Friday night the KISS army invaded Detroit Rock City. Suburban families, pony-tailed bikers, cleavage-flaunting cougars, and packs of 40-year-old fathers bulging in their aged acid-washed jeans all painted their faces black and white for the opening date of KISS’ U.S. tour at the old-school Cobo Hall. Their mission: To rock. HARD.
Thousands of fans sported tour t-shirts from the many KISS concerts Cobo has hosted over the past three decades, and dozens stood tall on silver platform shoes, their black wigs adding another three inches of glam power. The KISS army was congregated in the Motor City’s most dated arena — a cold concrete slab used to showcase military vehicles at the North American International Auto Show — for one of the last concerts ever to be held there before it’s demolished, a touching point for the band members themselves, who recorded much of their classic Alive album there in 1975.
After the quartet stormed the stage, jumping into “Deuce” and “Strutter,” guitarist/singer Paul Stanley made sure everyone was aware of the momentous occasion. “This is the holy land, the place where it all started, Detroit!” he yelled, showing no signs of his two hip-replacement surgeries. “You’ve always opened your arms and opened your legs for us!”
KISS, or course, helped put the cult in pop-culture. The band is a B-movie come to life, a gang of sonic super heroes, and if Stanley and Gene Simmons (the two remaining founders) don’t take themselves seriously, the fans always have — especially Detroit’s. There’s even a movie (Detroit Rock City) about it.
“We know what you’re here for — you want that cool, classic old stuff and we’re going to cover it all tonight,” Stanley promised a roaring crowd of more than 21,000.
And they did — flawlessly. The initial question buzzing around the arena was whether Stanley, 57, and Simmons, 60 — with the help of recent additions Tommy Thayer and Alice Cooper drummer Eric Singer — could still pull it off. Even the band members — who, after 11 years of eligibility, were finally nominated for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just days before the show — weren’t sure. Before jumping into “Hotter Than Hell,” a hesitant Stanley asked the crowd, “Is it good?” “YYYYEEEEEAAAAHHHHHHH,” the audience replied.
And then came two hours of metal-glam anthems, featuring songs from the Alive, Destroyer, and Lick It Up records. It was a testament to the divine powers of rock.
You have to give ’em credit. Just shy of a 40-year career, KISS are shaking their spandexed butts, humping and licking their guitars, blowing kisses to groupies, spitting blood, shooting fireworks from their instruments, and indulging in all of the Regan-era rock’n’roll excess we’ve come to expect from them.
Simmons and Stanley competed to outdo each other: Simmons was hoisted more than a hundred feet to the top of the stadium, then spat movie blood on the security guards below; while Stanley locked his bedazzled thigh-high leather platform boots into a zip-line and cruised over to a revolving stage above the sound booth, where he put on a show for the back rows!
The band wasn’t originally planning to kick off their tour in Detroit, but when they heard Cobo was set to close, they wanted to make sure they got one last shot at it, that they owed that much to Detroit. The people of the Motor City, looking for any good reason to celebrate these days, were more than appreciative. KISS replied in kind, taking time to tip their wigs to the struggling auto industry and to the music of Motown, the Stooges, Bob Seger, Grand Funk Rail Road, and Alice Cooper.
“There’s just something in the blood of this city,” said Simmons. With that there was just one last song to play. “This one’s called ‘Long live Detroit Rock City!'” And Stanley, with the support of more than 21,000 Detroit rock fans, sang, “I feel so good, I’m so aliveeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!”
“Got To Choose”
“Hotter Than Hell”
“Nothin To Lose”
“Com’n And Love Me”
“Let Me Go Rock And Roll”
“Rock And Roll All Nite”
“Shout It Out Loud”
“Lick It Up”
“I Love It Loud”
“Modern Day Delilah”
“Detroit Rock City”