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Monday, 23rd June 2014
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Salt Lake City, UT - Media Reviews

Review: KISS, Def Leppard rock 'n' roll Usana crowd By Brennan Smith - (38 Photos included)

A warm summer night saw music legends KISS and Def Leppard rock an estimated 20,000 people at Usana Amphitheatre.

KISS lived up to its billing as one of the best live acts in rock ‘n’ roll, lighting up the Utah night sky with pyrotechnics, confetti and anthemic songs.

Opening song » "King of the Nightime World," played with fire shooting behind the band as bassist Gene Simmons and guitarist and lead singer Paul Stanley strutted around the stage.

Highlight » A dual encore of "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock and Roll All Night" saw the crowd explode with applause as white confetti rained down, three band members were elevated above the stage and Stanley smashed his guitar into three pieces.

Crowd favorite » For the seventh song of the set, Simmons "vomited" his signature fake blood and was raised to a microphone high above the stage. The blood dripped down his metallic chest plate as he sang "I Love It Loud."

Best quotes » "We go way back in Salt Lake City, before some of you were even in Salt Lake City," Stanley said before "Shout it Out Loud," referring to one of the band’s early shows at the Salt Palace. "People say, ‘Salt Lake City? Isn’t that where all the Mormons are?’ But you’re some of the finest, most partying people we’ve ever come across."

In the crowd » Stanley performed his signature stage trick during "Psycho Circus," flying high above the crowd and landing on a platform, where he played the song in the middle of the audience.

Low note » Stanley’s voice gave out early on in the show and was sporadic throughout as he struggled to hit certain notes. The band also played a string of lesser known songs that saw the crowd lose some interest instead of classics like "Love Gun," "Lick It Up," and "Strutter."

Before KISS took the stage, Def Leppard warmed up the crowd with the band’s classic British rock sound, standing as a crisp and lively complement to KISS.

Opening song » "Let It Go," played immediately after a short intro of The Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again," the band adorned in various pieces of clothing emblazoned the British Union Jack.

Highlight » The last three songs, "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph," which featured photo booth-style pictures of the band’s career scrolling across the big screen.

Crowd favorite » The band played "Animal" as the third song of the set with neon signs flashing on the big screen. The crowd sang along loudly to the chorus of "And I want, and I need, and I lust, animal."

Best quotes » "This one’s for Uncle Gene," singer Joe Elliott said before the band played "Foolin’."

"We always come here. Turn around and look at yourselves, that’s why we keep coming," Elliott said before the band played two acoustic songs.

Opening bands » Canadian metal band Kobra and the Lotus opened, with the band’s female singer Kobra Paige resembling the inflection of former Black Sabbath and Rainbow frontman Ronnie James Dio.

By Salt Lake City Tribune 2014.

KISS and Def Leppard team up to set Usana attendance record By Dan Nailen

If KISS and Def Leppard were looking for an ideal spot to open their American summer tour, they found it in the friendly confines of West Valley City's Usana Amphitheater, as more than 20,000 fans filled every space in the place for a Monday night of classic rock hits.

Considering there were all manner of ticket-sales specials and Groupon deals for the show, I was expecting maybe an undersold venue. Au contraire--it was probably the most packed I've ever seen the place, with cars filling the lots and the shoulders of roads for probably a mile in every direction of the venue.

The vibe inside was celebratory, to say the least. It hardly mattered that it was a Monday night--when KISS's Paul Stanley asked the crowd how many of them had to work on Tuesday, the roar was as deafening as at any moment during the show. Beer options sold out early, as did earplugs at the concession stand--but there were plenty of new KISS and Def Leppard t-shirts to go around.

I was sitting in the traffic approaching the venue during the opening act, but made it in time for Def Leppard's 75-minute set. Clearly, a band with Def Leppard's track record is no typical opening act, but they are smart to deliver their straightforward hour-plus before KISS takes the stage with all their over-the-top theatrics. Def Leppard simply let the music make their mark on the crowd, starting off with "Let It Go" from their 1981 album High 'n' Dry.

That's my favorite era of singer Joe Elliott and Co., but they mostly stuck to the monster hits that came for them later in the '80s during their 15-song set. "Rockit" and "Animal" led into what Elliott told the crowd was "Uncle Gene's favorite Leppard tune," referencing KISS's Gene Simmons in introducing "Foolin'".

