KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries
by Alan K. Stout
KISS Unplugged — The Reunion, The Emotion, The Magic
(Commentary, December 1995)
Sound Check Magazine
By Alan K. Stout
Traffic stopped in cities across the nation.
The streets were barren. The subways were empty. Businesses were closed.
In a perfect world, this is how it would have been for the recent MTV television premier of "KISS Unplugged."
Word had long leaked out about what had happened this summer at the taping of the show, but seeing is believing, and anyone who missed the program missed one of rock's most memorable reunions to date.
To some, in terms of historical significance, the KISS reunion comes somewhere after the end of World War II but before the landing of men on the moon. And millions of KISS fans around the globe will swear to you that when original KISS members Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss performed together on stage for the first time in 15 years, they actually felt the Earth tilt on its axis and — just for a few seconds — start spinning a little bit faster.
It was that cool.
The first portion of the hour-long program featured the current lineup of Simmons, Stanley, Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer performing an array of KISS classics and nuggets. Opening the set with the rarely performed "Coming Home" from the often neglected 1974 "Hotter Than Hell" LP, KISS set the tone right from the get-go that this was to be no big-hits-only presentation.
The staging consisted of what has become the traditional blue unplugged lighting, with the artwork from KISS' 1977 "Rock and Roll Over" album cover gracing the stage. Following a performance of the comical "Plaster Caster," the group stormed into another mega-nugget, 1974's "Goin' Blind."
Rare? If you polled KISS fans around the globe asking for a list of songs they thought they'd never see performed live, "Goin' Blind" would probably pop up on all of them.
"Do You Love Me?" from 1976's triumphant "Destroyer" album also came off well in the unplugged setting and 1979's "Sure Know Something" was simply fantastic. With KISS' subtle vocal harmonies and Kulick adding some tasty acoustic work to the number, "Sure Know Something" was probably the highlight of the first portion of the program.
"Domino," Simmons' nasty and humorous take on robbing the cradle, got the show rocking again, and stellar performances of 1982's "I Still Love You" and 1992's "Every Time I Look At You" showed the softer, deeper side of KISS that Stanley often brings to the table.
Then, it happened.
"We're going to do something special," said Stanley. "We've got some members of the family here tonight. We're not talking about Mom and Dad. We're talking about Peter Criss and Ace Frehley."
And just like that, the long-awaited, highly-anticipated KISS reunion became a reality. Frehley and Criss strolled to the stage, shook hands, embraced, and performed one of the most beautiful versions "Beth" they'd ever played.
Kulick and Singer had left the stage at this point, and for one song, it was like 1976 all over again.
Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter — the four men that rocked a generation, redefined many elements of popular music, and were once the hottest band in the world — were on stage together, sitting on stools and letting the music do the talking. The hype was gone, the mystique had faded and years had passed, yet the emotion and electricity in the room was undeniable.
During the famous line, "Beth, I know you're only, and I hope you'll be alright ..." Criss broke into a broad smile and then — extending his arms towards the three men sitting at his side — delivered the classic line that on this very special evening seemed more appropriate than ever: "cause me and the boys will be playin' ... all night."
The place simply went nuts.
Even Gene Simmons smiled.
"We're bringing everybody out," said Stanley as Kulick and Singer returned to the stage, joining the original four for a rip-roaring version of "Nothin' To Lose." Here, KISS' past met its present, and with grand results. Singer and Criss shared both vocals and drum duties while Frehley and Kulick sat side by side, sharing guitar leads.
The historic show ended with the perennial favorite "Rock 'N Roll All Nite," with Simmons, Frehley and Criss trading off on lead vocals.
An album and home-video of the performance is in the works, and if MTV follows its usual programing pattern, the show will likely be re-broadcast frequently.
Long term repercussions? Who knows?
Will the original KISS kiss and make-up? We can only hope.
All I know is I've watched the portion of the show with just the original four performing "Beth" a dozen times, and still feel the magic every single time.
And I think they do, too.
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