Concert Review and Photography by Craig Hunter Ross
For the better part of the last four decades, KISS has set the standard by which all live rock performances are judged and on the heels of these iconic rockers for the last thirty years have been the similarly bombastic live antics of Mötley Crüe.
Eventually, the time would come for these two iconic bands to join forces for a combined live assault on the senses; and with the dedicated followings and legendary stage spectacle of each, respectively, this production is aptly advertised and billed as simply…THE TOUR.
Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia, welcomed opening night, as the first show of THE TOUR brought with it stage shows from both bands, exhibiting elements of Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Brothers and more pyrotechnics than a July 4th celebration.
Mötley Crüe approached the stage area via a processional that made its way through the audience from the rear of the amphitheater complete with both pomp and pageantry; parts of which were mildly regal, while other aspects were more reminiscent of an ancient Druid ceremony.
Upon reaching the stage, the band launched into “Saints of Los Angeles”, followed quickly by “Wild Side”; bringing the crowd to life. The group was faithful to their base, playing all their biggest hits like “Shout at the Devil”, “Looks That Kill”, “Girls, Girls, Girls” and many more, despite what would be a seventy-five minute limit on each band’s set.
There were plenty of high points with the live debut of the new single “Sex” and, of course, a “roller coaster ride” drum solo, which included one lucky contest winner getting a ride with Tommy Lee on the incredible apparatus, as he played on.
One draw back to dual bill superstar tours of this nature is the abbreviated sets that result. Throw in a locality curfew or noise ordinance and there is no margin for schedule variance. Perhaps it was due to the first night, or just sheer quantity of staging, but the crew took much longer than planned to change over following the end of the Mötley Crüe set. Though scheduled to go on stage at 9:45 pm, KISS would be forced to wait, with an 11:00 p.m. curfew rapidly approaching…
It was shortly after 10:00 p.m. when the house lights would darken and the all too familiar voice would ring through the sound system. “Alright D.C., you wanted the best, you got the best, the hottest band in the world, KISS!” The massive stage to ceiling KISS logo emblazoned curtain would drop in mere seconds and the fans would be immediately overwhelmed by a larger than life LED screen encompassing the breadth of the entire stage.
A glance skyward revealed their heroes riding a platform from the ceiling down to the floor with pyrotechnic elements showering the stage below, as the unmistakable guitar progression of the classic “Detroit Rock City” penetrated the storm clouds hovering over the venue.
Founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, along with lead guitarist Tommy Thayer (in the role of the Spaceman having long since replaced Ace Frehley) disembarked the platform as it came to a gentle landing on the stage, while Eric Singer kept time.
Though no longer comprised of all four original members, KISS has new life musically with long time drummer (since the sans make-up era) Singer and axe man Thayer. They keep the band tighter and sharper than ever as Simmons poses and Stanley prances across the stage. The challenge on this evening was how to include the hits and antics the fans have come to hear and see within an abbreviated time allotment, which was even more shortened by the change over delay.
The crowd would be treated to the customary mainstay hits; “Shout it Out Loud”, “Love Gun”, “I Love it Loud”, “Lick it Up” et al. There would also be a few surprises, most notably was “War Machine” from the album Creatures of the Night and Tommy Thayer’s lead vocal on the Frehley hit, “Shock Me”. Thayer has brought the band to a new level musically. The once band assistant, media director and all encompassing KISS expert is known to have had assisted Frehley relearn his own guitar parts on past tours. But, the role of Space Man is now Thayer’s and he has taken off with it (pun intended).
A highlight of the evening was the combined solo/duo showcase between Thayer on guitar and Singer on drums. The two play off each other with a sixth sense few other band mates possess. There was even a bit of “one up-manship” between the two in the special effects department, much to the delight of the audience.
The clock kept ticking…
Fire breathing, Check; Crowd fly over, Check; Rockets out of guitars, Check; Blood spitting and fly to top of truss, Check; even a tribute to The Who with the ending of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, Check. But, like Cinderella at the ball, that clock kept racing toward that curfew…
It was now past 11:00 p.m. as the drum set levitated high over the stage and the last notes of “Black Diamond” faded into the night. Would there be an encore many wondered? Surely the band must return for their famous anthem?
As the band returned to the stage, Paul Stanley announced that there was, indeed, a local curfew and that there was a possibility the power would be cut off. “We want to play all night”, he exclaimed, “Maybe that’s what they’re afraid of”. A roar rose from the audience as those all too familiar drums began. Confetti showered the entire venue to blizzard like conditions as “Rock and Roll All Nite” thundered through the cabinets.
KISS has been long known to bring a live show to their fans like no other and this night would be no exception. “What you see, everything you hear is us!”, Stanley decried into the night sky, “We’re a rock and roll band and proud of it!”
So, a warning to some of you new bands on the current rock scene, as well as some of you “classic” artists who think you just need to show up on stage. THE TOUR has begun; the big boys are back at it. Take notice, and take notes. You just may learn a little something about how it really should be done.