The rest of Def Leppard's set could have been pulled from a 1986 MTV programming guide--"Armageddon It," "Love Bites," "Hysteria" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me" all were there, as was "Bringing on the Heartbreak," another older. Their encore held two songs from their Pyromania album, and both "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph" sounded as good now as they did when the lads were three decades younger. Def Leppard deserves props for remaining a strong live act all these years later, and for delivering the goods with a minimum of bells and whistles on stage.

Of course, bells and whistles to the nth degree have been part of the deal with KISS since the '70s, and they still put plenty of thought into the visual production of their shows. This tour marks the band's 40th anniversary, and first since their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and they blasted through 75 minutes of bombastic tunes abetted by firebombs, flashing lights, smoke effects, Simmons spewing blood, and singer Paul Stanley howling at the crowd in that raspy New York accent of his.

KISS opened with "King of the Night Time World" and "Cold Gin," two stone-cold classics from the KISS catalog, before launching into an impressively harrowing version of "War Machine" from the band's Creatures of the Night album. That was the first of a few surprises during the night.

The band didn't only delivering the obvious monster hits, although the set certainly leaned most on those. "Makin' Love" from the band's Rock and Roll Over album was unexpected. And Stanley's take on "Hide Your Heart" from the band's 1989 Hot in the Shade album featured a couple of missteps, as Stanley repeated a singalong chorus a couple times with the crowd before the band locked in to start the next verse--chalk up that glitch to it being the first night of the tour.

The inclusion of the forgettable title track from the band's Psycho Circus album is what I would consider a rather unpleasant surprise, but for the most part KISS delivered what the fans love about them--massive visual effects set to the sound of old favorites like "Christine Sixteen," "I Love It Loud" and "Shout It Out Loud."

No doubt the 20,000+ on hand went home happy from the combined efforts of KISS and Def Leppard. That's a hard-rock double-bill that's tough to beat, even in 2014.

By saltlakemagazine 2014.

Kiss, Def Leppard prove kings of night (and day) time world in tour opener By Doug Fox (+ 46 Photos)

Def Leppard and Kiss both made strong opening statements Monday night as the pair of rock behemoths kicked off their 42-city national tour with a sellout show at USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City.

The two bands each took the stage in unique fashion, setting the bar high for the remainder of their sets -- which both clocked in at a shorter-than-what-they're-accustomed 75 minutes in the co-headlining arrangement.

As showtime approached, a large Def Leppard curtain was raised as the music of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" emanated from the speakers. The majority of the audience no doubt expected the song to play out in its entirety before the band took the stage. However they were in for a well-timed shock.

As the song arrived at its iconic Roger Daltrey scream -- and if you don't know which part that's referring to, first, shame on you, and second, think the opening credits of "CSI: Miami" -- the band launched into the moment in full force as the curtain dropped, and then proceeded to play the remainder of the song before leading into its own opener of "Let It Go." It was a breathtaking one-two punch to jumpstart the set.

Kiss, as expected, displayed all the subtlety of a jackhammer when its show began. So it was that when the curtain dropped on its kickoff sequence, amid the cacophony of lights, smoke and pyro blasts, all four band members were elevated way above the stage as they began playing "Kings of the Night Time World." Eric Singer was atop his own raised drum kit while bassist Gene Simmons and guitarists Paul Stanley and Tommy Thayer were all on top of the lighting rig -- which was in the design of a giant spider. The trio were on a platform that made up the spider's body, and all the "tentacles" of the lighting rig lowered themselves, as a spider would, before finally depositing them on stage.

Mind blown.

The two disparate sets showcased exactly what makes each band great in its own right. Def Leppard's performance was tight musically and sounded pretty spot on to its meticulous recordings, albeit with an enjoyable bit of raw edge. Lead singer Joe Elliott's voice sounded strong and fresh -- certainly an added bonus of catching the tour's opening night -- and the band was crisp, dynamic and straightforward on the whole.

