the extravagance, they never let you forget that the are a collective of talented musicians and songwriters. Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll proves this with the straightforward rock sensibilities that allows for fantastic solos by Gene, Paul and Tommy.  

Before you know it, it is time for Paul’s party piece as he flies over the audience to a podium, no mean feat in such stacked heels, from which he shoots the crowd with his Love Gun and offers another song, the disco classic I Was Made For Lovin‘ You.  With its driving bassline and ringing chords it blends perfectly with high pitched chorus, which Stanley can still just about reach, to produce an epic track and provide ample opportunity for more pyrotechnics to be released. 

Paul Stanley returns to the stage as the main part of the set draws to a close with Black Diamond taken from KISS’s first album, with its splendidly melancholy guitar solo followed by crashing chords as a pyro wheel sparks behind the band. The encore starts with Eric Singer taking to a shimmery white piano for the ballad of Beth, as strings are piped out in the background to produce a warmth to the song. The final songs are a given. Crazy Crazy Nights was KISS’s first top ten single in the UK and is clearly still a favourite despite it being a non make-up wearing track, admittedly intensified by the giant balloons that have entered the arena. Inevitably followed by Rock And Roll All Nite, the ultimate party anthem. Ticker tape streams throughout the venue and as Paul holds the fort onstage encouraging people to clap their hands as Gene and Tommy take to cranes that extend over the excitable audience. The band reunite as the song draws to a close, fireworks and pyrotechnics aplenty, and all you can do is wish for it not to end.

KISS are musically living legends. Their live performance is an over indulgent, opulent affair but they reign supreme for a number of reasons; KISS know precisely what they are doing both as a band and as individuals, they are fabulous musicians but foremost they deliver on what their fans have come to expect which is a bloody good atmosphere. There wasn’t one unhappy person in that crowd because KISS know how to make people smile through their music and their performance. I overheard a KISS virgin proclaim she didn’t  imagine she could ever go to another gig again as they had been so good and I do have to admit to worrying about who is going to be able to replace them as their final Birmingham show ends. It wasn’t God that gave rock ‘n’ roll to us tonight, it was KISS. 

 

Review: Toni Woodward

Photos: Katja Ogrin

 

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