KISS WILL ALWAYS BE THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND
Date: March 20,2019
Venue: Scotiabank Arena
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It’s with a mix of emotions that I went to see possibly my last ever KISS concert in Toronto on March 20, 2019. For the longest time, KISS were my favourite band. The one band that I stuck up for time and time again during high school. The one band that I checked virtually every used record store in Ottawa to complete my collection of the band’s albums. The one band that I fatefully bought all of its albums (except the many greatest hits type collections) without hearing one song in advance. The one band that fascinated me so much that I paid $10.00 Cdn (a whopping sum at the time) to order a magazine that only featured that group. The one band that I chose to sleep in my car in order to afford the concert ticket (in 1992) rather than miss the concert and stay in a warm hotel bed. I am sure that many of you KISS fans have similar and some likely way more extreme experiences showing your devotion to the hottest band in the land.
Ever since picking up the Love Gun album cover as a kid in a library, I have been fascinated by KISS. I vividly remember when the local news suddenly was playing the video for “Lick It Up” to announce that the KISS band members have finally taken off their make-up (well the white stuff). I was mesmerized. I remember how excited I was when I finally got to see KISS play live in 1990 during their tour supporting the album Hot In The Shade. And it was absolutely magical to see the original KISS line-up reunited and playing live in make-up back in 1996. Accordingly, it’s with a little bit of sadness that I made my way to downtown Toronto to catch possibly my last KISS concert. Funny enough, I ended up catching two of KISS‘ farewell concerts back in 2000 when I thought that the band was retiring for good but I am very grateful that they ended up playing another 20 years (by the time that the End of the Road World Tour wraps up). Although I am a little sad to know that KISS won’t be touring anymore after their End of the Road World Tour, I totally understand why as you got to admit that it’s pretty incredible to have 67 year old Paul Stanley and 69 year old Gene Simmons deliver an absolutely amazing and energetic two hour concert while wearing difficult to walk in seven inch high heel boots.
I was actually hoping to land a press pass via Live Nation to cover the KISS concert for Sleaze Roxx and although Live Nation started granting some press passes to Sleaze Roxx last summer (thank you!), I had a feeling that I might get denied and certainly was not going to take a chance on missing this KISS concert. Accordingly, I bought a “cheap” ticket way up in the bleachers just in case Live Nation did not come through. I would only find out on the day of the show whether I would get a press pass. I checked my e-mails in the afternoon of the concert and got a denial for media credentials (ugh). Although I was disappointed, I was still happy to know that I was going to go see KISS that evening. Buying a ticket in advance turned out to be a wise move as my seat turned out to be on the very last row at the very top of the most likely sold out arena. Only once before had I had a seat worse than that to see KISS. It was back in 2000 when I found out quite late that KISS were doing a farewell tour stop in Toronto (where I happened to be that summer). I can’t remember whether I went to see that concert with my brother or not but my seat was on the side but behind the stage (ugh). In any case, this would be my 11th time seeing KISS live with my previously attended shows being in 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000(2), 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Given that KISS were not bringing an opening act but rather had painter / entertainer David Garibaldi somehow opening the festivities, I aimed to get to the Scotiabank Arena about 15 minutes before KISS‘ anticipated start time of 8:45 pm. I wish that KISS would have taken a page out of Mötley Crüe‘s book on this one for their swan-song tour and brought a worthy opening act. When Mötley Crüe did their farewell tour and certainly for their opening night in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, they had none other than Alice Cooper (along with The Raskins) open the show. After having given the opportunity to so many great bands from Rush to Judas Priest to AC/DC to open for them, it’s almost incomprehensible to me that KISS have brought some painter (a fucking painter!) to open their final tour. Just about any band would have signed up to open for KISS during the latter’s End of the Road World Tour.
The ideal opening act would have been to have former KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick open the show with his band that he brought to the KISS Kruise VIII. How great would that have been to hear some other KISS classics from albums such as Crazy Nights and Revenge not covered by KISS themselves on this night? Logistically, Kulick and company might not have been able to commit to the tour since Kulick has a gig with Grand Funk Railroad (they currently have four advertised gigs lined up from March 29th to June 1st) and singer / guitarist Todd Kerns plays in Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators who are about to embark on a comprehensive tour in early May.
Other KISS alumni were most likely not an option. Peter Criss hasn’t done a tour of that magnitude since well, touring with KISS back in 2003. Criss is now 73 years old and would likely play songs similar to the ones being played by KISS on their final tour so that was presumably a “no go.” Guitarist Ace Frehley is slightly younger than Criss at almost 68 years old but having seen the Space Ace barely make it through a condensed set at the M3 Rock Festival last May, there is simply no way that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons could trust him to be there night in, night out for three years. Like Simmons recently stated in an interview, he’s open to Frehley and/or Criss coming on stage to play a couple of songs but there’s no way that they can handle a full KISS set and I would surmise even doing an opening set. Vinnie Vincent? He can’t even follow through on playing his own comeback shows. Enough said. Whatever the case, KISS should have brought another band to open their End of the Road World Tour.
