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Wednesday, 9th July 2014

Phoenix, AZ - Media Reviews

KISS, Def Leppard - Ak-Chin Pavilion - 7/9/2014 By Austin Paetow

The surroundings of a KISS and Def Leppard concert are one of the most entertaining parts about it, aside from the legends performing on stage.

Wednesday's concert contained a huge range of age groups, but the most amusing of them is what I like to call the "dad-rock" group. Dad-rock isn't a negative phrase and will surely be the genre I enjoy in in the decades to come. Here, I'm using the term to refer to those who grew up with the metal and rock icons onstage last night.

These are the men and women ("mom-rock" could be used here as well), two to three times my age, singing along and rocking out that night to the tunes that were playing through their radio before I was even born.

The night kicked off with a set by Kobra and The Lotus, who played to a smaller audience of people that were just getting to the venue. They managed to capture my attention instantly. Kobra Paige, the band's singer, has a powerful voice that suited the band's power-metal meets modern metalcore feel. Highlights included a pretty badass cover of Heart's "Barracuda."

As the setup began for Def Leppard, the audience began to fill the empty seats. It's at this point where the energy picked up, as two huge names in music took the stage.

Def Leppard took the stage playing to a snippet of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" as their banner swept behind them and revealed each member. Cheers from the crowd were deafening as the group kicked off the first song.

The band played hits like "Animal" and "Hysteria" that had the audience going nuts. At one point during the set, I looked over to my left and saw a woman on the aisle across from my seat dancing and pelvic-thrusting her way through a song. She eventually made her way to dancing with the woman in front of me and even complimented the guys two rows ahead of me on their dancing and air guitar moves.

The great thing about seeing Def Leppard was watching drummer Rick Allen tear through each song. Allen lost his left arm in a car accident in the '80s, but he famously never let that stop him from drumming. These days, his kit is almost entirely electronic. He has numerous foot pedals that duplicate kick drums, toms, and snares, and the combination of his feet and his remaining arm allows him to stand on even ground with any two-armed drummer. That's easier said than done. Watching him actually do his thing live, was something else. It was the embodiment of the perseverance of the human spirit, aided by technology.

When the cameras projected the concert on the screens to the side of the stage, it was hard to ignore Allen.

Predictably, "Pour Some Sugar On Me" ended the band's set. Def Leppard returned for an encore, playing "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph," priming the amped-up crowd for KISS.

There's a lot that could be said about how fun KISS was to watch. By this point, the people were losing it. The four middle aged guys in front of me were throwing up their horns and air guitar-ing with beers in hand while the glammed-up rockers performed. People danced in the middle of the aisles until security told them to get back into their seats, but it felt like one giant party. The band even started it off with some stage fireworks and streamers that fell from the rafters.

I also realized at this point that I was 100 feet away from Gene Simmons. I was close enough to see the saliva dripping from his tongue. Simmons made things even more interesting by spitting fire during "Hotter Than Hell" and later on playing a dark bass line as blood dripped out of his mouth. As the blood stopped dripping, the crowd chanted "Gene!" until the next song started. Simply put: It was pretty metal.

The band played through a number of hits as the crowd sang along, and you could occasionally feel a blast of heat from the on-stage pyrotechnics. Before KISS started "Love Gun," Paul Stanley announced that he wanted to get out into the crowd and play with them. From there, he walked over to the side of the stage and stepped onto a metal ring suspended from the rafters by a cable, which was attached to a motorized track. The cable then flew directly over the audience onto a platform in the middle of the seating area. The platform had a mic on it and rotated throughout the song, then he flew back. Shortly after, KISS closed the show with "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock And Roll All Nite".

By Phoenix New Times 2014.

Kiss bring raucous costumed spectacle to Phoenix By Ed Masley

"You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world, Kiss!!!"

And with that oft-heard announcement, the pyro-laden stage was set for yet another wildly entertaining night of costumed spectacle with the made-up men of Kiss – two founding members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, joined by drummer Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer as characters first brought to life by Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.

