After a long and well-documented career as larger-than-life rock ‘n’ roll icons, KISS are playing their final shows, and we at Metaltalk were thrilled to cover their London farewell at the O2 arena in London.
KISS – Skindred – The Wild Things
02 Arena, London – 5 July 2023
Words: Sara Harding and Thomas Gers
Photography: Robert Sutton
From coffee to credit cards to coffins, this band are the most recognised famous faces and rock brands in the music industry. KISS are hands down one of the greatest live rock bands ever, and we’ll sure miss their trademark look and performances.
With over 100 million album sales worldwide, the band have said this End Of The Road tour “is devoted to the millions of KISS army fans.” The bassist with the biggest tongue in the biz, Gene Simmons, says, “This tour will be the ultimate celebration for those who’ve seen us and a last chance for those that haven’t.”
So as the lights dim at an absolutely packed out 02 arena, the atmosphere is KISStastic. The curtains drop, the pyros singe our eyebrows, and the band are on stage and kicking off with Detroit Rock City.
The atmosphere is literally electric as the spandex four take us on a tour of their anthems. We are all up out of our seats and singing along. As I look around, I notice how many young kids, hot chicks and us old’uns all wearing the Starchild make-up and T-shirts.
Shout It Out Loud is next on the setlist. Stanley is clearly enjoying himself and is often caught looking admiringly at guitarist Tommy Thayer, joining in with some serious guitar lick duels. Eric Singer is the heartbeat of this four-piece, and his drumming is, as always, on point.
And Gene Simmons is simply Gene Simmons thwacking his bass guitar, beating his very hirsute chest and giving us his large tongue. The production and sound are absolute quality, and it’s clear for any naysayers that Stanley is singing live and, at 71, has better bum cakes and hip actions than any of us.
We are all encouraged to do the ‘whoah whoahs’, and this we do wholeheartedly as Deuce and War Machine are up next.
Stanley takes a break to talk to us all in his unique falsetto stage voice, “It’s great to be back here in London where rock ‘n’ roll was created. This is the 20th time we’ve played London, and this is the last time.”
This is when it sets in that this really is their last live London gig, and it’s a very emotional moment for us fans, but the band press on with Heaven’s On Fire and I Love It Loud with Simmons’ infamous fire breathing stunt.
Say Yeah and Cold Gin are up next, and then it’s time for Tommy Thayer to stun us with his guitar wizardry. Normally a guitar or drum solo is when we head for the bar for a lady petrol or two, but not this time. Thayer has us under his spell and delivers one of the slickest solos we’ve witnessed in a long time.
Stanley announces, “Let’s go back to 1983, where some of you weren’t even born.” This is a chance for Simmons to stomp and thrust his codpiece, much to our amusement. We are all encouraged to sing the backing vocals, and we do this loud and proud. Paul and Tommy once again fist bump and launch into another dual guitar off.
Makin’ Love and Calling Dr Love with Gene encouraging us to do the ‘oh yeahs’.
Stanley asks for the house lights to be turned up, and the band look around at us all. Clearly, we are emotional, and Stanley once again says, “This is our last time playing London.” All four then kick in with perfect harmonies to launch the anthem Psycho Circus.
Then it’s time for Eric to deliver his drum solo. Again we don’t hit the bar. We stay and witness him hit his drums as his riser flies him up to the very roof of the 02 and back, with pyros continuing to shock and amuse us. His double drum beat and interplay with his drum go-pro camera is truly brilliant. We all get a bird’s eye view of his stellar drum skills.
Gene Simmons takes centre stage next for his solo, tongue out and blood dripping. He gives us what we want, a full-on bass solo with pauses for the drama as he rises up 200 feet and back whilst playing note perfect. And into one of my favourite KISS anthems God Of Thunder, which Simmons delivers in his own unique style.
Stanley shouts, “Are you having a good time? Do you feel like you are on fire?” Another blast of fireworks ensues, and this time my false eyelashes are slipping down my face as each pyro explodes, and the heat is off the hook.
As we see stage two light up, we know it’s time for the ‘Peter Pan of rock’ Paul Stanley to fly across the whole of the 02 to perform Love Gun sans band at the back of the venue. This is a wonderful moment for those that are in the South stand in the arena to see Star Child up close and personal.
Stanley flies back to the main stage and goes on to remember “when they played Wembley and Hammersmith Odeon” and demands that anyone still sitting in their seats get up as they steam into Black Diamond. And then suddenly, it is encore time.
Eric Singer takes centre stage to perform Beth on his piano, we take a breather to just take this all in, and for me, it was seeing Paul Stanley at the side of the stage looking over at Singer and really enjoying this moment.
The whole band are back on stage for I Was Made For Loving You, and absolutely everyone is singing, dancing, and hugging. By now, our KISS make-up has long slid down our faces, and we are totally in a KISS trance.
Pyros fire and its last song time (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!) and Rock and Roll All Nite. KISS literally are four men (who all qualify for their free bus passes) singing in perfect harmony and doing what they do best – playing rock ‘n’ roll.
The cannons fire into action covering us in KISS confetti and balloons, and that’s it. As God Gave Rock plays out, we leave emotional, euphoric, singing and loving that we were part of KISSstory.
The Wild Things
And so to the bands who provided excellent warm-up action ahead of the KISS spectacle. The whole shebang was kicked off by a brilliant new band, handpicked by KISS themselves, The Wild Things, fronted by Sydney Rae White, who took us through a well-rehearsed set, honed by opening for rock legends like The Who and in venues like Madison Square Garden.
They delivered a great set and really got us in the mood for their upcoming headlining tour in the autumn. The Wild Things are definitely an up-and-coming band to watch out for.
Up next, we were buzzing for the sheer injection of energy from the inimitable reggae Metallers Skindred, with all the firepower of Heavy Metal and the groove of ragga. Benji and the dudes did an excellent job of warming the crowd up, stretching our vocal cords with call-and-response singalongs packed with loads of positive affirmations and bursts of familiar samples.
The band dominated the 02 with their iconic anthems from L.O.V.E (Smile Please) and, of course, the legendary Newport Helicopter, which had us all swinging our T-shirts. No wonder this band is Sir Lenny Henry’s (my telly boss) favourite rock act.
Skindred were the perfect warm-up for KISS, and I can’t wait to catch them on their upcoming tour. Benji’s second book, Colin The Kitten 2, is out soon and watch this space for the TV animation, which will accompany his entertaining books about the adventures of Colin, which we are producing.
It’s a day letter, and all social media is buzzing about this gig (and I even know friends who have phoned in sick to catch the rest of the tour).