The KISS army is nothing if not faithful to its generals, and on Saturday, 20,000 plus went to war with rain, fog and an overactive smoke machine to rock 'n' roll all night with the hottest band in the land.
KISS headlined the Halifax Rocks 2009 festival on the Halifax Common and for over two hours the Demon, the Starchild, the Space Man and the Cat Man primped, posed and spat blood for an audience ranging from seven to 70 years old.
KISS is a band that is very much in tune with its core fans and those in attendance were treated to a main set crafted around the seminal 1975 Alive! album. Those of us interested in hearing an obscure gem from Hot In The Shade or Animalize knew we were out of luck before the first lyric of "Deuce" was flubbed by Gene Simmons.
And that was fine.
It's almost silly to mention that music was played at all since KISS has long ceased to be about the songs in favour of the spectacle. Luckily, for those of us taking notes, the spectacle was top-notch."You wanna see us blow some shit up?" Paul Stanley asked early into the set as if he didn't know the answer. "No Paul, we're actually here to hear Gene's subdued vocal performance on "Nothin To Lose"...OF COURSE WE WANNA SEE YOU BLOW SOME SHIT UP!"
The band was happy to oblige, though I don't think they were expecting mother nature to provide additional fog, which combined with an overactive smoke machine, occasionally caused the stage to become completely obstructed. This was especially upsetting during Simmons' fire-breathing routine, something that I know happened, but was completely unable to see. Apparently, even with KISS, some things can be excessive—not that that would ever stop them.
No, if a stack of amps wasn't on fire, then a guitar was firing off a rocket. If fireworks weren't exploding into the night sky, then the drum riser was about to take off for space. It's easy to forget that this two-hour pyromaniac's wet dream had a soundtrack accompanying it.
And maybe that's for the best.
While Stanley's between song banter is the greatest thing you'll ever hear (I urge you to hunt around for his bootlegged spoken word album People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest—a collection of his best work), it's obvious that his voice is not what it once was. The notes don't come as easily as they did in 1975 and sometimes they don't come at all. Gene Simmons missed a number of lyrics, and while drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer are very talented, there is something off-putting about seeing them dressed as original band members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley that legitimately takes away from the music. In essence, this incarnation of KISS is 50% tired out and 50% world's greatest tribute act.
In spite of this, what never seemed to be lacking was the desire to give fans a show they would never forget. And as Paul Stanley flew over the audience on a zip line a few feet above, the classic pout in full force, wagging his finger and looking into the distance like the captain of the most ridiculous pirate ship ever to sail the seas, the crowd below transformed. No longer were they tired from standing all day, no longer were they annoyed by the constant rain, no, they were a group of 10-year-old kids, looking up at their hero, the greatest rock 'n' roll singer in the greatest rock 'n' roll band to ever grace the earth. A flubbed lyric? Who cares? A bum note? Not a problem. That's not what KISS is about to the people that care about them, and those people got one hell of a show.