Holmdel, NJ - Media Reviews
Two of the giants of hard rock music - KISS and Def Leppard - descended on New Jersey's bucolic PNC Bank Arts Center Saturday night (July 26) for a tightly packaged concert that cranked out hit after hit, with few exceptions, all night long. And one thing that both bands seemed to have in mind - besides their own enviable discographies - was the Who. Specifically, the British band's classic, "Won't Get Fooled Again."
Before Def Leppard hit the stage, the soundsystem was playing a number of hard rock classics; during "Won't Get Fooled Again," a countdown clock appeared on the monitor screens, and when it hit zero, the band hit the stage, playing along with the Who, circa 1971. During KISS's set, in the middle of their '80s hit "Lick It Up," they played a segment of the same song. Perhaps the line, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," resonated with both bands: they've both endured several trends over the decades and remain ridiculously popular, outlasting countless critical flavors-of-the-month.
If the venue wasn't completely sold out, it looked close (they were offering upgrades for people with lawn tickets, to fill spots in the assigned seating area). KISS’s audience has aged with the band, but once they started their performance (they played last), the years melted away, both for the musicians and the audience. But there were lots of younger fans there, many of whom were with their parents, many of them donning KISS kabuki makeup. Frontman Paul Stanley made reference to this, talking about all the venues that the band had played in New Jersey, including the long-since-shut-down Capitol Theater in Passaic. "We've been comin' here since before some of you have been comin' here. We’ve been comin’ here since before some of you were born!"
Most of their music came from their classic '70s era, extending twice into the '80s (1983's "Lick It Up," and the rather surprising choice of "Hide Your Heart" from 1989's Hot in the Shade), once into the '90s (1998's "Psycho Circus," the opener) and nothing since then, even ignoring their most recent album, 2012's Monster. But the energy never lagged, with Stanley playing the role of the ultimate frontman; again, he echoed "Won't Get Fooled Again," when he told the audience that he always "gets down on my knees" when he prays, thanking God for the opportunity to perform after all these years. Of course, he can thank himself as well: the man remains in remarkable shape, dancing in huge platform boots while singing and playing guitar. At one point in the show, he flew over the audience to the far side of the seats (thanks to a wire and pulley system) and landed on a small stage, where he led the band through "Love Gun" and also "Black Diamond" (although drummer Eric Singer took the lead vocals; the album version was sung by original drummer Peter Criss). Gene Simmons did all the things that Gene Simmons does: stomp in his enormous boots, spit blood, breath fire, bellow a few classics, all while holding it down on the bass.
Def Leppard's set was solid as well, but it recalled the press conference a few months ago, where the two bands announced the co-headlining tour. Def Leppard are a bunch of regular guys done good, thanks to their merging of heavy rock and power pop. But next to KISS, they are less visually exciting (although some women might disagree: vegan bodybuilder/guitarist Phil Collen was a focal point for several women in the audience). That said, their set had way more top 40 hits than KISS, and more than most any other rock band from the past three decades, for that matter. "Animal," "Foolin'," "Love Bites," "Let's Get Rocked," "Hysteria" (which saw singer Joe Elliott drop in a line from the KISS ballad "Beth"), "Rocket," "Armageddon It," "Pour Some Sugar On Me," "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph"… that's a discography that most rock bands (maybe including KISS) would kill to have. The band also stripped it down for a few acoustic numbers, "Two Steps Behind" and "Bringing on the Heartbreak," giving a bit of intimacy that their warpainted tourmates didn't (although KISS does do a private acoustic set before their shows for a high rolling V.I.P. audience, they don't do that during their concert). Def Leppard also reminded fans of their early heavy rock days with their opening number, "Let It Rock."
It's easy to be cynical about a 30 year old band and a 40 year old band playing time honored classics before a largely middle aged crowd. Cynicism is your right. But the younger segment of the audience clearly loved the show - and who is playing this kind of good-time rock aimed at their demographic these days anyway? Both KISS and Def Leppard likely noted this, as they picked up their guitars and played, just like yesterday; and just like they are likely to for many years to come.
It should also be mentioned that the tour hires former military heroes, and raises money for the very worthy organization Wounded Warriors.
By WCBSFM 2014.
When it comes to KISS and Def Leppard….you may ask yourself.
Do you want a concert where the band’s songs have monstrous licks, catchy hooks, and infectious grooves?
Do you want it performed while smoke pours up from underneath the stage and fireworks shoot at you from every direction?
Do you want it all on the same stage…. in one night?
