Tonight I'll be seeing KISS for the... wow, I've lost track of how many times I've seen them, but tonight will make them the first band I've seen in five different decades; the 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's and now the 10's. This is an incarnation of the band I swore I wouldn't see and I've resisted all the tours since the "Farewell Tour" wrapped up in 2000.
I can still remember the first time I was introduced to KISS. I was in the fourth grade and someone brought "KISS Alive" to school and I was enthralled. I loved all the crazy rumors; Ace really was from space, Gene had a cow's tongue surgically attached to his own... Everyone I knew was a KISS fan when "Destroyer" was out and "Rock and Roll Over" was the first album that I knew the release date for and bought as soon as possible. KISS was my first concert (thanks Dad!), first poster, rock magazine, first music my parents didn't like... I fondly recall being amazed by the Paul Lynde Halloween TV special that featured KISS, then being horrified seeing them a few years later on the Tomorrow Show - Ace was wasted and had such a freaky voice, as did Paul, they didn't sound like the super humans they were in my mind. Years later, meeting them shattered the last of my childhood fantasies. I discovered Gene was quite an ass, and I was close enough to Paul to see the crotch pillow he crams down his pants -- that is an image seared into my brain forever no matter how much I want to forget it. But still the music and the emotion it brings back for me, make me unable to stay away for long (from the music that is, not Paul's crotch).
For those who aren't aware, today's KISS lineup does not include original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, but rather has people performing in their makeup. When I first saw KISS as a wee lad in 1978, one of my biggest fears was not really knowing if it was them or not. I worried that they would put anyone off the street in the makeup and costumes. Perhaps different fake Kiss's perform all over the world? How could I be sure this was Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace? Happily, I was close enough to the stage to see and believe it was indeed the four iconic rockers I worshiped. But that worry, that feeling that this is a trick, has made me skip the many tours Gene and Paul have cooked up since 2001 with drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer playing the Peter and Ace roles. Eric was actually in KISS for a while in the 90's when they toured without makeup and Tommy was their road manager on the reunion tour. It was even his job to reteach Ace his own guitar solos.
I've wondered for the last few years, how many fans in the audience think they are seeing Peter and Ace? Do people chant Ace's name or Tommy's? Eric is now even singing Peter Criss's "Beth" -- that still reeks of blasphemy, but I will not judge until I see it. I've accepted that this may indeed be the best incarnation of the band in terms of musicianship. Peter and Ace often had problems playing live night after night due to medical and substance abuse issues, so I'm expecting to see a KISS that has never sounded better, plus they are playing some new songs off "Sonic Boom" that I've never heard live and plenty of old ones I haven't heard in quite a long time. They are even planning another new album early next year. Quite a change for band that seems to have more repackaged greatest hits collections than Elvis. Perhaps I'll be seeing them in a sixth decade too? Stranger things have happened.