PAUL STANLEY – LIVE TO WIN
Show Date: October 24, 2006
Location: Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
Venue: Hard Rock
I must confess to not being the biggest Kiss fan there is, although I do own at least a third if not more of their sizeable record catalog. So when I saw that Paul Stanley was touring in support of his first solo album since 1978, I was interested enough to read the story but that was it. No plans were made, no tickets were purchased, I think I actually had lunch shortly thereafter. Chinese, to be specific.
A friend of mine called either later that day or later in the week, saying Paul was going solo on tour. He is a big Kiss mark from way back so I new this was up his alley. As it turns out, a stop on his Live To Win tour was going to pass through the Hard Rock in Orlando, Florida on the same day the CD of the same title was going to be released. Even more coincidentally, that was the same night as a party for his stepson’s birthday. Knowing how much he loves Kiss and the members who bring the band to life, his wife suggested he ask me if I wanted to tag along with him since she’d be at her son’s party (they have a great marriage). I figured what the hell? He was offering me a ticket in exchange only for driving to the show, about 50 miles or so each way. Let’s see, gas at $2.15 a gallon, Jeep gets approximately 18 mpg, carry the four and divide by a left turn, and that comes to like something shy of $13. Looks like I owe him some more driving!
Since the show was Tuesday, October 24th, we would both be leaving from work and heading straight over to the Hard Rock. I usually work until at least 6 p.m., doors opened at 7:30, show started at 8 p.m., so we figured we’d get there when we could and if we missed the opening acts (if there were any), who cared? It was Paul we were going to see anyway. As it turns out, after driving over, parking, walking through the pre-park area of Universal Studios, we still managed to get to the Hard Rock, go through what little security there was, head up to the balcony, find our seats and chill, looking at the scenery before the first act started.
A local band from Orlando was given the first 20 minutes to do their thing. Megaphone, a four-piece group, was pretty good. They mixed a rock sound similar to Green Day/The Offspring with a hint of the ’80s lighter pop metal like Bon Jovi. All-in-all, not bad, I could see these guys going somewhere with a decent push.
After they cleared their gear, the second band set up and took the stage. Rockets To Ruin, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, went up next and played for a solid 30 minutes or so. These guys had the look and sound of the best 80s sleaze rock like L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat, yet still were original enough to keep things from sounding rehashed. Just wish they had a second guitar to help fill out the sound some.
When they were done it took approximately 30 minutes or so to clear their gear and set the stage for Paul Stanley, who is being backed by the House Band from Rockstar INXS and Rockstar Supernova fame. Real close to 10 p.m. the lights dim, the music fades, the packed crowd of at least 1,500 start to amp up and out comes the man everyone’s been waiting for – Paul Stanley. I was still pretty skeptical at this point, expecting a night of fancy dancing and love songs from whom I’ve long thought of as the weakest link in Kiss. Was I in for a pleasant surprise!
The set list was a tight, 19-song offering from Kiss‘ first album on up through the late 80s and both of Paul‘s solo albums, the ’78 release and Live To Win. I don’t think anything was played from a release newer than Hot In The Shade. There were the expected ballads and softer songs like “I Still Love You” and “Hide Your Heart”. There was a huge surprise, at least to me, when he preceded “A Million To One” by stating that Kiss had never played this song live, somehow overlooking this gem. Paul also took the opportunity to rock with “Lick It Up”, “Love Gun” and “Detroit Rock City”. Offerings from the Live To Win CD were the title track, “Bulletproof”, “Everytime I See You Around” and “Lift”. If I had a chance to shake up the set list some, I would have dropped a song from both solo albums in favor of other songs from the Kiss Vault that hardly, if ever, see the light of day.
I was enthralled the whole night long. Going into this show I almost saw it as a personal challenge between me and Paul. I was going to be skeptical and he was going to have to prove me wrong each song he played. He more than put me in my place. The venue was everything it has ever been – great lighting, great sound, and, for my first time in the balcony, great seats too. Paul Stanley and the House Band were everything and more than I hoped I could even settle for. Seeing as how Paul has a day job already, if the House Band ever lands a lead singer then watch out! They will definitely be going places.
I could go on for many more words just lauding Paul Stanley‘s performance, but I’ll wrap it up with this last thought. I’m old enough to have been around when Kiss first hit the scene, and it wasn’t much later around the Rock And Roll Over or Hotter Than Hell records that I started to listen to them as a kid. I very distinctly remember those two releases specifically because they were on 8-track, and I recall how odd it was to have to wait during the middle of a song for it to move from one track to the next. The point being, the voice I heard sucking me into his performance that night was the same as I recalled it from the early 70s and every other album thereafter. For a man into his 50s, living rock and roll for well over 30 years, his voice was as strong as ever and not once did I catch any idea that he was half-assing a song, a verse, or even a single note.
I still don’t have a lot of respect for the entity known as Kiss, and perhaps that’s Gene Simmon‘s fault for seemingly taking it past the music that used to matter to just being a way to make money. But I left the Hard Rock that Tuesday night with a huge amount of respect for Paul Stanley as a performer. The benchmark test that matters most to me is that I’d go back and experience it all over again in a heartbeat.