The tour that brought them to Ak-Chin Pavilion on Wednesday, July 9, marks the 40th anniversary of the legends' self-titled debut. And Simmons is still breathing fire and dripping blood down his chin while Stanley remains one of rock and roll's loopiest ringleaders, prefacing nearly every line of priceless banter with a high-pitched squeal of "Phoenix!!!"

Stanley rode a zip line over the heads of the Kiss Army members down front to sing "Love Gun" on a sparkling raised platform, a mirror ball dangling over his head, in the middle of the audience, as Thayer tore it up on a perfectly Frehley-esque solo on the main stage. Then, after turning the intro of "Black Diamond" into a smile-inducing audience-participation number, Stanley reboarded the zip line as his bandmates launched into the monster riff.

At one point, Stanley told the crowd he was thinking about the show and thought, "What do you say we play some good music and blow a lot of stuff up?" And that's exactly what they did. You could do a lot worse in this world than to own stock in the company providing pyro for a Kiss tour.

Stanley's finest moment as a show man may have when he acknowledged Kiss' long-denied induction this year to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after far too many years of being snubbed (like fellow costumed rocker Alice Cooper).

"I just wanna let you know, you're looking at a band that's in the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame," he shouted. "They didn't want us. Because they hate us. But you made it happen."

After taking the stage to a streamer explosion with "Psycho Circus," the title track to the 1998 release that featured the founding four back together again and in full makeup, they reached back to their first release for "Deuce," Singer driving the beat while Thayer coaxed the first of many squealing leads from his guitar.

Thayer's been rocking the Frehley-esque leads since 2002 while Singer is now on his third tour of duty, having first signed on in 1991. So calling them the new guys is a little weird at this point, BUT the new guys more than held their own.

The set list did not skimp on the headbanging '70s classics, from "Shout It Out Loud" and a version of "Hotter Than Hell" that ended, as it must, with Simmons breathing fire, to "Christine Sixteen," a thundering "Cold Gin," "Love Gun," "Black Diamond," "Detroit Rock City" and a set-closing version of "Rock and Roll All Nite" that showered the venue with confetti.

They also dipped into the '80s for "War Machine," a "Lick It Up" that segued nicely into "Won't Get Fooled Again," "I Love It Loud" and "Hide Your Heart." There was nothing from their two most recent albums, "Sonic Boom" and "Monster," but it's doubtful many fans went home lamenting that point.

The members of Kiss are co-headlining this tour with Def Leppard, who set the tone for their set with the PA blasting "Won't Get Fooled Again." When it got to Roger Daltrey's scream coming out of the synthesizer solo, the curtain emblazoned with Def Leppard's logo fell as the pop-metal veterans kicked into the end of the song for a crowd-pleasing segue.

They packed a lot of hits, plenty of flashy guitar leads (mostly squeezed out by Phil Collen) and a Rick Allen drum solo into a 75-minute set.

After following the Who with "Let It Go," they blew the dust off several songs that made them such enormous radio sensations in the '80s – "Animal," "Foolin'" and chart-topping power ballad "Love Bites" – before bringing it into the '90s with a suitably rollicking "Let's Get Rocked."

A mid-concert unplugged set started off strong with a soulful rendition of "Two Steps Behind" as performed on three acoustics and a bass, and followed through with "Bringin' On the Heartbreak," Joe Elliott handing the high-pitched chorus hook off to the fans before his bandmates kicked into a full-volume climax.

After an extended instrumental, "Switch 625," they brought the set to a hit-filled big finish with "Hysteria," "Armageddon It" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Of course, that meant two of their best-loved songs had gone unplayed, which necessitated an encore of those songs – "Rock of Ages" and their most infectious moments as pop-metal craftsmen, "Photograph."

By AZ Central 2014.

Two Legendary Bands, No Egos - Heroes Tour 2014 - KISS and Def Leppard Do NOT Disappoint! By Siobhan Sackey

Before diving into the review of the show, I have to tell you what happened before the show that made me love these two iconic bands even more.

