Aug 12 2014
You know the old saying: another year, another Kiss concert at Toronto's Molson Amphitheatre. That's a saying, right? Ok maybe not, but the band have played this venue in 2010, 2012 and last year 2013 which is reviewed here).
Unfortunately, as with the 2012 run when they toured with Motley Crue, the 2014 jaunt with Def Leppard means a drastically shortened set by the headliners. Not that Kiss didn't bring their complete full-throttle stage show, they did. Loads of pyro, a moving lighting rig in the shape of a monstrous spider, billowing dry ice, grisly blood, not as grisly confetti and of course the make-up sporting and costumed foursome all came together in a celebration of rock n roll excess.
It's just that when compared to last year's two hour, eighteen song show, this eighty minute set was a lot less Kiss for a lot more money (100 level sets that cost $155 in 2013 were $350 for this gig).
Following a well received set by Sheffield's own Def Leppard (I have a no comment policy on post-1983 Def Leppard), Kiss took the stage to the familiar strains of 1998's "Psycho Circus", also the opening song at last year's Toronto appearance. Am I the only one who thinks each tour should have a dedicated opening number to differentiate it between other tours?
The rest of the fourteen song set was the typical Kiss classics you'd expect to hear. In fact of the fourteen songs played, eleven were part of the 2013 Toronto appearance (and ten of them were played at the 2012 concert). It's disappointing that the band is so unwilling to play around with their setlists a bit more considering the massive catalogue of material they have. Even their latest album Monster was ignored despite being advertised on the screens on each side of the stage before the group came on.
Something was going on with bassist Gene Simmons as he was absent from the stage for the first part of "Lick It Up" although the remainder of his performance was excellent as usual. He could drop the attempts at getting the crowd to sing along with the guitar solo in "Detroit Rock City" and no one would mind.
One surprise in the show was the inclusion of "Hide Your Heart" from 1989's Hot In The Shade album. This song has not been played in Toronto since the disastrous June 15 1990 show at the CNE Grandstand where Whitesnake headlined and would not allow Kiss to use their full stage show. During their respective sets, Paul Stanley and Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale made their feelings about each other very clear. The 2014 "Hide Your Heart" got a strong audience reaction which may be surprising as it's doubtful anyone save the most devoted would have recognized the song (hopefully this shows the band that the audience can happily digest slightly lesser known material). This was also the first time the song has been played in Toronto by guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer.
Another notable thing about this show was you'll not often see two arena level bands play the same song in each of their respective sets. Sure enough, both Def Leppard and Kiss played partial versions of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" in an odd bit of synchronicity.
Paul Stanley's lead vocals were definitely stronger than on past visits, the front man seeming to adjust his approach so as not to put additional strain on his instrument. Is he singing at the level of his mid-70's peak? Of course not, he's not a young man anymore but at least he is compensating for the issues that have plagued past performances.
Using an almost identical stage set up as last year is no surprise. A lot of work went into the design and construction of the giant spider lighting rig means it's not going to get put into storage anytime soon, nor should it. One difference is that the platforms that raise Gene and Tommy above the stage rise straight up into the air where last year's setup moved them forward over the first section of audience members.
The huge screen behind the band was worked into the show well for the most part. Extreme close-ups of band members and the depiction of their famous flashing lights logo added to the experience. I'm less thrilled with the amatuer computer animation clips that appeared during "War Machine" (marching armies of Lego-like figures with Kiss make-up), "Hotter Than Hell" (a writhing woman with angel wings), "I Love It Loud" (guitars sailing past a speaker cone) and "Detroit Rock City" (a car on fire or something?). If all the stuff going on onstage, which the band is famous for, isn't enough to keep an audiences' attention, we've got problems. This isn't the first time that the band has used computer animated footage on the back screens but it surely cannot be needed at this stage in the game.
Running tight on time the band finished "Detroit Rock City" and immediately jumped into "Rock And Roll All Nite", a very effective segue that should be done more often. During that finale the stage exploded with even more flames while the crowd were showered with the usual blinding storm of confetti.
At the show in Atlantic City on Aug 2, fans were treated to a very rare occurance when Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen joined the band to play the solo in "Duece". Wearing portions of a spare Paul Stanley outfit, Collen is one of a very select group of people to ever join Kiss onstage (Aerosmith's Joe Perry is another). Fun and loose things like this should happen more often but unfortunately the Collen guest appearance seems to have been a one off thing.
I suggest bringing ex-Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick along for a couple of songs each night, similar to the arrangement the Rolling Stones have with Mick Taylor.
Robert Lawson 2014