DESTROYER PUT ON FANTASTIC KISS SET IN FRONT OF ENTHUSIASTIC AND PACKED CROWD
Date: September 10, 2022
Event: Taste of The Kingsway
Stage: Montgomery Stage
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Taste of The Kingsway has a very special place in my heart. For the uninitiated, it is a weekend food / fair type festival where the residents of the Kingsway area (Bloor Street and Royal York Road seems to be the main intersection for the festival) all converge for a weekend of fun. There is something for every age and it has a real small town kind of atmosphere in many ways since the odds are very high that you will run into many people you know. It’s been exactly ten years since my family first started attending the Taste of The Kingsway and if memory serves me correctly, we ended up attending the first year at the invitation of another family that has turned into some of our very best friends in the world. Funny enough, my wife and I met our friends when our oldest daughters were set to attend kindergarten for the first time. We were all at the school for the “info session”, struck up a conversation and realized that we had a lot in common including three kids the same age. They had one more child than us and unfortunately, we never did catch up in that regard. In any case, we all met up for a day at the Taste of The Kingsway back in 2013 and attending that event with all of our family members has turned out to be a much anticipated ritual every year (except for those two dreadful Covid years in 2020 and 2021 when the festival didn’t take place).
Three years ago, a handful of us ended up catching the KISS tribute band Destroyer closing out one of the three nights (the Taste of The Kingsway runs from Friday evening, all day on Saturday and all day on Sunday). Unfortunately, it was raining that evening so attendance wasn’t the greatest. Nevertheless, Destroyer put on a great show and my friends — who know that I am a massive KISS fan and heavy metal in general — were quick to note that Destroyer were playing once again this year at the Taste of The Kingsway. All I can say is what a difference some nice weather makes! The place was absolutely packed this time around to see Destroyer play. There are two main music stages at the Taste of The Kingsway and they are at opposite ends of the festival on Bloor Street. That whole section of the street is blocked off to traffic (aside from Royal York Road in the middle) and pedestrian traffic can get very busy. That being said, I had never seen the Taste of The Kingsway so busy near the Montgomery Stage where Destroyer were about to play on this night.
Before I give you my take on Destroyer‘s performance at the Taste of The Kingsway, if you’re a Sleaze Roxx reader, you will have probably noticed that Sleaze Roxx rarely covers tribute or cover bands. Sometimes, a tribute and/or covers band might get some coverage if they open for an original act but that doesn’t happen that often. The only tribute band that I have ever reviewed on Sleaze Roxx as the “main act” is The Iron Maidens and that band is a bit of an anomaly since it consists of five females performing Iron Maiden classics. The Iron Maidens are often on bills and festivals including the prestigious M3 Rock Festival with other 80’s acts so I’ve never really considered them as a “tribute” band although of course, they certainly are one. I have to confess that I have had a rather negative view towards tribute bands since my position has always been that I only want to see original bands play. In addition, there are so many tribute bands out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was at least one KISS tribute band in every major city in North America. You can imagine how difficult it would be for Sleaze Roxx to cover that many tribute bands. So for all intent and purposes, I have always drawn the line and elected not to cover tribute bands on Sleaze Roxx, except of course for The Iron Maidens.
I had no intentions of covering Destroyer‘s set at the Taste of The Kingsway on Sleaze Roxx but changed my mind very quickly after they started. The band consisting of Ian Kurz (as Paul Stanley) on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Moe Rotondi (as Gene Simmons) on lead vocals and bass, Michael Moodrey (as Ace Frehley) on lead guitar and lead vocals (the latter for one song), and Chad Walls (as Peter Criss) on drums sounded absolutely fantastic right from the first note of opening track “Psycho Circus.” I was surprised to see the band play that song since it’s not from one of KISS‘ first seven studio albums (1974’s KISS to 1979’s Dynasty) but as it turned out, Destroyer were not shy of playing whatever song they wanted from the KISS repertoire. I certainly liked Destroyer‘s setlist a lot better than what I have heard from KISS in a live setting during the last ten years! I’ve seen KISS play over ten times live and have never seen them play stellar tracks such as “I Stole Your Love” and “I Want You.” What a shame but at least Destroyer were there and willing to not only play those songs live but deliver killer live renditions of those tracks.
I have to admit that I was shocked by how many people were there to see Destroyer play. Young people, old people, kids — it didn’t matter. Everyone around me seemed really into it as well. I turned around at one point to take a quick photo of the crowd behind me and you can see that it’s just a sea of people. Of course, it’s worth noting that watching Destroyer was free of charge to all the attendees so it would have been interesting to see how many people would have turned out if they even had to pay $5.00 to see the band. That being said, it’s also worth noting that Destroyer regularly headline the nearby Rockpile venue which also hosts original bands of the caliber of Stryper, Stephen Pearcy, Lynch Mob, Anvil, etc.
