Sunday, October 04, 2009


Going to an arena rock show is always interesting, but when that arena lives inside a casino, it becomes a whole different experience. And when the band you're seeing is KISS, the whole thing turns into a gallery of society's oddest entities: Old man with cigar spinning slots next to heavy metal secretary. Twenty-something cologne-doused lothario next to fifty-year old dude in clown make-up, skin-tight spiky leather suit and boots. The Gamblers and The Mullets, all crowded together, as concert-goers are forced to squeeze in between slot machines waiting for the arena doors to open, sucking them into a whole different world of overpriced concessions and souvenirs.

The only other time I'd seen KISS was at the same place in 2000. Back then, Mohegan Sun was about five times smaller. It had just opened up concert hall, which was more like a trailer in the parking lot. The place has since become a massive shopping mall with poker tables. The concert then was billed as "The Last Kiss." Nine years later, here they were in full make-up again, with "Alive 35," though they clearly strayed from the tracklist of the original Alive album. Only Paul and Gene represented the original group's membership, but if you've got them (and Kim says if you merely have Gene), you've got KISS. (Though I am a big fan of the often overlooked Catman and Space Ace characters.)

After making the terrible decision to go inside and sit through the god-awful Buckcherry, we watched the KISS curtain come down, and the 70s rock began over the PA to prepare for the hottest band in the southeast Connecticut woods. Stooges' TV Eye, Ramones' Chinese Rock...and Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls, which, even as a recording, made Buckcherry's silly Crazy Bitch tune seem like a children's puppet show.

Finally, KISS appeared, backed by fifty TV monitors which acted as one long TV screen. And, of course, their traditional name in lights. Seeing the big logo in person makes you realize that a couple of generations' worth of childhoods haven't died yet. I wonder what Chaim Witz or Stanley Eisen would have thought if you'd told them Wicked Lester would be playing to millions 40 years later...or what my sister would have thought in 1979 at age 7 if you'd told her that she'd get a chance to see this band she loves three decades later as a mother of four. (She's seeing them for the first time later on this tour.)

Kim and I think Paul Stanley is hilarious. Our friend Brian gave us a cd consisting solely of his pre-song introductions. We've even suggested making Paul's birthday "National Talk Like Paul Stanley day." I remember at the 2000 show when he greeted us with "Hello Uncasville and surrounding areas!" So I anxiously awaited what he'd say this time. And he remembered that 2000 show, saying, "last time we were here it was a tent!" For every bit of banter, Kim and I turned to each other and busted out laughing.

The band did all the classics (even referring as one of their new songs as a "classic"--who else would do that?). Other than Strutter and Dr. Love, they pretty much played every one of their songs that you've heard of. And all the theatrics:

Gene still breathes fire, spits blood, and flies to the rafters to play I Love it Loud. (After which, Paul does his wimpy sea-level isolation, reminding me of Diane Wiest in The Birdcage weeping, "Can't anyone like me best?" But Paul ended up getting hoisted up and out to the back of the audience, right below us, to do another tune.)

Ace (or a reasonable facsimile) still shoots his guitar like a cannon, sending lights plummeting to the stage.

Flames still shoot up, instantly warming our faces from hundreds of feet away.

Smoke still fills the stage after Hotter Than Hell.

Peter (meaning Eric Singer) still does a solo while his kit slowly spins around.

Confetti still shoots out over the crowd for four straight minutes during Rock and Roll All Nite.

And Paul still dances around and shakes his butt, still trying to figure out why he sleeps with so many women being a gay man.

It was great to hear all their songs live, but I loved that they played Lick It Up. (Paul's intro for it, during their extended encore, was simply "1983!" and I knew what was coming.) That to me is the most underrated KISS song, and by far my favorite from the non-makeup era. They somehow worked "Won't Get Fooled Again" into it, which was weird. The only other non-original material they did was 2000 Man and the first few chords of Stairway to Heaven in a joke that clearly fell flat. Anyway, if you've never seen the video for Lick It Up, watch it right now. You won't see people drinking booze out of big squares anywhere else.

Funny moment when Paul talked about the bad news you always hear when you turn on the TV or radio, or pick up a newspaper. At which point, a quarter of the audience thought, "what's a TV, what's a radio, and what's a newspaper?" (This led to the fact that you can somehow stop this bad news if you...commit to rocking and rolling all night and partying every day.)


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Location: Rhode Island, United States