It’s been well over 30 years and even I didn’t think that it would happen.
I’ve mentioned before how I became a KISS fan via a Scotch C90 tape of KISS Alive II and I saw them at Manchester Apollo in ‘84 on the Animalize tour. Back then Mark St. John had just recorded the album but Bruce Kulick had to step in to do the tour and later to become a full time member. Even then I couldn’t believe that they’d play a venue as small as a theatre in Manchester. This was only my second concert, I’d seen Iron Maiden on the Powerslave tour the week before. The support band for KISS was Bon Jovi back when they were fresh faced little scamps.
KISS played the M.E.N. Arena on the Psycho Circus tour but I didn’t go along. I’d bought the CD and was interested in the reunion with Ace and Peter but I was listening to Nine Inch Nails and lots of other genres at the time. And then they did a Farewell Tour, which was less of a final farewell and more of a bye bye to the two original members who had started to become a pain in the ass. That’s from what I’ve read.
So last year they did the Alive 35 shows with Tommy and Eric in the band. Things were going so well with the current lineup that they decided to record an album again, 10 years after the last one. All analogue, no ballads, no outside writers, just the four of them writing songs and it’s amazing.
Of course I didn’t go alone. I knew Zoe would like to come along, which meant seat tickets, because she is only little and wouldn’t see much of the show from the floor of the arena. To save Zoe reenacting the whole show, song for song, note for note to her mother when she arrived home I bought Lorraine a ticket too. This was via a Classic Rock pre-sale the day before the tickets were available to the public. Between last November and today there’s always been the question, “Who are we going to see?”. Even when I told them the date and that we were going to Manchester. I don’t think it really sunk in until we were cutting through Boots to get to the Food Court when I stopped and asked my sister if she thought she might need ear plugs.
We had something to eat, wandered around the Arndale and then headed out to the M.E.N. I bought two programmes, Zoe and Lorraine would have to share and we walked around inside the arena. We looked at the merchandise stalls, but none of us bought anything and watched people getting their faces painted. After we’d done a complete circuit of the arena we headed down to find our seats. Not bad seats at that, block 105, Gene’s side of the stage in the corner.
You really have to either admire or feel sorry for a band opening for KISS but Taking Dawn were the opening act. Admire them for the fact that they have a chance to play to half full arenas. Feel sorry for them because no one is really there to see them specifically, they’re just the distraction before the main event. They played typical eighties metal, all flaying hair and bobbing heads. Coming from Las Vegas is a novelty simply because I can’t think of any other band that hails from there.
There was a cheer when the curtain with the KISS logo on it was lowered to cover the stage. People were queuing on the stairs near us to get to the floor. Looking around the arena did seem to be more or less sold out. This was supposed to be the first date in England until more dates were added due to demand. This was certainly the first concert I’ve been to where children, probably as young as six or seven, were attending.
- Set List
- Modern Day Delilah
- Cold Gin
- Let Me Go Rock 'N' Roll
- Say Yeah
- Crazy Crazy Nights
- Calling Dr. Love
- Shock Me
- I'm An Animal
- 100,000 Years
- I Love It Loud
- Love Gun
- Black Diamond
- Detroit Rock City
- Lick It Up
- Shout it Out Loud
- I Was Made For Lovin' You
- God Gave Rock And Roll To You
- Rock And Roll All Nite
The lights finally dimmed, the video screens showed the first part of the Modern Day Delilah video (with thunderous footsteps), then shots of the band walking to the stage with Doc McGhee. I must have heard the intro hundreds of times on the Alive and Alive II records but it doesn’t come close to hearing it in person.
The curtain comes down, all the screens are on, the bombs go off and Gene, Paul and Tommy are lowered to the stage on a huge platform playing the start of Modern Day Delilah. For any other band playing the single from their new album as the first song would be considered a miss step but the track is so strong that it’s a perfect opener.
From then onwards it’s just a blur of classic songs, new songs and the vast spectacle of it all. Gene stalking around the stage flicking his tongue out as if it were the only way to consume oxygen. Tommy cranking out the riffs and solos and making them his own. Eric keeping it all together with his power house drumming. But it was Paul who impressed me the most. He must be the greatest front man of any genre of music. Covering all the stage and more, playing with the guitar between his legs, flicking guitar picks, strutting and dancing around, being able to pronounce Birmingham and Glasgow correctly (no mean feat for an American) and singing absolutely note perfectly as well. All four of them were just amazing.
Only two little niggles: Shock Me, as a song written by Ace and being so heavily linked to him, should only really be sung by him. Tommy should have sung When Lightning Strikes instead. I’m An Animal, that Gene sung, I’m not a huge fan of and should have been replaced with God of Thunder. But that’s just me.
Zoe even started to loosen up towards the end, playing air drums and air guitar, but quite rightly not at the same time. Both of them managed to stay standing for the full two hours. I could remain seated and still see all the stage. Being on the tiers for the first time did make things seem kind of strange, as if you’re watching a concert instead of being part of it. On the floor, near the stage, your whole field of vision is filled instead of just a small part of it.
For the last song of the encore, Rock And Roll All Nite, Gene and Tommy were high up on platforms, Eric’s drum riser had lifted up and they must have set off every bomb, firework, fire jet and confetti canon that they had. It really was a sight to behold.
Walking back to the car Zoe said that when they froze at the end of one of the songs she thought it was going to take them a while to straighten up! Ageist yes, but quite funny nonetheless.
I can still remember Harry Sime recording KISS Alive II for me on to a Scotch C90 tape. I don’t think any of us are going to forget tonights show any time soon.