Kiss in Virginia

By A Headbanger, Do You Bang Head?
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 3:14 PM

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Reviewed by Brother Bob

Prologue - Spring, 1988

Near the end of my senior year of high school our teacher asked us if we had any regrets from our four years. I raised my hand and said something to the effect of, "Remember that Poetry test that I failed? I passed on a ticket to go see Kiss to study for it. If I was going to blow the exam anyway I should have gone to the show." I probably said it in a bit of a smartass tone, but I wasn't kidding. She was not amused.

21 Years Later

Amazingly, with all of the metal shows I've been to over the years Kiss was never one of them. For various reasons - touring off of weak albums, no friends in the area wanting to go, etc., I always missed them. That is unless you count that halftime show they played in Miami when the Broncos and Falcons played. I managed to get to that game, but I don't count that as seeing the band live. Then a few weeks ago Sister Babe spots 1/2 price tickets on Goldstar and suggests that we go. The $21 each ticket cost with fees was probably less than I would have paid back in high school. Kiss tix for $21? Yes, please. The best part of this - Sister Babe isn't even a Kiss fan. SB is awesome.

The show was at Jiffy Lube Live, the venue formerly known as the Nissan Pavillion. This place is known for good summer shows, great sightlines, and horrific traffic. Thanks to a good suggestion by SB we joined other cars who hopped the curb and parked on the grass just outside and wound up hanging with a pretty cool family to tailgate with. Showtime came, and we rolled with our new friends & hung out with them on the lawn - it's always more fun to hang at a show with serious fans, and these folks were. Another weird sign of how badly tickets were selling was inside - there were tons of empty seats up front. They had people giving free upgrades from the lawn to the seats, but we decided it would be more fun to hang with the fans we had just met. And thanks to large HD screens we still got a good view of the action. Another interesting sight on the way to our spot on the lawn was two Marines wandering the grounds in full dress uniform. They were happily enjoying their beers while getting the occasional props from passersby. They had a handler wearing backstage passes, but I wasn't sure why they were there. We'd find out later on in the evening.

The show starts up with their traditional greeting of, "You want the best! You've got the best - the hottest band in the world, KISS!!!" As most bands do when promoting a new album, Kiss starts off with the high energy first track off of the new release, "Modern Day Delilah". And as most bands do, they follow up with a classic to fire up the crowd. In this case it's "Cold Gin", and it works. They continue with more old school tracks, "Let Me Go Rock and Roll", & "Firehouse", before hitting another new song in "Say Yeah". Back to the classics, we get "Deuce" and a surprise with "Crazy Nights". I say CN was a surprise since I don't remember anyone I knew liking that song when it came out. In fact, with their string of releases including that, "Let's Put the X in Sex", and "God Gave Rock and Roll to You", I thought that this band was done and should just pack it in. Of course being the genius I am I'd be eating those words when "Revenge" got released, but I digress.

"Calling Dr. Love" leads Sister Babe to notice that their best songs seem to be the ones where Gene is singing - good observation from someone new the party. Next up is the Freely classic "Shock Me", of course being done by current guitarist Tommy Thayer. We get our last new song of the night with "I'm an Animal", which Stanley introduces by mentioning that Sonic Boom is being distributed exclusively at Wal-Mart. This gets a few groans from the audience, but I had to laugh.What band in the history of rock has been a better marketing machine than Kiss? I just find it funny that 20 years ago they were the kind of band that would have been forced to put PMRC stickers on their albums, much less being only sold at a store as uncool as Wal-mart. After this Gene gets lifted by some wires to the rafters, where he fires up his solo and uses it to lead into "I Love it Loud". The set rounds out nicely with "Love Gun", "Black Diamond", and "Detroit Rock City". While the song selection was good, Stanley plays way too much audience banter, getting to silliness like asking the audience permission to come back next year and getting everyone to shout "Paul!" if we wanted him to come back. I know that bands need some rest during the shows, but no band I've ever seen pulled this gimmick as much as Kiss did.

They come back out for the encore, and sadly open with their femmy power ballad "Beth". Stanley goes on to tell us that they're not going to mess around going off and coming back on and will just give us the longest encore around. It made me want to ask "Why not just do more songs in the regular set and make the encore shorter?" but I'd probably just get the reponse that "This amplifier goes up to eleven". Another interesting part of the encore comes when the Marines from earlier are invited onstage. It turns out that Kiss donates proceeds from every ticket to the Wounded Warrior Project, and they present the Marines with a massive fake check and mention how much they've raised to date - pretty damned cool. Paul also does something different - he leads the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Usually one would expect displays of patriotism like this from country concerts, but doing this as a metal show comes off as kind of weird and kind of cool at the same time. SB agrees that it works.

Another cool moment came when Stanley did part of his wayyy too much audience banter and calling the crowd to cheer because we're not showing as much energy as the crowd did a few nights ago up in Jersey. I'm guessing that at each stop he throws down this minor hate toward the previous venue, but that's OK. After getting the crowd to cheer Paul says, "I don't know, I'm still hearing more New Jersey out there", to which the entire crowd shouted "YEAH!!! Jersey REPRESENT!" And when I say "The whole crowd", I actually mean me and only me. But at least I stood tall for my home state!

The encore goes on with "Lick it Up", "Shout it Out Loud", "I Was Made for Lovin' You", and "God Gave Rock and Roll to You", which we use as our cue to leave. I wanted to stay to the end, but given how legendary the traffic is at this venue we decide not chance sitting in traffic for three hours. As we're walking out we see a lot of people doing the same, butit turns out that our parking outside trick works, and we just hop off of the curb and are out of there like shots through a gun. It turns out we could have stayed to the end, as a few weeks later I'd stay until the end of the Rush show and had no trouble leaving, and that one was a lot more crowded. Keep this in mind when you're headed out for next summer's shows.

So what did I think of the show? Kiss was great as I had expected, even with too much of the dopey crowd banter. And there was one very cool thing I noticed that left me feeling good. That family of locals I mentioned earlier included their two high school aged daughters, both of whom knew some of the lyrics better than I did. It's good to see some parents raising their kids right - there may be hope for this next generation yet!

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