As KISS frontman Paul Stanely sings in “Psycho Circus,” “Welcome to the show!” KISS, as always, put on an amazing show during a recent stop on their “End Of The Road” farewell tour.
A few times during KISS’s “End Of The Road” tour stop last night (August 14) at New Jersey’s Prudential Center, the monitor screens showed black-and-white footage of the band during their early days. Obviously, a lot has changed since then: in the early ’70s KISS were rock and roll upstarts; now they’re a cultural institution. The members have changed — founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are still the band’s leaders — and so has their budget for their stage production. During the show, Gene Simmons breathed fire, spit blood and rose to the top of the lighting rig; Paul Stanley flew over the audience to sing a few songs from a small stage on the other side of the arena. There were explosions, fire, lasers, huge video screens, and even KISS balloons and confetti.
But for a few seconds during their 1974 classic “Black Diamond” toward the end of the set, a strobelight gave the stage, and the band, a black-and-white look. It’s an effect they surely could have afforded, even in their club days. And in that brief moment, you could imagine them as that band with “nothin’ to lose” and everything to prove. Back then, they wanted to be the band that they wanted to see, one that would put on the best rock and roll show that anyone ever had. So, they may no longer have anything to prove, but they are still putting on the show that they dreamed of as a club band.
And while they have been criticized for their artifice, for their over-the-top marketing, and for any other thing that disgruntled fans or snobbish naysayers can pick on, one thing that is real is their music. Most of the twenty songs that they played are etched in the memories of millions of rock fans; there’s at least thirty more that you could add to that list.
And for all of their production, they are still playing and singing live – which was evident in the strain in Paul Stanley’s voice from the beginning of the concert. A consumate pro, he powered through the show, perhaps unwisely not giving his vocal cords time to rest – he didn’t cut down on his stage banter at all, or even his backing vocals on the songs that Gene Simmons sings. After all, perfection is overrated; besides, KISS would never let a sore throat get in the way of giving fans the greatest show they’ve ever seen, one last time.