Another factor that made me decide to cover Destroyer‘s show on Sleaze Roxx was the fact that the group had played about 1,400 shows over its 28 year career. That’s pretty much one show every weekend for 28 years. When you consider that Destroyer frontman Ian Kurz lives in Peterborough, Ontario while bassist Moe Rotondi lives in Windsor, Ontario and both cities are about four and a half hours away from each other, at least one of them has had to travel quite far everytime to get to a gig in the last 28 years. To make things even more complicated distance wise, Destroyer‘s newest member — drummer Chad Walls — hails from Ottawa, Ontario and the distance from Ottawa to Windsor is about seven and a half hours. Lead guitarist Michael Moodrey is from Windsor like Rotondi. My take on this is that Destroyer founder Rotondi will do whatever it takes to get the best musicians in his band and if that means a lot of travelling time to have world class musicians in his band, so be it. The funny part about Walls is that I didn’t know who was the person behind the drums when Destroyer were performing at the Taste of The Kingsway on this night but my initial thoughts upon seeing “Peter Criss” playing was that the drummer was really good. That was my impression of Walls as well nine years ago when I saw him perform live in the power metal band Shock for the latter’s debut album release show in Ottawa 28 years after the group had first formed (there was a hiatus of 21 years or so). It’s a shame that Walls and the remaining Shock members could not sort out their differences because their debut album Once Denied was absolutely killer.
I was also familiar with Kurz having seen him perform live with Destroyer in 2016 and 2019 but also playing his own material as Ian K back in December 2016. I was impressed with Kurz‘s singing when I saw him perform back in 2016 but this time, I was simply blown away. Paul Stanley‘s vocal parts on “I Want You” are not easy by any means (which explains why KISS don’t play that song live anymore) but Kurz was able to pull off the lead vocals in a very impressive manner. With Stanley only a shadow of what he was as a singer these days (i.e. pre-recorded vocals during the End of The Road World Tour and having to sing “I Was Made For Loving You” in a lower register back in Las Vegas in 2014), it’s nice to see someone like Kurz nailing those Stanley lead vocals in a live setting. All this to say that I was very impressed with Kurz‘s singing on this night. Not only was he singing really well but he was great at connecting with the audience. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve logged almost 1,400 live shows in a band. In fact, not only did Kurz address the audience but Rotondi and Moodrey also spoke and connected well with the crowd. I liked that they didn’t pretend to be the KISS members and simply admitted who they really were.
This takes me to Moodrey who plays a mean guitar and played the Ace Frehley guitar licks really well except when it came to the guitar solo on “I Was Made For Loving You” where he seemed to deviate from Ace‘s very short but cool guitar solo. I absolutely loved that Moodrey took over the lead vocal duties for the Ace Frehley track “Shock Me”. It’s such a great and underrated song. That’s also another song that should really be in KISS‘ End of The Road World Tour setlist but perhaps Tommy Thayer just does not have the Ace like voice to pull it off. Although I am not a fan of guitar solos at a concert since it takes time away to play another song, I really enjoyed Moodrey‘s guitar solo complete with a little bit of smoke (which seemed black) coming out of his guitar. I will note at this time that the screen backdrop behind Destroyer was a little bit odd since it seemed to consist of various ads and photos of the Taste of The Kingsway.
When Destroyer started off their set, I knew that my youngest daughter was running on fumes since she had been at the Taste of The Kingsway since about 11:00 am (with a three or four hour interlude where she was playing in a pool). She looked quite tired and not in the mood to stand for one hour listening to a heavy metal band in scary make up and large boots so I suggested that she hang out with her older siblings while I “rocked out”. I was expecting Destroyer‘s set to end at 10:00 pm but they were still playing at that time and when two of my kids came by wanting to leave. One of my older daughters had a real concerned look on her face when she stated “Dad, we’ve got to go!” so I reluctantly decided to leave the concert while Destroyer were playing “Calling Dr. Love”. I could hear “Rock And Roll All Nite” as I walked further and further away from the stage. Presumably that was the last song of the night but as I crossed Royal York Road, it felt like perhaps I could be hearing “I Love It Loud.” In any case, it was a pity having to leave before Destroyer finished their set but my kids were truly exhausted and one of them was suffering from some serious dehydration (even though I gave them plenty of cash to buy food and drinks).
Overall, Destroyer put on a terrific set. I was really happy to see so many people out to see and rock out with them. Moodrey even indicated that he was choking up at seeing the sea of people in the audience. The two songs that seemed to get the biggest pop from the audience were “Lick it Up” and of course “I Was Made For Loving You”. My favourites were the deeper cuts consisting of “I Stole Your Love”, “Shock Me” and “I Want You”. The next time that Destroyer play in the Toronto vicinity, I will make a point of being there. You can find out more about Destroyer via their website and Kurz is apparently willing to send his Ian K material free of charge to anyone who contacts him about it. As far as covering tribute bands on Sleaze Roxx, I think that exceptions can be made to cover the crème de la crème when it comes to tribute bands such as Destroyer.
01. Psycho Circus
02. I Stole Your Love
03. Detroit Rock City
05. Cold Gin
06. Love Gun
08. Lick It Up
09. I Was Made For Loving You
10. Shock Me
12. Guitar Solo
13. I Want You
14. Calling Dr. Love
15. Rock And Roll All Nite
[Not sure if there were other songs afterwards]