Well, you want then you want THE BEST…. and you got two of the world’s most legendary bands sharing the same stage for a stellar summer tour.
On previous tours both bands have played The PNC Art Center and sold it on their own.
Tonight they did it with no tricks or farewell gimmicks, just pure adrenalin driving rock ‘n roll.
Def Leppard who have been opening the string of shows was set up in front of KISS’s stage. They still had ample room to interact among themselves and work the crowd.
Gone on this tour is the catwalk that they’ve brought on previous tours. Not having it showcased the band camaraderie and allowed their playful spirit to take off, yet on a smaller scale.
Their 14 song set list read like a perfect greatest hits CD, covering all of the band’s anthemic hits that put them on the map, from “Let it Go” to “Animal” to “Pour Some Sugar” to “Hysteria”. They even squeezed in two acoustic songs; “Two Steps Behind” and “Bring on the “Heartbreak”.
Highlights of the show were the three songs off Pyromania; “Foolin,” “Rock of Ages,” and, of course, “Photograph”.
Vocalist and ring leader, Joe Elliott, strutted the stage with a swagger that only he has, gripping his scarf-embellished microphone stand and working the crowd. Joe still has his raspy chops which helped launch the band over three decades ago.
Bassist, Rick Savage, ran the full expanse of the stage on this muggy night, working the girls into a lather. He was the only member to have two microphone stands on both sides of Joe.
Guitarists, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, provided the solid musical foundation for the band to soar, dazzling the crowd with soulful licks and dual leads.
Phil who always has an amazing arsenal of guitar, debuted his latest creation, a black Jackson X-Stroyer guitar reminiscent of the Ibanez Destroyer X in their earlier MTV videos. He even played it on the appropriate songs like “Foolin”, “Rock of Ages,” and “Photograph.”
Vivian Campbell looked and sounded great and never faltered, while “Thunder God” Rick Allen kicked the shit out of his kit making such songs as “Rocket” and “Switch 625” bone crunching and chest pounding experiences.
The energy of their live performance was equally matched to the energy heard on every CD. As Joe left the stage he said to the crowd.
“Don’t forget about us – we won’t forget about you, see you next time!” And so ends a nearly 75 minute party that is a Def Leppard live show.
KISS closed the show tonight and unbeknownst to the crowd, Joe Elliot introduced them with their infamous “You Wanted the Best…” growl.
What can you say about these Hall of Famers that hasn’t been said in the last 40 years?
They put on one hell of a show!
KISS has always given their fans 110% no matter of the line-up or if they’re wear make-up.
Tonight’s show was no exception.
Paul Stanley got down on his hands and knees to sing and play his heart out. Mid-set he praised God for being able to pursue his lifelong dream of rock ‘n roll stardom. His passion and raw energy could be felt all the way to the last row of the lawn seats.
And if that wasn’t enough, he flew out to them on a zip line for “Love Gun”. Dancing, prancing and romancing is his business and nobody does it better!
He and co-founder/bassist, Gene Simmons wrote the book on stage acrobatics, choreography, as well as putting on a bombastic show. They are truly premiere frontmen, worthy of being in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Where other bands from the ’70s have slowed down, KISS have ramped up and raised the bar for bands half their age.
Their 15 song set included many of the tried and true favorites like “Deuce,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Black Diamond,” and “Calling Doctor Love.”
The band pulled out some tunes from the ’90s too, like “Hide Your Heart” and “Psycho Circus”. Songs like “War Machine” and “I Love It Loud” were played with the same ferocity it had in 1982, with Eric Singer now leading the charge!
One of the highlights of the show was the stage lighting, with it’s over the top spider-like leg trusses that moved in every direction. The pyro and fireworks shot sky high, plummeted down and veered sideways.
When the smoke and confetti cleared, all four members were standing tall.
No KISS show would be complete without Gene spitting fire on “Hotter than Hell”, or drooling blood on “God of Thunder”, and the crowd loved it.
KISS guitarist, Tommy Thayer, and drummer, Eric Singer, have been with the band for over a decade and uphold the same KISS mantra that launched them to rock god success in the ’70s.
KISS proved once again that they can still “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” with the very best of them.
By Guitar International 2014.
As for Vivian Campbell, he has shown himself equal to himself, humble and subtle despite chemotherapy. Irish guitarist indeed fight bravely against cancer. It is a standing ovation as he reserved the public. Def Leppard still definitely one of the most effective and most endearing world music bands.
By Rock 'n' Roll 2014 - (Translated-see link for full review).
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