YOU WANTED THE BEST! YOU GOT THE BEST! THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE LAND MAY WELL STILL BE KISS!
Date: December 31, 2020
Venue: Atlantis, The Palm Jumeirah
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
KISS are one of my favorite bands… Hell, it is a safe bet that KISS are one of many people’s favorite bands even if we bash them for this, that, or the other thing. In a way, KISS fans are a lot like wrestling fans. Wrestling fans, especially over the past 20 years, bash pro wrestling at every corner and ridicule the thing they just watched. But, as much as they profess to hate it, they’re always there the next week to watch again. You would think if KISS or wrestling fans really didn’t like the product being put out, they just wouldn’t watch… But, I digress. Oh! There was a reason I tied KISS to pro wrestling. The WWE, pro wrestling’s leading circus, found a way to supplement its sagging profit margins by running shows in nearby Saudi Arabia for high dollar amounts. The Crown Prince over there claims to be a big wrestling fan and he put together his dream card, which included many talents that have been dead for 15 or more years. We didn’t say he read the news! He just… is a fan!
So, Gene Simmons, being the money genius he is, seems to have followed the same model doing a show from Dubai in front of a crowd, when nowhere has a real crowd right now, and delivering a KISS show for the ages. After all, the band is on its End of The Road World Tour, which was halted due to the pandemic. Maybe a higher power doesn’t want to see KISS retire? After a show like this one, I can see why! The setlist has a little something for everyone. As a guy who came into the KISS Army a little late — the Revenge album was my first KISS record — we got a lot of great content here from each decade of KISS… literally! Seventies, ’80s (which deserves more credit for great songs than it gets), ’90s, and 2000’s. Nothing from the 2010’s. But, hey, that is OK!
The stage show was huge. Paul Stanley claims they spent over a million dollars on pyro and he wasn’t lying from what I could tell. The band members were in their classic gear and looked the part. You don’t feel like you’re watching guys in their ’60s and ’70s when watching a KISS show. It is physically demanding and yet they pull it off without showing much rust. Paul Stanley‘s hair, likely a wig, resembles an early ’90s era bank worker that you may have thought, as a kid, might be a fun date. But, other than that, it really was an awesome thing to watch.
Speaking of Paul, let’s all give it up a little for him. His voice sounded wonderful last night and I’ve been critical of his vocal performance. For example, last year, KISS played the Whisky A Go-Go in Los Angeles and Paul sounded awful. Vocally shot? The only high note he would hit was going “Woah!” which he did over and over again in periods that didn’t really suit the song. It was like, “Hey, I can hit this note! Listen! Woah!” That really pains me as Paul‘s voice carried KISS through my favorite period of their career — the ’80s. His vocal range then was incredible and he fit the ’80s hair metal sound perfectly in his own way. But, ever since Sonic Boom, which had him sounding strained at times, his vocals live have been lacklustre. They were not last night at the Saudi Arabian show. Paul might not have sounded quite as good as he did on Alive III. But, he sounded stronger and less strained than he has in years. And, he carried tunes better than he could on the last KISS CD/DVD release Live In Vegas a number of years ago.
The thing about the Saudi Arabian wrestling shows was the live crowd reacts differently than North American crowds and that is the case here. At times, perhaps the way that it was recorded, you almost feel like there either is no crowd or a small one as you just don’t hear them very often whereas most KISS shows have a loud crowd singing along. So, that part fits the pandemic era as I mentioned in my L.A. Guns live stream review.
Another thing about Dubai is they are deeply involved in their faith and do not permit more Western things. For example, at the WWE Super Show (which took place in nearby Saudi Arabia), Hulk Hogan did not wear his famous cross around his neck. Well, KISS had to make some changes too. For example, during “100,000 years”, the lyrics changed. “I’m sorry to have taken so long. it must have been a TRIP while I was gone.” The lyric, as you know, is actually “bitch” and not “trip.” And, “God of Thunder” — the more obvious one — changed “Virgin Soul” to “Sacred Core.” I guess when in Rome? Still, that was a noticeable “Oh, this wasn’t in Cleveland” moment or two.
The lack of a singing along crowd resulted in Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer being on backing vocals more loudly than is typical. I don’t know which it was but one of them had flat backing vocals which my wife pointed out often. Strange as Eric got a shot to sing his own song — well, Peter Criss‘ own song but Eric handled it well — “Beth”.
We’re all in a weird period in time. I’ve been so desperate for live music, I bought the Great White CD/DVD Live (which hasn’t arrived yet although I bought it over a month ago) with Redneck Big Bird singing because I’m so desperate for a live musical performance. KISS fill that void well here and I have to say I hope they are not entering their final year of shows because they can still deliver better than most. Bottom line? You wanted the best! You’ve got the best! The hottest band in the world may well still be KISS!
KISS’ setlist on December 31, 2020:
01. Detroit Rock City
02. Shout It Out Loud
04. Say Yeah!
05, I Love It Loud
06. Heaven’s On Fire
07. Tears Are Falling
08. War Machine
09. Lick It Up
10. Calling Dr. Love
11. 100,000 Years
12. Cold Gin
13. God of Thunder
14. Psycho Circus
16. Love Gun
17. I Was Made for Loving You
18. Black Diamond
21. Do You Love Me
22. Rock And Roll All Nite
KISS performing “I Love It Loud” and “Heaven’s On Fire” live in Dubai on December 31, 2020: