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Sunday, 13th July 2014

Dallas, TX - Media Reviews

KISS and Def Leppard at Gexa Energy Pavilion By Gordon Dickson

The smell of sulfur from a few dozen explosions that had fired off during the last tune still wafted between the stage and the outdoor canopy at Dallas’ Gexa Energy Pavilion.

KISS frontman Paul Stanley paused to take in the outdoor scene and, as his is custom, affably engage the audience.

“What do you say we play a lot of good rock and roll and blow (expletive) up?” Stanley, the rhythm guitarist and lead singer with sweat already pouring down the star-shaped makeup on his face, asked the crowd.

What more could a KISS fan ask for?

On a sticky evening, just hours after Dallas-Fort Worth reached 100 degrees for the first time of the summer, the iconic hard rock band from New York drew a full house Sunday at the outdoor venue adjacent to Fair Park. It was the latest stop in its 40-year anniversary tour, with Def Leppard providing the opening act.

With an idle Texas Star ferris wheel in the background, and many adoring fans now in their late 40s sporting KISS makeup of their own as they watched from the lawn, KISS systematically played through a collection of staples in their discography put together over the last 40 years. Many of those fans brought their children - and one man told his possibly embarrassed teen-age son and several bystanders, “We’re going to show you some real rock and roll tonight.”

Nine of the 14 hits performed during the 85-minute set - KISS had to end promptly at 11 p.m. because of a noise curfew in steamy south Dallas - were from the band’s vintage years, pre-1978.

After years of dabbling in style changes - a disco album, a concept album and more than a dozen years of makeup-less, Val Halen copycat-ism - KISS has more or less settled on its look and accompanying sound. The band now sticks to what the fans want - a generous helping of 1970s hard rock, with a smattering of the group’s newer stuff and lots of fireworks on stage. No songs from the band’s two most recent albums, Sonic Boom in 2009 and Monster in 2012, were featured in this show.

The opening tune was one of the newer songs, 1998’s Psycho Circus, which offered a terrific soundtrack for the band to show off its elaborate video boards and lighting setup. The light rafters in particular were impressive, hanging over the stage like an enormous, gyrating spider.

After that initial number, Stanley mentioned the band's induction earlier this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, after 14 years of eligibility.

“The Hall of Fame hated us, but you said put me in and they had to listen,” Stanley yelled to the approving crowd.

The group then launched into a string of its 1970s hits, including Deuce and Shout It Out Loud.

For those who have seen KISS before, elements of the show have become predictable. No matter the tour or the setting, at some point bassist and reality TV star Gene Simmons will spit blood and (with the help of circus cables) fly to the top of the stage and embark upon a God of Thunder solo.

Later, Stanley will hop onto a swing and fly over the crowd to a remote, rotating stage, and sing Love Gun. It’s KISS’ way of providing a hat tip to the fans in the cheap seats.

But a show without those old antics wouldn’t be complete. Would the Rolling Stones dare play a live show without Satisfaction on the set list? Could U2 engage in a performance that didn’t include Where the Streets Have No Name?

Noticeably missing from this KISS show were the typical moments-in-the-spotlight for drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, who replaced original band members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley many years ago. In past tours, each has been introduced to the crowd by Stanley and offered a moment to shine.

In previous shows, for example, Singer sang Criss’ hit ballad Beth, while Thayer took the lead in Frehley’s old standby, Shock Me.

But for this set list, both members stuck to their reliable roles in support of Stanley and Simmons. Thayer did perform several dazzling guitar solos, including the haunting string stretches of Black Diamond toward the end of the evening. For that same song, Singer took charge of the lead vocals and performed well without missing a beat on his Pearl drum kit.

Def Leppard - which seemingly has sold more records and enjoyed more radio and MTV play than just about anyone in hard rock history - was surprisingly comfortable in its role as opening act for KISS. The band stuck purely to its best-known hits, including Let It Go, Rocket, Pour Some Sugar on Me and Photograph in a roughly one-hour, no-frills set.

By Dallas-Fort Worth 2014.

Media Review - KISS still puts on a fiery, fake-bloody show, but beneath the noise, some enduring songs By Robert Wolinsky

"You just don't go to a circus and criticize the music."

