Things have changed a lot in the forty-three years since Kiss played their first UK shows. Starting off their first ever European tour in Manchester in May 1976, they packed out the theatres they played but were mostly dismissed as a gimmick or a novelty by a sceptical UK music press.
Words: Ian Sutherland, Pictures: Ya Cheng
Their return in 1980 saw them play an incendiary opening show in Stafford’s Bingley Hall but still feted by a hardcore fan base, they had yet to win over the UK rock critics.
Bizarrely it wasn’t until they took off their make-up in 1983 and toured theatres here in support of the ‘Lick It Up’ album that they became regarded as cool by at least some of the mainstream rock media.
By the time the make-up was back on in the mid-nineties their legend had become established with British rock fans and they’ve been filling arenas on their infrequent visits to UK shores ever since. This ‘End Of The Road’ jaunt around Europe has seen packed crowds everywhere and with Glasgow as the last stop and the possibility that this is their last ever European show, or at least last ever Scottish one, the Kiss Army is out en-masse.
Time has changed their status in the UK but has also seen bands like Rammstein challenging Kiss in the biggest and best rock’n’roll circus on the planet stakes. Their response is to do what they do best and this set has the standard tricks expected of them in rocket firing guitars, fire breathing, blood spitting and literal drum risers, but this time they’ve surrounded that with the biggest and most imaginative stage set they’ve ever had.
In addition there are more flames, more explosions, more fireworks, more everything; a show that the band and the fans in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall all those years ago could only have dreamed of.
The stage show lived up to all expectations then, and in the end so did the performance. Paul Stanley doesn’t have the voice he used to have but he worked hard with what is left and the crowd, carried along on his sheer camp charisma sang along with him loudly and proudly.
Gene Simmons still has power in his vocal delivery but what most impressed was on the close-ups on the big screens he could be seen to be having an absolutely ridiculously good time. If the end of the road is coming he means to make the most of it every night it seems.
Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer carried off their Cat and Space Ace performances to perfection and supplied some rock solidly excellent musicianship to keep the show on the road. Putting on a show is something Kiss do very well but without the songs it’s just lights and noise, and the band’s back catalogue has plenty of classics to draw from. Inevitably a tour like this needs to have a greatest hits basis to it and they got the balance about right.
The seventies classics like ‘Deuce’, ‘Black Diamond’ and a hugely welcomed opening salvo of ‘Detroit Rock City’ were well represented but ‘100,000 Years’ and ‘Let Me Go Rock And Roll’ weren’t completely obvious choices and ‘Beth’ was a surprise to anyone who hadn’t seen the setlist from previous shows.
The eighties were covered with more obvious choices like ‘I Love It Loud’ and ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ although ‘War Machine’ went a little off the beaten path. The cupboard is not as rich with classics from the nineties onwards but ‘Psycho Circus’ and ‘Say Yeah’ didn’t sound out of place in this company at all.
It was all welcomed with open arms by a Glasgow crowd in typically vocal mood. It was one of those nights where you sing your heart out like it’s the last time as it might well be.
Two hours after ‘Detroit Rock City’ took us into Kiss World, the ultimate rock circus finale is underway with confetti canons, fireworks, flamethrowers, band members transported over the audience and above all a joint refrain from on and off stage to “Rock and roll all nite, party every day”. There is no ending to a rock event which can generate such huge smiles and good vibes through a big crowd. If it’s the last time, it was a good time.
The ‘End Of The Road’ for Kiss still has a couple of years of touring to go and I can see them back in Europe playing festivals or the like before their final curtain, but even if this was just a farewell to Scotland or the UK, it was done with a style and a swagger which is unique to this very special band. I wish I still had my Flaming Youth and more Kiss shows were ahead of me. God Gave Rock And Roll To Kiss and they gave it to us.