Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

KISS SYMPHONY
28.02.2003 Melbourne, Australia

Live Review and Photos by Marko Syrjala

After KISS finished their Farewell tour back in 2001, I was quite sure that it was over. There will never be a chance to see them again anywhere. So when the announcement of this "30 Year Anniversary" concert came out last November I was ready to go. Australia is far from my home in Finland, but this was definitely worth the long trip!

So this was kind of a unique one time only special concert. This is a celebration of their 30 year career and it's also the first time KISS has played live with a full Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra M.S.O (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) has played before with such names as Elton John, Three Tenors and Frank Sinatra.

Quite interesting isn't it...?

The KISS line-up has once again changed since their "Farewell" tour, which ended in Australia about two years ago. Original guitarist Ace Frehley decided to stay home after many discussions, but drummer Peter Criss came back after a short break from the band which happened during the Farewell-tour. He already decided once to retire but people do change their minds as Paul Stanley said earlier. Peter now replaced Eric Singer for the second time ....

Well the new "Spaceman" now was a guy called Tommy Thayer. He already has a long history with the KISS camp, and he has already played with KISS twice before this show.

Back in the 80's he played in a band called Black' n Blue that  were signed by Simmons Records. After this band slowly failed in the late eighties he started to work for Gene in KISS company. He has co-written many songs with KISS, has produced "The Second Coming DVD", and lately worked as a KISS tour manager. He also had a KISS cover band in the 80's with Black 'n Blue bandmate Jamie St. James called Gold Gin...he played Ace back then. There are strong rumours from good sources which told that he actually played most of the guitars for KISS last studio album "Psycho Circus". But you never know... :)

 

 

The Concert

The concert was held in a place called Telstra Dome Stadium. The capacity of the place is around 40,000 people and pre-sale for the concert was about 35,000 tickets which is quite well. Outside the stadium fans from all around the world were gathered. There were fans from: Brazil, France, Germany, USA, Japan and FINLAND at least! The merchandise table was quite limited this time. Only a tour book, poster, key ring, small flashing KISS logo, a couple of shirts and a few copies of the KISSSTORY book were available. Little disappointment... Anyway I bought what they had... except KISSSTORY books which I already had. Inside the tour book was listed the "menu" of the evening. The running order of the songs and info which informed that tonight there will be three different KISS sets. The first set is going to be traditional KISS show with just band, second would be a kind of "unplugged" set featuring acoustic KISS with the 10 piece Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. The last "symphonic boom" would include KISS along with full 60-piece KISS mask faced symphonic orchestra.

"You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best! The Hottest Band In The World!! KISS!" was shouted from the monitors and then band was on stage playing "Deuce". It was followed by "Strutter" and "Let Me Go Rock 'n Roll". The sound was a little bit off in the beginning but got better all the time. The new updated "replicas" from the Alive (1975) costumes looked very cool here. Lot's of fireworks and lot's of posing for cameras by Paul and Gene. No surprises in the set list except "Lick It Up" which is from their unmasked period 1983. The first set closed with "Psycho Circus" and then it was time for a short break. The tour program informed us that the break should be 15 minutes... but it was really more like 30 minutes until something started to happen again.

 

 

The Acoustic Set

And what happened next was Peter coming to sit in the front of stage and started to sing his all time "favourite song" "Beth". This was the first time ever in KISS' long career when "Beth" was played with a real Orchestra as "a backing band". This sounded brilliant and Peter looked having a really good time. This was a also his "re-union" show with the band. After this song Peter went back behind his drum kit and rest of the band came back on the stage and started to play "Forever". Another gem which hasn't been played since the makeup came back. Some more rarely played songs followed: "Sure Know Something", "Goin' Blind" and "grande finale" "Shandi" which was a massive hit in Australia back in 1980. Before "Shandi" Paul sing a prelude of George Harrison's "Here Comes The Sun".

Overall this unplugged session was brilliant. Good, rarely played songs and almost perfect sound. Well now it was time for the last set ..

 

 

 

The Final Part

After another 30 minute wait the final part started. The 60 piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in full Kiss make-up opened the final performance with an "Overture from The Elder". Well the sound was really massive I have to say. Paul came on stage and first he introduced M.S.O. for the crowd followed by "Let's see what happens when you put together black tie and black leather " and then "Detroit Rock City" started. Well what can you say? The sound was huge and sounded brilliant. The stage was huge and looked brilliant. The band looked brilliant!

All the classic KISS-show trademarks followed each other. Before "God Of Thunder" Gene "Batdemon" Simmons split blood. In the beginning of "Love Gun" Paul "Starchild" Stanley flew over the heads of the audience to half way into the crowd and performed from a stage in the centre of the arena. In the end of "Black Diamond" Peter Criss rose up in the heights with his drum riser and series bombs exploded all over him. There was no drum solo or guitar solo at all, which was a good thing in my opinion. For some reason Gene didn't breathe fire here at all. Later I heard that he just forget to do that because "Firehouse", where he usually does it, wasn't included in the set this time.

This set also included one true surprise song. "Great Expectations" from Destroyer was played live for the first time ever. The angelic Australian Children's Choir joined on stage on stage during this song to sing choirs. It sounded much like the original version which also included a children's choir and orchestra in the background.

Some of the songs really went to the new level. New arrangements and many "extra instruments" breathed new life for some of the "too often heard" classics. "King Of The Night Time World", "Shout It Out Loud", "Do You Love Me" were played. Actually they almost played the whole Destroyer album here.

The band finished off with (of course) "Rock And Roll All Nite" and during that the air was full of confetti there was a endless series of huge explosions everywhere.

 

It's hard to believe that Gene and Paul are over 50 years old. Of course there isn't as much energy as they used to have when they were young but how many of us "normal" people can do the same show in that age? They still reached all the high notes and their playing was as good as always. Peter also did fine, even if there was a little "tiredness" during some songs. For my opinion he still played much better now than on some previous tours.

Well how was Tommy "Spaceman" Thayer then? He was great. No mistakes, all the classic moves, great classic solos with a little addition of his own style. Fans really seemed to accept him. I only saw one sign with a text "Where's Ace?" Maybe there was more and I know that some of the fans didn't come because Ace wasn't here.... and some people say that there is no KISS without Ace. Well KISS was here 15 years ago without Ace and Peter, and they still survived. As Gene said earlier "the show must go on!"

Overall this was a fantastic experience...a rock and roll spectacular. Another new page has written for the KISS STORY.

The event was being filmed and will be a DVD and live album which will be coming out as a ALIVE 4 next July.

 

 

SET LIST FOR THE KISS SYMPHONY:

Act 1
Deuce
Strutter
Let's Go Rock 'n' Roll
Lick It Up
Calling Dr. Love
Psycho Circus

 

Act 2
Beth
Forever
Going Blind
Sure Know Something
Shandi

 

Act 3
Detroit Rock City
King Of The Night Time World
Do You Love Me
Shout It Out Loud
God Of Thunder
Love Gun
Black Diamond
Great Expectations
I Was Made For Loving You
Rock And Roll All Nite