35-plus years in, Kiss can still party with the best of them
Nothing says family like fathers and sons (and a few daughters, too) in Kiss face paint. That kind of togetherness is what happens when a band has had more farewell tours than Cher and Barbra Streisand combined. So many in fact, that the pint-size kid wearing an oversize Kiss Last Farewell Tour 2000 likely wasn’t even born when the band rolled out yet another reason to say goodbye (read: gross tour receipts) nine years ago.
Kiss, which first spit flame to fame in the ’70s as the fire-breathing, pyro-shooting, action-figure fantasy of teenagers everywhere, has stuck around for so many generations that Monday night at the Garden it was the parents who called their kids to tell them they’d be home late.
These days, Kiss is as much a brand as a band, and still a lucrative one at that. This particular jaunt around the world is billed as the Alive 35 Tour, in honor of the foursome’s landmark 1975 live album, “Alive!’’ But to its credit, at least this time the band has some new product to sell besides the perpetual cartoon of itself.
“Sonic Boom,’’ which dropped yesterday, is Kiss’s first album in over a decade. It’s a return to the rock-and-roll-all-night-and-party-every-day formula of its heyday. “Modern Day Delilah,’’ a surprisingly limber rocker from the new album, came early in the band’s two-hour set. It held up well, especially alongside a pair of the band’s weaker “classics’’ that flanked it - the turgid plod of “Got to Choose’’ and a lumbering “Hotter Than Hell,’’ which trudged along even slower than bassist-singer Gene Simmons stalking the stage in his platform boots, codpiece, and body armor.
Of course, when “Hotter’’ happened, there was a lot of pyro shooting from the stage, and when there wasn’t actual pyro, there was video of pyro. But the only element that truly blazed was lead guitarist/Ace Frehley replacement Tommy Thayer’s scorching fretwork. Thayer, who seemed to quote liberally from the Jimmy Page solo playbook all night, proved a consistent highlight.
Likewise, original drummer Peter Criss’s ringer replacement, Eric Singer, did a solid job of keeping things suitably booming from behind his double bass drum. But the real surprise was Singer’s powerful lead vocal on a hard-hitting “Black Diamond.’’ His voice was a welcome relief from Simmons’s tuneless bellow, and it gave singer-guitarist Paul Stanley a respite from his duties showing off his well-preserved falsetto (and plentiful chest hair), flying over the crowd on a pulley to sing “Love Gun,’’ and promising “the longest encore you have ever heard.’’
With a 30-minute stomp through “Shout It Out Loud,’’ “Detroit Rock City,’’ and a handful of other high-school headbangers, they made good on their boast. Love ’em or hate ’em, Kiss usually does.
In frontman Josh Todd, openers Buckcherry had a guy who looked like a cross between Willem Dafoe and Perry Farrell, and moved well in tight trousers. And the group’s sleazy, ’70s-style hard rock had its moments. But it’s a bad sign when a band’s best song is a cover. In Buckcherry’s case, it was Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.’’