I’ve now seen KISS seven times, and they saved the best for last.
That first show, a January 4, 1983 stop at the Charleston Civic Center on the Creatures of the Night tour was a little disappointing, even for a 16 year-old seeing his first concert.
KISS was at a crossroads in 1983, and it showed. Despite returning to their pop metal roots with the 1982 album that gave the tour its name, they had lost original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley and were essentially phoning it in when they hit the stage.
Still, I was 16, and Kiss was my favorite band, so there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I did just that, loved it in fact. Still, I could tell there should have been more to their 15-song, no encore, 90 minutes soaking wet offering.
The thing had gotten stale. More evidence of that fact came with 1983’s unmasking and the beginning of Gene Simmons’s movie career, work on which would also begin that year.
Kiss was tired of being Kiss, and the once touted as epic and legendary stage performances had become a shell of the legendary mid-70’s offerings.
The show that my brother Steve and I saw three years later, on the Asylum tour, was somewhat better, and the one we saw in support of 1990’s Hot in the Shade notched it up a bit higher. They were at least doing 19 or 20 songs by then, and playing a two-hour set–two things I expect a band to do–but they were unmasked in those days, just another four dudes playing rock and roll for money.
The 1998 and 2000 shows were more of the same, 20 or so songs and about two hours long. They were great rock and roll shows with plenty of fire and spectacle, but they really didn’t add much. The songs, despite one or two new tracks, were the same ones they’d been playing for literally decades, as were the moves and the theatrics.
Up to that point, I considered the 1990 show the best I had seen from the band, despite it being during the unmasked years.
But then I went 19 years without seeing them. That period ended in March when I met my brothers–my younger brother, Tim, joined Steve and me for his first Kiss show–in Pittsburgh for a stop on the band’s “End of the Road” tour.
Again, as far as the performance went, there wasn’t a lot new going on. They only played one song that hadn’t been released the last time I had seen them, but those who were seeing the band for the first time could see what all the fuss was about. They had spared no expense on the stage show, and the entire spectacle of it, plus the solid musicianship and strong vocals made me think that I’d want to see the same show later in the year when the tour made a stop in nearby Hershey Park.
What’s more, it was a show that I knew our oldest son, Finnegan, would enjoy. So, I made tentative plans.
That show happened last week, and Finn and I were indeed in attendance. Today, I can’t be anything other than pleased that we were.
Up until recently, Finn didn’t know a lot of Kiss’s music, but I wasn’t worried about that. It wasn’t so much the music that I thought he’d get off on; rather, the spectacle of it: the decibel level, the light show, the pyrotechnics…those are the things I could see a 12 year-old really digging.
I wasn’t wrong.
Over the last couple of weeks, as time allowed I tried to get Finn familiar with the songs they were going to play. I knew that, as much as he would probably totally dig the stage show and circus atmosphere, he would get into it even more so if he was at least somewhat acquainted with the songs.
I did a pretty good job of that, and he had a good level of familiarity with the songs they played.
And he loved it, and I loved it. I loved the show, but even more than that, I loved sharing something that had been such a part of my youth with my son.
The band just sounded tight, and the spectacle was immense. This was more important than ever for me, as I knew they would have to be worthy of the attention to keep Finn’s interest.
They did just that. Aside from Gene’s spitting blood–He found that part a bit much and played a video game on my phone while it was happening–he was into it from start to finish, dancing, singing along, clapping, and cheering. He was a boy seeing something that was worth his time, and I couldn’t have been more pleased. Part of his old man’s youth was viable.
Finn was definitely the focus for me. I wanted the father/son bonding aspect of it; I wanted him to do something that boys get to do when they’re 12 that they might not get to do when they’re younger; I wanted to see some of the magic of music that I saw when he was his age.
Still, it was a special thing for me as well. I may have become an old man, but I’m not an old fogy. I may be a pretty serious and strict disciplinarian and task master, but I still have that youthful rock and roll thing going on. The way I see it, it hasn’t gotten too loud, so I can’t have become too old.
All in all, it was quite a magical thing for both of us, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. There probably won’t be another opportunity for Finn and I to see Kiss, as they’re about at the “End of the Road,” but I can guarantee you this: if we do get another chance to see them, we will.
Following is the setlist for Kiss’s concert at Hershey Park Stadium, August 21, 2019