KISS — Interviews, concert reviews and commentaries

by Alan K. Stout

KISS brings punch to Poconos

(Concert Review, July 2011)

The Weekender
July 14, 2011

By Alan K. Stout
Weekender Music Columnist

click to enlarge

BUSHKILL — Since its debut in 1974, KISS has been playing shows in eastern and central Pennsylvania. The band has performed in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Allentown, Bethlehem, Harrisburg, Hershey and, of course, Philadelphia. But until Wednesday night, the iconic rock legends had never played the Poconos.

Well, they have now. And the picturesque Appalachian Mountains that surround the Mt. Laurel Pocono Mountains Performing Arts Center might not be standing quite as high as they were prior to the show.

KISS, as expected, leveled the place.

The band — Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer — opened the show with a driving performance of "Modern Day Delilah." The song, from the group's most recent CD, "Sonic Boom," was a fitting opener, as its churning riffs offer a perfect combination of a modern-rock sound meshed with classic KISS. "Cold Gin" was next, followed by a torrid, guitar-driven performance of "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll."

KISS' staging was bright and grand, though there were a few bells and whistles missing from the band's traditional presentation. Simmons did not fly to the rafters, and Stanley did not fly over the crowd. This might have disappointed some fans seeing the group for the first time, but many of the staples of KISS' live show still remained in place. Simmons breathed fire and spat blood, Thayer shot rockets out of his guitar and Singer's drum platform rose high above the stage. And of course, there were plenty of stacked amplifiers and fireworks for what the band bills as "The Hottest Show on Earth."

What was not missing at all was a collection of great songs. KISS grooved through "Firehouse," ripped through "Deuce," and Stanley implored the crowd to sing along to "Say Yeah." It also appeared the band was having fun. During a performance of "Do You Love Me?" — a song sung by Stanley — Simmons seemed to enjoy trading verses during the chorus. And during "Dr. Love," a song sung by Simmons, Thayer seemed to enjoy trading verses during the chorus. KISS, which has kept the same lineup intact for nearly eight years, is a very tight band.

Thayer sang "Shock Me," a song made famous by original KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, and Singer later sang "Beth," a song made famous by original drummer Peter Criss. Both seemed to serve as tributes to the original era of the band and were embraced by the crowd. "God of Thunder," missing from the set on the past few KISS tours, was a welcome return and "Love Gun," a signature song in the set since 1977, remained in place.

During the introduction to "Black Diamond," Stanley playfully teased the crowd by playing the opening notes to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" and sang the opening verse, "There’s a lady that knows, all that glitters in gold …" Later, during a performance of "Lick It Up," the band also gave a nod to The Who by peppering in a section of "Won't Get Fooled Again." Other highlights were "Detroit Rock City," a fun performance of "Shout It Out Loud" and the set-ender, "Rock and Roll All Nite," which came amid a flurry of so much confetti it seemed reminiscent of a winter blizzard.

What KISS does, after nearly 38 years on the road, remains remarkable. The band continues to put on fabulous rock shows and, quite simply, it continues to do on a nightly basis what most other bands cannot do. Its members remain grand showmen, and in the genre of hard-rock music, they remain gifted songwriters. On Wednesday night, it all came together once again.

KISS punched and pounded the Poconos. And they did it like only KISS can.