Everybody and everything was late…and not just a little late, but really late. I had purchased a Def Leppard meet and greet package and, long after the KISS meet and greet group entered the venue, we waited and waited for our host to show up. When he finally arrived, he explained that the gear in LA, which would normally have been loaded up at 7 am, was not loaded until 11 am. LA is a six-hour drive from Phoenix, which meant the gear didn’t arrive at the arena until some time around 5 pm. With Kobra and the Lotus, the opening act, scheduled to start at 7 pm, that left only two hours for everything to get set up. Our host explained to us that Kobra may not perform that night and the show might start with Def Leppard at 8 pm (their regularly scheduled time to take the stage.)

So everything was late and everybody was scrambling to make up time. Normally, the Leppard meet and greet occurs after the KISS meet and greet acoustic set (so fans can talk with the Lep guys without having to shout over music), but when we got in the venue, the KISS acoustic set hadn’t even started yet. These two powerhouse bands could have done anything they wanted and everybody would have rushed to accommodate them, but the opposite happened. Upon learning the Leppard meet and greet was ready to go, the guys in Def Leppard rushed to the meet and greet tent while KISS graciously waited until our meet and greet was over before starting their acoustic set.

Not only that, Kobra took the stage right on time. Def Leppard and KISS did likewise. During the KISS set, Paul Stanley made the statement that they were not able to do a lot of things they normally did during a show. Kobra could have been easily bumped to complete more of the stage set up. I like to think that both of these bands remember what it was like when they were just starting and, being driven by integrity instead of egos, stayed true to their arrangement with Kobra.

As for the performances themselves, both bands were the peak of entertainment that fans have come to expect. I’d be hard pressed to think of any two bands that are more different in their performance style. Leppard has a what-you-see-is-what-you-get style. Relaxed in jeans and t-shirts (even the usually bare-chested Phil Collen had a vest on) but energetic. They’re there just to have fun and bring the audience along for the ride. In the Leppard camp, having fun means being able to poke fun at yourselves as singer Joe Elliott did when introducing drummer Rick Allen. During the introduction, Elliott pointed out that Allen was wearing an original pair of 1983 Union Jack shorts. To loud cheers of approval, Allen made a very rare appearance out from behind the drum kit to show off his short shorts as Elliott quipped that it was amazing that Allen could still fit in those shorts. By all appearances and the loud responses coming from the crowd (Elliott himself proclaiming the Phoenix audience to be unusually loud) you would never know that all is not well in the Leppard camp. Guitarist Vivian Campbell is currently undergoing chemo for Hodgkins lymphoma. Having had a chemo treatment just two days before the Phoenix show, Campbell skipped the meet and greet in order to get some much needed rest (and not a single complaint was heard from any fan about his no-show, just concerns for his well-being). In true Leppard fashion, Campbell was on stage, carrying on his duties as co-lead guitarist and flashing that endearing smile at the support from the audience. In stark contrast to Leppard’s jeans and t-shirt vibe, KISS delivers a very theatrical, deliberate show that is designed to be an experience. They pull the concert goer out of reality and into the world of KISS. For this KISS concert virgin, I must admit it was a shock to the system after Def Leppard, but I was still in awe of how elaborate the costumes, the stage, the pyrotechnics… how elaborate everything about a KISS show is. I can’t begin to imagine what was left out of their show in the rushed set-up. And as disturbing as Gene Simmons spitting blood can be for somebody as squeamish as me, he is incredibly captivating to watch. The only thing that managed to pull my eyes away from Simmons was Paul Stanley dancing and posing (and even flying!) in his sparkling, skin-tight suit and heavily fringed platform boots. I found myself marveling at Stanley’s agility and the height he gets on his jumps even in those boots.

For as different as the bands are in their performances, the fans of both bands are strikingly similar. There was no doubt which band each person was a fan of based on the t-shirt (or make up) they were wearing, yet, even though the bands played some of their not-so-big hits along with their biggest ones, it seemed the entire audience knew all of the words to every song played by both bands. A lot of parents had kids in tow. Even though I’m partial to Def Leppard, I still greatly admired the parenting style of those whose kids were sporting KISS make-up and costumes. There seemed to be a mutual respect for both bands by everybody. Like we all understood that both are great bands who make great rock ‘n’ roll and it doesn’t matter what your preference is, you’re cool as long as you like great music…

By Z Rockr Magazine 2014.


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