So began long-ago Dallas Morning News rock critic Pete Oppel's review of the KISS show at the Tarrant County Convention Center in August 1976. Much of what he wrote then holds true some 38 years later: "Pillars of fire sprouted from four different spots on the stage. Bombs exploded. Lights flashed. Smoke billowed. And the drummer's platform rose 25 feet in the air." Check. Check. Check. Etc.

Even the run time was exactly the same: 75 minutes then and now and not a second longer, which was just as well on a still and sweltering night in the shadow of Fair Park. The set list at the Gexa Energy Pavilion Sunday night was also a carbon copy of the Destroyer tour's run sheet, give or take: "Deuce," "Detroit Rock City," "Hotter Than Hell," "Cold Gin," "Shout It Out Loud," the phony-blood-soaked "God of Thunder," "Black Diamond" and closer "Rock and Roll All Nite" - anthems when the KISS Army was still full of fresh-faced recruits not yet subjected to the horrors of KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.

For this 40th-anniversary tour, the modern-day version - consisting of 64-year-old Gene Simmons, 62-year-old Paul Stanley and two fill-ins we'll call Not Ace Frehley and Not Peter Criss - has added to its playlist "Love Gun," "Lick it Up" and, among others, "Hide Your Heart," first recorded by Bonnie Tyler (yes, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" Bonnie Tyler). Paul Stanley's also zip-lining from the stage to a pedestal in the middle of the shed during "Love Gun," which is adorable mostly because he's eight years younger than my dad.

There is, of course, one noticeable difference between then and now: KISS has just entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside Peter Gabriel and Hall & Oates and Linda Ronstadt and sorta-acolytes Nirvana, an occasion Stanley referred to when thanking the packed house for its years of service in the KISS Army. "It wouldn't have happened without you," Stanley said to roars of approval from an audience ranging from Kenny Powers lookalikes in face paint and faded jorts to clean-cut teens awed by the spectacle. "They hate us."

Maybe "they" used to, but there's a fine line between love and hate, which may be why the records Rolling Stone once trashed became top-500-album offerings years later. It's worth noting now what Oppel didn't in 1976 and again in '77, when dismissing KISS as a "1-ring, 1-dimensional affair": The songs, catchy like a pop fly, hold up - well, except for "Psycho Circus," the odd-choice set-opener taken from a dreadful record of the same name, and "Lick It Up," the strip-club hit from the sans-make-up period.

Most of those songs played Sunday night are the indestructible pop-hard-ish-rock riffs that built college radio in the 1980s, when The Replacements weren't just spot-on covering "Black Diamond" on the essential Let It Be, but also nicking "Hard Luck Woman" for the immortal "Unsatisfied," and Kurt Cobain was wondering "Do You Love Me?" on 1990′s KISS tribute Hard to Believe. Sure, KISS is a franchise in grease paint: On Sunday night, the screen at The Venue Formerly Known as Starplex ran nonstop ads for Halloween week's Kiss Kruise IV, which really ought to be called the Love Gun Boat. But the product sells because the advertisement for it endures.

Same goes for most of the songs a time-capsule-sounding Def Leppard piled into its opening best-of set, which wrapped with the Holy Trinity of "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph," all of which you'll hear at Cabaret Royale tonight if you're in need of a quick fix. Timeless, in other words.

And this is what it looks like when Paul Stanley flies over you at Starplex during "Black Diamond."

By Dallas Morning News 2014.

Kiss Def Leppard Concert Recap By Billy Kidd

At 7:04 yesterday the temperature in Dallas was 99 degrees with 30 % humidity. That didn’t stop KISS, Def Leppard and Kobra and the Lotus from dressing up in rock gear and giving all they had!

Kobra and The Lotus kicked things off with shredding guitars and the classically trained voice/scream of lead singer Kobra Paige. It was a throwback to Metal’s glory years when speed and power ruled. It doesn’t hurt that they’re on Gene Simmons’ record label.

The Def Leppard back drop was up while the Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again played. Suddenly the back drop fell and Def Leppard were on stage finishing the Who song. Pretty cool! The band then went on to play through their killer hits from the albums High n Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize and more. A short acoustic set in the middle of the show was a nice touch. And a nice break from the heat! Their songs have a ton of production value on their albums. It always amazes me how Def Leppard can pull off the layered instruments and backing vocals live. They sounded as good as they did back in the day.