By contrast, Kiss' show was filled with bombast, which of course, is completely expected. It was a fun, eye-popping performance with nary a dull moment or opportunity for the crowd to sit down or take a break of any kind. The band hit on all its iconic concert tricks including Simmons breathing fire (at the end of "War Machine") and spitting blood (during the bass solo intro to "I Like It Loud," shooting fireworks from Thayer's guitar ("Black Diamond") and flying through the air (Simmons for "I Like It Loud" and Stanley for an in-audience vocal spin in "Psycho Circus.")

In addition to a Stadium of Fire-esque arsenal of fireworks, and shock-and-awe explosions there was also quite possibly the largest confetti blast on record, which fell upon fans in the front sections without letup like a Point of the Mountain blizzard in December.

According to reports, the show apparently reached sellout capacity of 20,000 sometime during Def Leppard's performance. That prompted Stanley to proclaim, "Just in case you didn't know, this is the most people to ever attend a concert here!"

Kiss eschewed the strategy of slotting mostly hit songs into its shortened set, and added numbers like "War Machine," "Hide Your Heart" and "Makin' Love." Even Stanley couldn't initially remember what album the latter song was originally on when he introduced it.

"I think it comes off 'Love Gun'," he said, before shrugging his shoulders and adding, "I just write them." Receiving an apparent epiphany as the song started, he rushed over to the microphone to correct himself and say, "It's from the 'Rock and Roll Over' album."

In case there was any doubt about how Kiss likes its music played, a mid-set, back-to-back package featured "Shout It Out Loud" and "I Like It Loud." Soft sarcasm, perhaps?

The delicate intro to "Black Diamond" was a momentary change of pace late before ramping up intensity, the song giving Singer a turn on lead vocals. It was supposed to be the band's main-set closer -- but due to the approaching 11 p.m. curfew at USANA, the band stayed on stage and went right into its "encore" numbers, "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock and Roll All Nite."

Near the end of the final song, while his three other bandmates were playing atop elevated lifts, Stanley bashed his guitar at center stage in classic rock star excess. Moments before, however, he had meandered over to the side of the stage and casually switched out his main guitar, substituting it for the one to be destroyed. Isn't that considered cheating? Don't you have to at least play a guitar for one full song to break it to bits?

Apparently not, and after all the spectacle of Kiss' performance Monday -- which, incidentally, opened its '40th Anniversary Tour' -- no one in the audience left feeling cheated.

Going back to Def Leppard, the songs filling the band's show Monday were only slightly different than those the group has been playing for ages. The opener "Let It Go" and the hit "Two Steps Behind" were the only songs that haven't been staples as the band has played at USANA Amphitheatre six of the past eight summers. Even the order of the setlist had a pretty familiar flow -- but that's almost to be expected within the confines of time limits in co-headline performances.

The tour with Kiss has moved Def Leppard into rare open-band territory, and one wonders when the Brits have last had to perform more than half their show with the sun in their eyes. Much of the band wore sunglasses early on, and drummer Rick Allen was somewhat obscured and covered by a tarp over his head throughout, ostensibly for sun screen.

The members of Def Leppard are all very active live, roaming and jogging about, with no one neglecting any side of the stage or section of the audience.

The guitarists, Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell, are fun to watch, as much for their talent as their differences in performing personality. Collen definitely peacocks around the stage, whipping off well-known solos with flair, playing up to the audience, and posturing at center stage -- such as when he holds his guitar at arm's length only by the whammy bar, wiggling it at the appropriate end-of-solo spots. Campbell, meanwhile, is much more understated and handles most of the rhythm guitar duties. He does get his moments to shine, however, especially in "Armageddon It."

The band did a brief acoustic section with "Two Steps Behind" and the first half of "Bringin' on the Heartbreak," before launching into a full electric assault for the remainder of the song. And the segue into instrumental "Switch 625" -- pretty much the only song in the set that isn't a hit -- is always a welcome addition.

The backstretch and encores were a march through songs that have graced the rock airwaves for decades: "Hysteria," "Armageddon It," "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph."

One date in, and it seems obvious this Def Leppard-Kiss pairing works, despite the differences in the bands and their respective fanbases.

What didn't quite work was the set of Kobra and the Lotus in the opening slot. The Canadian speed metal band seemed a bit out of place during its 30-minute assault on the senses and may be a better fit in shows more of its genre.

By Daily Herald 2014.


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