San Diego/Chula Vista, CA - Media Reviews
Gene Simmons is creepy.
At the Chula Vista Sleep Train Amphitheatre on Sunday night, the co-lead vocalist and 64-year-old co-founder of the notoriously theatrical band Kiss edged towards the audience through purple-lit fog. Simmons knew what was coming; we all clearly knew what was coming, to the point where the act itself was beyond cliché.
But it was still incredibly fun to watch. He pounded out some loud, distorted bass guitar lines before shaking bright red blood out of his heavily made-up face. He rattled his “bleeding” head before being hoisted up onto the rafters, at which point he decided to spit profusely into a hanky before throwing it lovingly upon his fans. An appropriate mass "bleh" ensued, before the normal cacophony of the audience resumed itself.
Kiss’ members may be over the hill, at least for anyone (present company included) born after the 41-year-old band’s “MTV Unplugged” album came out in 1996. But if Sunday night’s concert proves anything, it’s that there is still an audience for what Kiss singer-guitarist Paul Stanley, while introducing “Christine Sixteen,” proudly called “old school” rock and roll.
In a recent interview with SF Gate to promote the band’s ongoing tour with Def Leppard, Stanley explained how Kiss changed the music industry.
“I think we have been a wake-up call to audiences that they don’t have to accept apathy or disrespect from the people onstage … they’re not doing you a favor by being onstage,” he said. “You’re doing them a favor by showing up.”
The distinct trait that makes Kiss such a riot to see is the band's obvious desire to gain the affection of its audience. For the duration of their concert here, Stanley tried to spark a competition between “Chula Vista people” and “San Diego people,” supposedly under the pretense that Chula Vista and San Diego are separate entities. Despite his confusion with local geography, his energy — and his heavy New York accent — was what kept us screaming throughout the concert.
I drove out to the crowded Sleep Train Amphitheatre on a tired Sunday with my Baby Boomer father, who has raised me on a mix of Led Zeppelin’s “Gallows Pole” and the Rolling Stones’ “Angie.” With a glaring lack of experience regarding rock and roll from the 1970s and ‘80s and indignation over my association with the unknowledgeable rock Yuppies of my own Generation Y, I had no idea what to expect.
At approximately 8:24 p.m., a man in left orchestra seating threw a full beer cup over the audience and onto the stage during Def Leppard’s “Love Bites”. Around 10:15 p.m., I almost missed Simmons’ post-“Lick It Up”, blood-gargling stunt while glaring at the drunk in front of me being pushed and prodded away by upwards of six large security guards. This type of rock is not for the light of heart.
Regardless, the raucousness just added to the noisy charm.
Let’s not forget about Def Leppard, though, who preceded Kiss at Sunday’s concert. The veteran English rock band may not have the most unique or distinct style, but few could abstain from belting out the chorus of “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” or getting hyped up when Phil Collen started throwing guitar picks into the audience.
The ‘80s band definitely attracted a cohort of fans, many of whom could be seen singing every verse, toting handbags with the band’s Union Jack flag (doesn’t that look like The Who’s?) and wearing T-shirts with the signature Def Leppard logo (doesn’t that look like Zepellin’s?).
The highlight of the band’s time on stage was seeing Rick Allen on the drums. The drummer, 50, who lost his left arm in a car accident in 1984, sported a huge, childish smile for the duration of the concert. His bare feet skipped around his high-tech drum kit pedals with ease as his percussive barrage grew from a toe-tapper to a head-banger.
Most of Def Leppard’s lyrics seem simplistic and outdated, and despite a few rocking guitar solos from Collen during songs like “Bringin’ on the Heartbreak,” most of the music homogeneously blends together after the first few songs. The band may not have lost its charm for the group of fans that linger, but to this younger attendee, its musical prowess levels out at decent, and the performance itself came down to a couple of middle-aged men in sweaty leather jackets.
Kiss has an equally unremarkable style of rock, yet its demonic and crazy act easily warranted an hour’s attention, especially during engaging and easy-to-chant numbers like “I Love It Loud.”
At the end of Kiss’s “Rock and Roll All Nite,” streamers and confetti blew over the audience in a field of dazzling light. The night ended with a free-for-all escape to the parking lot under the heat of shooting fire and the gunshot noise of fireworks lighting the stage.
By UT San Diego 2014.
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