Kiss hit the stage with a boom! The show included, a giant mechanical spider/stage, explosions, flying band members, fire breathing, blood spitting and some of the catchiest songs in rock. “The Rock and Roll hall of fame hates us” Paul Stanley said. “But because you, the fans demanded it. They had to let us in!” That basically sums up Kiss’s performance. They know they owe everything to their fans and they certainly gave us what we wanted last night. While their musicianship can be debated, they always put on a fun and entertaining show. All while sweating their you-know-what’s off in the stifling Texas Heat.

Billy Kidd’s grade B+ (Mainly because the shorter sets due to Gexa’s curfew).

By 100.3 Jack FM 2014.

KISS at Gexa Energy Pavilion, 7/13/14 By Christian McPhate

Paul Stanley can fly. He soared over the audience, a star shooting across a starlit sky Sunday night at the Gexas Energy Pavilion. He landed on a spinning platform, while a demon, a cat and his Space Ace protector waited in the shadows. Standing above the crowd, Stanley played his guitar and worked the crowd like the superstar he is.

It's been 40 years. I've waited nearly half of my life to see the "greatest show on earth." Thousands of people were in attendance and one dollar of every ticket was donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. I'd never seen this many people at the pavilion in the two years I've been reporting for the Dallas Observer. KISS and Def Leppard didn't disappoint.

Def Leppard opened for KISS, playing hits like "Hysteria," "Bringing on the Heartbreak" and "Love Bites," reminding me of every breakup I experienced when I was younger. Hearing "Armageddon It" and "Let's Get Rocked" after all these years made it nearly impossible not to sing along with the rest of the crowd.

A big screen behind the band flashed pictures of yesteryear, and a few of when drummer Rick Allen still had both of his arms. Losing an arm would end most musicians' careers, but Allen not only retained his ability but increased his talent by becoming an animal on the drums. Hair disheveled, drenched in sweat as he drove the beat with one arm and two feet, Allen resembled a demonic animal beating his drums in a place that felt like hell. It was perfect.

Singer Joe Elliot wore a jacket in hell. Several of them, in fact. It was 101 degrees but felt like 120 inside the amphitheater, increasing the closer you got to the stage. "This is officially the hottest gig... in Dallas," said Elliot after closing the show with an encore performance that included "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph." He should have worn a muscle t-shirt.

KISS took the heat to the next level. Riding atop a giant mechanical spider, Starchild (Paul Stanely), the Demon (Gene Simmons) and Space Ace (Tommy Thayer) descended toward the stage while Catman (Eric Singer) beat away on his drums. Bombs exploded, flames flashed and sparks shot from guitars, with the remnants of the supermoon lingering above. It was the perfect way to celebrate 40 years of a band that finally earned their rightful place in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

"The hottest band in the world," said the announcer, and the guys proved it by unloading their decades of hits. "Hotter Than Hell," "Love Gun," "War Machine" -- they were in top form this evening. Despite what some would consider a rocky start (the heat took your breath away, especially wearing spandex and heavy makeup) Starchild quickly recovered and fired everyone up. Guitars loaded with picks like bullets in a gun belt, he and Space Ace threw pick after pick into the crowd while fireworks exploded while bursts of flame blazed and a mad demon blew fire.

By the end of the night, the water in my cup was boiling.

Standing at center stage, wielding a battle-axe bass, the Demon looked menacing wearing bloodstained armor with horns protruding from his shoulders and calves. Black and white makeup streaked as the temperature increased, he resembled a possessed mime. Spitting blood was just one of his many tricks. He could also fly. Black wings bellowing under his arms as he soared to take his place atop the mechanical spider. He roared his anthem "God of Thunder" and fucked his microphone with his tongue. The kids in the audience were mesmerized.

A night of KISS is the epitome of arena shows. No one does it better.

If there were any mishaps in musicianship, no one seemed to notice it. I was too busy enjoying my first KISS Alive experience and becoming a full member of the KISS Army.

At the end of the show, instead of teasing the audience by lingering off stage for their encore return, KISS decided not to waste time due to a city noise ordinance. They ended the night with crowd favorites "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock 'n' Roll All Night." As the rest of the band said their goodbyes, Starchild smashed what I hoped was a guitar made in China against the stage.

It truly was the "greatest show on earth."

By Dallas Observer 2014.


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