KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries

by Alan K. Stout


KISSing The Myth Goodbye

(Commentary, May 1996)

The Times Leader
May 31, 1996

By Alan K. Stout
Times Leader Staff Writer

click to enlargeWhen tickets go on sale tomorrow morning for KISS' three upcoming shows at Madison Square Garden, the Ticketmaster phone-lines will likely burn like never before.

The "KISS Reunion Tour," in case you haven't heard, is the hottest show of the year. In many cities, it's been complete chaos, with the band's June 28 opening-night show at Detroit's 38,000-seat Tiger Stadium selling out in just 47 minutes — the all-time record for the venue.

On Saturday, May 12, the group sold over 120,000 concert tickets in one hour throughout the Mid-West, with shows in Chicago and Cleveland selling out in six minutes. Additional shows were added, which quickly sold out as well. In New Orleans, the band's scheduled performance in an arena had to be moved to the Superdome.

This thing is big.

Really big.

Everywhere I've gone in recent months, people have been asking me about the KISS tour. Whether I've been walking down the street, hanging out in a club or working here at the paper, the questions keep coming: Any KISS dates? What's up with tickets?

I don't mind the inquiries at all, and I'm more than happy to tell anybody any information I have. Sometimes it seems as though the people who've asked me about this tour alone will be enough to sell out one of the Garden dates.

Still, the one thing that's bothering me with all of this "reunion" stuff is the way the last 17 years of KISS' career is being so easily discarded. Since 1982, KISS has released nine gold or platinum albums, has performed hundreds of shows in arenas and stadiums throughout the world and has released a body of music that — in my opinion — equals the quality of their '70s material.

From the cerebral mastery of 1981's "Music From The Elder" to the power-packed punch of 1992's "Revenge," KISS — led by founding members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley — has remained atop the hard-rock world throughout the '80s and into the '90s, despite little airplay or critical acclaim. To imply otherwise is insulting to both the band and the fans, and, most important, it's wrong.

I've personally seen the group over a dozen times since the make-up and costumes came off 13 years ago and those shows proved to be among the most energetic and invigorating concerts I've ever seen.

And while there's no denying the reunion of original members Simmons, Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss is something I've always hoped to see — and there's probably no one who's looking forward to this thing more than me — I'm beginning to realize that I'm going to miss KISS a little.

My KISS.

The '80s and '90s KISS.

An old high school friend stopped by my apartment a few weeks ago and we got to talking about the reunion tour. We talked about how long we'd waited to see it happen, and about how cool the whole thing is going to be. Soon, however, our conversation became more reminiscent, as we recalled all of the great KISS shows we've attended over the past 12 years. Each show, it seemed, provided some fond musical memory, and we soon realized that dozens of smiles and laughs had been shared at those concerts.

The electricity in the air on the "Lick It Up" and "Animalize" tours, the thunder of Eric Carr's dazzling drum solo at The Spectrum on the "Asylum" tour, the intensity of their two "Crazy Nights" shows at The Ritz back in '88, the incredible set-list they dished out for the "Hot In The Shade" tour in 1990 ... I could go on.

Most of all, however, we talked about the music.

The great music.

The most common theme found in KISS' '80s and '90s material has been the importance of individuality. Songs such as "Get All You Can Take," "King Of The Mountain" and "I" came with a simple but inspiring message: Go for it. And for the adolescents just beginning to discover who they were and what they wanted to do with their lives, that theme was a good one.

Paul Stanley, who always remained the heart of KISS, continued to write, sing and play with a passion, and the hits that he produced over the last decade — "Reason To Live," "Forever" and most of all "Hide Your Heart" — proved to be some of the best songs he'd ever penned.

I've been listening to those '80s KISS albums a lot lately, and again realized what incredible hard-rock albums they are. Stanley — when singing on tracks like Asylum's "Who Wants To Be Lonely" — could still inspire any 16-year-old to want to join a band. And the guitars? Forget about it.

KISS, throughout the '80s and into the '90s, has remained vibrant, passionate and inspiring. That music, in equal part, is why they've sold 75 million albums, are the most successful American rock group in history, and why they'll likely be enshrined into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Now, in 1996, Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter — the four faces that rocked a generation — are about to do it again. I'll be there for sure, but don't call it the "KISS Reunion." The "original" KISS reunion is what's actually happening. Nit-picking? Maybe. But KISS, to me, has always been about music, not make-up, costumes and pyrotechnics, and when I see a Fox TV commercial hyping KISS' "first concert in 17 years," or I hear people asking why KISS "broke up" in the first place, I can only laugh.

I'm sure the 18,000 people that saw the band with me at The Meadowlands a few years ago do the same.

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KISS Discography
1982-1993

Creatures of The Night, 1982 (gold)
Lick It Up, 1983 (platinum)
Animalize, 1984 (platinum)
Asylum, 1985 (platinum)
Crazy Nights, 1987 (platinum)
Hot In The Shade, 1989 (platinum)
Revenge, 1992 (gold)
Alive III, 1993 (gold)

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