When four Liverpool lads stood onstage playing music and wagging their hair around in the early 1960s, it was easy to please a crowd. Rock ‘n Roll was young and new. Fast forward a decade to the 1970s, and you had to do a bit more to thrill an audience. One band stood out above all others and continues to: KISS.
Whether you loved them or hated them when they hit the scene in 1973, KISS made an undeniable impression on anyone and everyone they came across. They were charisma. They were spectacle. They were energy. They were explosive. They were loud. They were bombastic. KISS WAS Rock ‘n Roll!
Almost every word I used above to describe the “Hottest Band in the Land” could and is used when people think about Las Vegas shows today. When you think of what many consider the most entertaining and bright spot of entertainment in the United States, words like charisma, spectacle, energy, explosive, loud, and bombastic all come to mind I’m sure. What better home for KISS than this place?
Many die-hard fans of KISS will immediately throw up a wall of defense after reading my previous statement. “MY KISS is a rock ‘n roll powerhouse too good to become just another staple of Las Vegas,” they’ll exclaim. Just like KISS deserved to be put in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame for so many decades of hard work, they deserve a second home to hang their hats and call their own. A place where people come to them on their own turf to have their faces melted off instead of vice versa.
November of 2014 saw KISS take up residence at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. For nine eruptive nights, the group unleashed their powers and legendary songs on the masses who attended these special performances. Bringing with them all the show-stopping vivacity they've become known for, KISS left the venue in a shambles of explosions, smoke, confetti, and blood.
“KISS Rocks Vegas” is the quintessential KISS. It shows the band at the top of their game in every way. Both Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons unleash their vocals and tight musical fury to perfection on every tune. Guitarist Tommy Thayer shreds his instrument’s strings for squealing leads that on multiple times conclude in a flash of sparkles and loud cracks in the sky. Drummer Eric Singer doesn’t miss a beat as he pounds away on his multi-colored drums lit and strobing throughout the concert.
Every single wonderful trope of a KISS performance is included in “KISS Rocks Vegas”, and they should be. Here is a band delivering the goods to many times folks from all walks of life. They’ve never seen them before in a live setting. Just as they always do, KISS puts their best foot forward and strives to win over newcomers and make new fans. That’s how a rock group becomes immortal.
Starchild Paul flies out into the crowd and performs while strutting down a catwalk suspended above audience members. Demon Gene spits blood and fire before ascending to his pedestal high above and proclaim himself the “God of Thunder”. Spaceman Tommy fires rockets and lights up the darkness of the arena. Catman Eric blasts away at his drum kit as it rises off the stage to reveal giant banners featuring ferocious felines looking like they’re going to jump into the crowd and devour it.
“KISS Rocks Vegas” was a great balance of songs featuring both Paul and Gene on lead vocals. I was actually surprised at how many of Simmons’ signature songs appeared on the set list. “God of Thunder”, “War Machine”, and “I Love It Loud” were all there. The only one absent that I would’ve liked to hear was “Unholy.” Stanley brought the glitz and glamour to numbers like “Love Gun”, “Do You Love Me?”, and “Creatures of the Night”. Singer even had the opportunity to shine through a soulful performance of “Black Diamond”. I did miss getting to see Thayer belt out one of his excellent tracks off of KISS’s latest albums “Monster” and “Sonic Boom”.
The cinematography for “KISS Rocks Vegas” put the viewer in several different locations during the extent of the show. At times, you would be standing in the middle of the crowd where you could see the whole stage. Other times you’d be standing at the feet of the group front row. We also got to fly high above the crowd and the band thanks to some fabulous crane-shots. There wasn’t a bad seat in the Hard Rock Hotel.
I took my nine-year-old son with me and was hoping that “KISS Rocks Vegas” would be appropriate for him. In other DVD releases of the band’s concerts, we see girls pulling up their shirts and Gene and Paul’s famous rock ‘n roll “poses.” While there are a couple of those here for the sake of keeping it real, all the girls keep their clothes on and the show is family-friendly.
“KISS Rocks Vegas” is a glimpse of things to come. I can see KISS taking up residency for a much longer time than nine days. I can see them becoming a permanent staple of the Town That Never Sleeps. I can see them building the ultimate tribute band and their presence being forever an essential part of the Las Vegas Experience long after the actual members are gone… but not forgotten.