KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries

by Alan K. Stout

Hard-Rock Legends Offer Pomp And Punch

(Concert Review, November 1998)

The Times Leader
November 21, 1998

By Alan K. Stout
Times Leader Staff Writer

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UNIVERSITY PARK - KISS is back again, and this time in full 3-D.

Oh, there's still smoke, fire, flying guitars, shooting rockets and lots of volume. But for its latest audio and visual assault, the capped crusaders of rock are really trying to get up close and personal with the audience.

And if the zany 3-D effects on the enormous video screen behind the stage don't cut it, the band has decided to come right out into the crowd.

KISS performed at the Bryce Jordan Center at University Park on Wednesday, offering the crowd of 7,000 an at times spirited but at times uncharacteristically off-kilter performance.

Opening the show with the dynamic "Psycho Circus" - the stirring title track from the band's new album - KISS appeared amid a fury of flash-pots and smoke. "Shout It Out Loud" followed, and the pounding riffs and choreographed moves of "Deuce" showed KISS at its best. Rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley again served as ringmaster, and bassist Gene Simmons breathed fire during 1974's "Firehouse."

Two huge illuminated KISS logos stood on each side of the stage, and the enormous video screen behind the band offered a mix of live concert close-ups and 3-D effects. Concert-goers, who were given 3-D glasses upon admission, were instructed when to don the quirky shades.

Sometimes, the 3-D worked well and was quite amusing, particularly during guitarist Ace Frehley's solo after the new "Into The Void." KISS, however, might have sold itself short by incorporating this effect into the show. The band members have always been among the greatest and most charismatic of rock's entertainers. Watching them - not video screen magic - was always more fun.

Flashing strobes surrounded the band during the performance of "Cold Gin" and "Let Me Go Rock and Roll" - one of KISS' few jam-oriented numbers - was one of the show's highlights.

Simmons flew high into rafters for a churning performance of "God Of Thunder" and the new "Within" came off much better live than on the new album. With Frehley adding a different solo and Stanley's prominent backing vocals bolstering the number, the song took on a more cohesive KISS feel.

Feel, however, was also sometimes missing. The band's energy was noticeably down from the 1996/97 "Alive/World Wide" reunion tour, the pacing was not as smooth and the segues of songs into one another were not as seamless.

"I Was Made For Lovin' You," however, still showed the knack the band has for pop, and the groove-laced "100,000 Years" displayed a propensity for great hooks. "Makin' Love" and "Calling Dr. Love" - both from 1977's "Rock and Roll Over" album - also were well-received.

Stanley flew across the arena and sang "Love Gun" from a small stage near the soundboard and tons of confetti dropped from the ceiling during "Rock and Roll All Nite." Stanley then smashed his guitar in half and tossed it to the crowd. Peter Criss handed out roses during "Beth," and the band burned through a terrific rendition of 1976's "Detroit Rock City."

The show ended with "Black Diamond," with Criss' drums rising high again amid so much pyrotechnics you could feel the heat on your face.

"Psycho Circus" may be one of KISS' biggest shows, but Saturday's uneven concert was not one of the band's best. That, however, only makes it about twice as entertaining as any other tour on the road today. The band still offers a highly enjoyable night of music and showmanship, and although the members themselves may have performed with more vigor, few others ever do.

A KISS, to be certain, is still a KISS.