As the years have gone on, I can’t quite exactly pinpoint the first moment that I saw Rock and Roll Hall of Famers KISS on my TV screen. All I remember is that I was in from the very start.
I grew up on rock ’n’ roll and the classics thanks, in large part, to my parents. I’ve always had an affinity and appreciation for something different.
I was in love with the style and grace of David Bowie. I was infatuated with Robert Plant’s and the rest of Led Zeppelin’s unique sound. And, of course, I was simply in awe of The Beatles for their originality and for also being pioneers.
However, nothing quite captured my attention and captivated me more so than KISS. To me, they weren’t just a band, they were superheroes before I even knew what a superhero was, saving the music scene from the boring, tiresome and mundane acts.
Just the getups alone were enough to make me interested. The theatricality of it all piqued my interest, because here you have four guys in makeup and costumes. Sadly, currently there are only two of those original members still donning their leotards.
But, you’ve got the brawn in bassist Gene Simmons, dressed from head to toe in heavy armor, capped off with demon dragon platform boots looking like he’s itching for a fight. Say what you will about Simmons personally, but he knows how to captivate an audience, whether that be by spitting up blood or breathing fire, and to a 7- to 8-year-old kid, that was the coolest thing ever.
Then, you’ve got The Starchild, also known as Paul Stanley, the lead singer and guitarist. With a plethora dance moves, including the ability to play his guitar between his legs, and a wailing, but powerful voice, it’s easy to see how he could light up a room.
Sadly though, at some point, a hero has to know when to call it a day and hang up the gear. That time is drawing near for KISS, as it brought its End Of The Road Tour to Nashville on Tuesday, playing to a sold-out crowd at Bridgestone Arena.
The band introduced itself to the world 45 years ago with the release of its self-titled debut album. Tuesday’s show felt like more than your typical concert. While entertaining, engaging and full of surprises, at the end of the day, it felt like one big retirement party that only KISS could provide.
While including all of the hits in their two-hour, 20-song set, there were also plenty of callbacks to the earlier studio work. Included in those tracks, was “Cold Gin,” off of the debut record. While the band played, the video board behind them showcased snippets of the band playing in their earlier days, almost like the audience was being shown a home movie.
The members of KISS even recognized their own history with Music City. Stanley took over the mic, detailing where the band played its first-ever Nashville show.
“We still remember the first time we came here,” the frontman said. “In 1974, we played a club called Muthers Music Emporium.”
The band bookended their set with fan favorites. The night opened with Simmons, Stanley and guitarist Tommy Thayer descending from platforms above the stage, as the opening riff of 1976’s “Detroit Rock City” rang through the arena.
Toward of the end of the initial set, Stanley swung through the air on a rope, making his way to a stage in the middle of the crowd. From there he belted out to “Love Gun,” followed by international hit “I was Made For Lovin’ You,” before flying his way back to the main stage.
The band closed out its set list with “Black Diamond.” Minutes later, drummer and backing vocalist Eric Singer took over from behind a piano, performing “Beth” as cellphones lit up the arena.
KISS sent the Nashville crowd home with one final party, heading straight into “Rock & Roll All Nite.” While confetti and streamers fell from the ceiling, Thayer and Simmons were strapped into what looked like a lighting rig and lifted, playing above the audience.
After finishing the song, the band left the Nashville stage for what’s to be expected the final time, after Stanley executed his signature finale. As the group gathered, Stanley smashed his guitar as the lights faded.
After almost half a decade of smearing on the face paint and cranking the amps up as far as they can go, some might have expected KISS to go out with a whimper instead of a bang. But I challenge you to find one person who was at the Bridgestone Tuesday night who would agree with you on that.