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KISS and Poison @ PNC Arts Center, NJ (7.20.04)

KISS Returns once again!!! The “Farewell Tour” has ended and so has the “World Domination Tour”. Now KISS has come back with the “Rock The Nation” tour and the first stop in the Tri-State area was New Jersey’s PNC Arts Center. KISS’ return this time around would be without two of its founding members. Sadly, Lead Guitarist Ace Frehley has been gone for a few years, replaced by Black N Blue’s Tommy Thayer. Most recently, Drummer Peter Criss has been replaced by Eric Singer who fans remember well from a couple of KISS albums in the 90’s (“Revenge” and “Carnival Of Souls”). These guys are decked out in the full costumes and makeup of the founders which I admit bothered me at first since I grew up with this band. However, seeing Tommy play his part as Ace and knowing full well the abilities of Eric Singer I looked past it, and decided to go.

KISS offers you the chance to meet the band in what is called the “Platinum Package”. Platinum seems very cool but it will run you a thousand bucks. You do get to go backstage and get a photo with the band and some other cool goodies but for me this was not a doable thing. After trying online via Ticketmaster and brokers to no avail, I decided to do one of the Gold Packages. This is also pretty cool as you get a seat in the first 15 rows (3-15), as well as a magazine, a laminate, a discount coupon and the chance to be moved up to the front and perhaps meet the band as the Platinum ticket holders do. I was hopeful, but that did not happen. I have heard that if the venue is completely sold out this does not really happen.

Starting off the fun for the night was a talented area band called “Z02”. They are native New Yorkers and had secured this tour which is a great achievement for any band. They are currently supporting their independent debut release called “Tuesdays and Thursdays”. I will be reviewing that CD soon, so stay tuned to the site. I was stuck in crowd entrance traffic so I missed the majority of their set. The group features the Brothers David and Paulie Z. and Joe Cassata. Dave is from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, while Paulie and Joey are members of a killer KISS Tribute band called “KISSNATION”. I did like what I heard and was impressed with the positive audience reaction they were getting.

Poison was up next and being honest I was never more than a casual fan of these guys. I liked some of the songs since they were catchy but I never went to see them. When they hit the stage it was with an energy level that someone seldom sees in an opening band. Boy was I mad when I realized I had missed out on a lot of good time rock and roll music. Brett Michaels was so enthused and appreciative to be on this tour and he kept mentioning it throughout their all too short a set. Everyone seemed in top form, especially C.C. DeVille who had gone through some troubles over the last few months. Rikki Rockett was definitely having a blast on the drums with his stick twirls and tosses. Bobby Dall holding down the rhythm on his bass and providing necessary backups throughout the night. It was good to see them delivering the music with so much energy. After all this is a KISS show and there is no room to just be sitting around.

Poison made sure that the audience knew all the songs played, and it seemed to me that everyone was singing along. Including me. The set went like this: Look What The Cat Dragged In, Fallen Angel, Ride The Wind, I Won’t Forget You, Rikki Drum Solo, Your Mama Don’t Dance, Something To Believe In, Unskinny Bop, Nothing But A Good Time, Every Rose Has Its Thorn, and Talk Dirty To Me.

The Main Event took the stage only 20 minutes after Poison had completed. It was now time for KISS to return and showcase their new stage and ever-changing set list. My Gold ticket found me about 7 rows from the stage and directly in front of Gene Simmons. This was a dream for me as he is my favorite member of them all. The band is appearing in modified versions of the Alive 1 era costumes. I prefer the “Love Gun” outfits myself, but the change does give you the chance to see something new.

The new stage was something else. Of course the required flash bombs and fire jets were included as well as levitating drum platform. Yet this time around there was about 16 smaller screens across the amps and cabinets. These screens allowed for video to be played or images that related to the bands song to be shown. I truly thought this was cool, and a welcome addition to the look of the concert. There is apparently a DVD being released from one of the Washington shows, so the casual fan who does not attend the show can still afford a DVD and see some of the fun in the privacy of their own home.

Paul was his usual self of the master of ceremonies for the night, making sure the crowd was ever pumped. He did not fly at this venue; I am thinking it was just not doable based on the configuration. Watching him onstage after all these years he is still one of the best front men who ever walked the stage, his energy level never subsides and he always gets your blood rushing.

Paul made a special mention about all the children in the audience and how KISS was there for the people who brought them to the show. He said that they would keep doing this so they could bring their children as well. Now, I cant picture Paul and Gene like the Rolling Stones doing this in their 60’s, but I am sure KISS will still exist in some fashion for a long time.

At the end of the night he spoke of the number of bad people living in the world who are trying to destroy us and our way of life. That we should look right at them and smile and keep on living because that is what they hate the most. Chants of USA began and the American flag flashed on the screens in the amps. It is good for the band to be Patriotic and especially in the NYC Vicinity since it is KISS’ home and was so affected by these very same people’s actions. Thanks Paul.

Here is the full set from the show I attended: Love Gun, Deuce, Makin’ Love, Lick It Up, Christine 16, Got To Choose, War Machine, I Want You, Psycho Circus, I Love It Loud, 100,000 Years, Unholy, Shout It Out Loud, I Was Made For Lovin’ You, Detroit Rock City, God Gave Rock And Roll To You, Rock And Roll All Nite.

Without “God Of Thunder” in the set, Gene instead spits blood during “Unholy”. The fire-spitting is done during “War Machine” rather than during “Firehouse”. As a long time fan I could have done without “Lick It Up” again and would have preferred one of the other tunes they have been playing on and off nights such as “Parasite” or “She”.

So if the diehards or the purists can get past the fact that some originals are gone, I do think they will have a good enough time at this show. I have to make mention that even though I prefer to see the original lineup in the makeup and costumes, the past few tours I saw made me see an Ace and Peter who looked miserable doing this stuff. At this performance, Eric and Tommy were nothing but smiles, and that makes it all the more easier to enjoy. It’s all about fun for me at a KISS show, and I feel I got my money’s worth despite my initial hesitation to attend.

Collectors will enjoy the chance to buy the recording of the show immediately after it has completed. These are only available at the shows, and it is still being discussed whether all of them will be made for regular public consumption after the tour has ended.

--Ken Pierce, NYC


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