All of that was forgotten once KISS‘ famous intro was playing — “You wanted the best. You got the best. The hottest band in the land. KISS!” Stanley, Simmons and guitarist Tommy Thayer came down from the rafters onto the stage standing on top of these flying like saucers. It was an absolutely spectacular way to start the concert. The wildcard on this night was obviously Paul Stanley‘s voice. The KISS frontman has taken a bit of a beating due to losing his voice over the years. He sounded good the last time that I saw KISS perform live (back in 2014) although he sang the band’s disco hit “I Was Made For Loving You” at a much lower register than I was accustomed to hearing that song. I had read that Stanley was lip-syncing for this tour. At first, I didn’t think that was the case but as soon as Stanley started talking, his voice sounded hoarse and was difficult to hear at times. His voice while singing however was a lot clearer. Assuming that Stanley was lip-synching, he was doing a good job (at least from the very far distance where I was) in making pretend that he was actually singing the songs by being close to the microphone whenever he was supposed to be. Once I heard Stanley “singing” “I Was Made For Loving You” towards the end of the band’s set, I was convinced that he was indeed lip-synching since his voice was flawless on that song when less than five years ago, he was really struggling with that one. At the end of the day, I didn’t really care. Stanley is 67 years old. We can’t expect him to sing the way he used to even 20 years ago.
KISS performing “Detroit Rock City” live at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2019:
This was the first time that I was assisting a KISS concert where Gene Simmons‘ voice sounded way more powerful than Stanley‘s voice. Simmons sounded simply fantastic. What I love about KISS is that Stanley addresses the crowd time and time again, and caters what he has to say to the audience at hand. After “Shout It Out Loud”, Stanley pointed out to the crowd that KISS had been playing in Toronto ever since performing at Massey Hall way back in 1974. After the next song (“Deuce”), Stanley pointed out that things had changed since KISS last played in Toronto since the band was now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Before the next track (“Say Yeah”), Stanley got the crowd to practice singing the chorus a couple of times. That’s what keeps me engaged as a concert attendee. I don’t just want to hear a band play one song after another like Guns N’ Roses tend to do. I want to be fully entertained and engaged, and Stanley did a great job in doing that.
KISS‘ setlist had been tweaked somewhat since opening night on January 31, 2019 as “Hide Your Heart” had been dropped from the set for “Calling Dr. Love.” That was a bit of a shame but “Calling Dr. Love” is a good tune too. Although KISS were my favorite band growing up and really until the last ten years or so, I confess that I rarely put on a KISS album these days as I have heard all their songs way too many times and there is so much great new music to listen to. That being said, I pretty much knew all of the words to all of the songs played by KISS on this night except likely “Say Yeah” from 2009’s Sonic Boom. My favourites were actually the ones from the first two albums and namely “Deuce”, “100,000 Years” and “Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll.” Other faves included “I Love it Loud” (likely my favorite KISS song of all-time) and “Love Gun.” Speaking of “Love Gun”, it was spectacular to see 67 year old Paul Stanley “fly” over the audience to a tiny stage in the back of the arena to sing that song (as well as “I Was Made For Loving You”). Just to put things into perspective, my father who passed away at 56 years old (R.I.P.) would never have been able to perform such a feat in the last 25 years of his life but there is Stanley at 67 years old killing it! Stanley also looked to be in fantastic physical shape with his arms showing some nice toned muscles. You got to be impressed with how Stanley has kept himself in such great shape all of these years.
KISS performing “Love Gun” live at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2019:
KISS had warned that they would be coming up with a truly spectacular stage show for their End of the Road World Tour and they didn’t disappoint in the least. KISS‘ stage show on this night was absolutely spectacular. It was a little deeper than most KISS stage sets that I had seen allowing for lots 0f pyros, flames and whatever else to rise at a fair distance away from the band members. The large KISS sign was replaced by a huge big screen. I know that Nikki Sixx has suggested that KISS have copied Mötley Crüe‘s stage show from their final tour but I really disagree with Sixx. Sure, both bands have a piano based hit (“Beth” for KISS and “Home Sweet Home” for Mötley) to play towards the end of their set, and yes, both used a baby grand piano played by their respective drummers to do so but what else are they going to do? KISS‘ stage set was a lot cleaner looking than Mötley Crüe‘s smoke filled “busy” looking set. No need to say that KISS have put in a lot of money into their stage set. It was truly impressive and being all the way up in the bleachers, I got a great view of it all night long. Speaking of being in the bleachers, it was amazing to me that people were standing rather than sitting for a large portion of KISS‘ set. I made a point of standing the entire set. Even though I was very far away from the stage, there was still a great vibe up in the bleachers and I felt engaged in the concert despite the KISS band members looking like tiny ants.
Overall, KISS put on a great performance that brought back many memories of past concerts. I got the goose bumps hearing “I Was Made For Loving You” and “Beth” (which seemed to have everyone singing along). I have never been so far from a stage and still felt like I had such a great time and more than my money’s worth. I can just imagine how much greater the concert would have been had I been close to the stage. Nevertheless, I was really happy to have attended what might possibly be my last KISS concert and KISS confirmed that they truly are “The Hottest Band in the Land.”
KISS’ setlist on Mar. 20, 2019:
01. Detroit Rock City
02. Shout It Out Loud
04. Say Yeah
05. I Love It Loud
06. Heaven’s On Fire
07. War Machine
08. Lick It Up
09. Calling Dr. Love
10. 100,000 Years / Drum solo
11. Cold Gin
12. Guitar solo
13. God Of Thunder
14. Psycho Circus
15. Let Me Go Rock ‘N’ Roll
16. Love Gun
17. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
18. Black Diamond
20. Do You Love Me
21. Rock And Roll All Nite
KISS performing “Rock And Roll All Nite” live at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on March 20, 2019:
KISS end of the road tour Toronto Mar 20 2019 finale