May 5th 2010
Echo Arena, Liverpool, U.K
REVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
It’s been two years since KISS finished their highly successful Alive 35 -tour in Europe. Last year the band released a brand new studio album SONIC BOOM, their first in eleven years, and now the band brings their rock’n roll circus back here under the banner SONIC BOOM OVER EUROPE : FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE BOOM. The new tour started just under a week ago from Sheffield and now it was time to check out how the”Hottest Band In The World” rocked in Liverpool.
The support band was a young U.S band called Taking Down. The band performed a brief but energetic set and they reminded a lot of bands like Airbourne and Buckcherry. They managed to get a good response but after all they were no more than “ok”. It was time to start waiting the greatest show on earth. After a 45 minute wait the lights went down and the all famous intro “buzzing” started followed by a roadie shouting “You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best. The Hottest Band in The World: KISS!!!) . The massive black curtain, including a huge silver painted KISS logo, dropped. Loads of explosions were blown and KISS was suddenly on stage and headed directly into new album opening track “Modern Day Delilah”. Wow… Still, after witnessing a series of past KISS tours, this new entrance went right away in top three. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer were standing over some kind of lifter which first raised them in heights and then it carried them over Eric Singer’s drum set in the front of stage. It’s really hard to put in words but this entrance did look really impressing. Load’s of explosions, dozens of huge screens around the stage and tons of colorful lights.
There was so much going on the stage that it was almost hard to follow the actual song “Modern Day Delilah” which did work out really well and it got a good response from the crowd. Although Paul had some slight problems with his vocals, the band’s overall playing now sounded really tight compared to some past tours. Next it was time to jump back into classics. “Cold Gin”, an old Ace Frehley favorite, sounded really good and Simmons’s lead vocals were over the top like always before. “Let Me Go Rock’n Roll” followed, before it was Stanley’s turn to switch back in the lead vocals in “Firehouse”. Simmons performed his classic fire breathing in the end of the song and people went even crazier if that’s possible. Unfortunately “Say Yeah”, another track from SONIC BOOM, managed to settle atmosphere quickly down. Although Paul did try his best he found it difficult to get crowd to sing along with this new song. Singer and Simmons did some amazing backing vocals there but the fact is, there is some better material on SONIC BOOM.
Things turned soon back into normal when band headed into “Deuce” and even better when Paul announced that next they were going to play a song “Which hasn’t been played since KISS performed in Top of the Pops”. The song was “Crazy Crazy Nights”. Well, it’s been over twenty years since the band last time played this pop rock classic live. “Crazy Crazy Nights” was a huge hit in U.K in the late 80′s. The song went down like a storm and people sang a long in the choruses like wild animals. Hopefully this song will remain in the set list outside of U.K as well because it was definitely one of the highlights of the show.
“Calling Dr.Love” continued Simmons’s classic series from the mid seventies before it was Tommy Thayer’s turn to take over lead vocals. Well … although Tommy clearly now is “the Spaceman” in KISS it just doesn’t feel right when he’s now doing Ace Frehley’s signature song “Shock Me”. There’s actually nothing wrong with Tommy’s vocals or playing, actually he’s better singer and guitarist than Ace ever was, but this is still someway wrong and he should sing some other song instead. Because of that it became another low point of the show…
Everyone’s knows that each show has it ups and downs and Tommy’s and Eric’s following instrumental duet was an obvious highlight of the evening. It does sound strange to say that any solo part would be the highlight of the show but this time it was so true. Tommy first started his guitar solo in “traditional way” before Eric “surprisingly” joined him and together they jammed something which sounded like a mix of Zeppelin and classic KISS stuff. With loads of great, psychedelic lightning and visual effects behind duo continued their jamming for a while until Tommy’s guitar was left to “fly” in the roof. Eric did a brief drum solo, including double bass drums, before he took a little break. Tommy returned on stage and started to shoot rockets from his guitar. Old Frehley trick worked out fine but what was funny addition to that, almost traditional, thing was that after Tommy finished his shooting, Eric returned behind his kit and shoot a rocket as well using bazooka. Now there really were some brand new elements in KISS show!
“I Am Animal”, another track from SONIC BOOM, followed next. Although the band, especially Gene, did a great job there and visually the stage looked really “evil” with all cool the effects but the song still failed to to go almost anywhere. It’s not about anything else but the song itself. In brief, the song is boring. Again, there’s plenty of better songs on SONIC BOOM… Paul next announced that it was time to go back in time and play some really KISS classics and the band headed into “100 000 Years”. It’s one of the tracks that band has been constantly playing since the reunion but maybe now it’s time to put it on rest at least for a while? Instrumental parts went on great but, to be honest, some of Paul’s vocals sounded quite horrible especially on those “screaming” parts…
Simmons’s prime time comes when it was blood spitting time. This part of the show has always been, and still is, the highlight of the show and Gene didn’t disappoint his fans this time either. The blood spitting “Demon” looked truly evil while he was performing in the middle of huge smoke cloud with all red and green color lightning around. A nice bonus effect, originally from the past “Creatures of the Night” -tour, was now added in the show. A noisy church bell clanged and white spot from “heaven” spotted Demon and tried blind him down in the middle of his blood spitting. Fortunately Demon got his blood business finished and soon he was flying heights into the rafters and landing on his own mini-platform. Another Simmons’s standard “I Love It Loud” followed and it got really good and noisy response from the crowd. Paul Stanley next started to hymn the famous verses of his personal favorite KISS song “Love Gun” and asked people to sing along which they did really loud. Well, like what was already heard on some parts earlier on the show, Stanley had little trouble with the higher notes. Maybe band should seriously think about dropping some “classic” songs from the set list? There is always a reason for everything and it would be good idea both for Paul and for the audience… Somehow this performance evoked memories from Ian Gillan singing “Child In Time” last time live in mid 90′s. He simply couldn’t handle it anymore so it got soon dribbled.
“Black Diamond” was played next. Paul played some riffs and sang a segment of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” before hitting the famous intro part which got almost enormous response. Song worked out perfectly as always and not least because of excellent lead vocals of Eric Singer. No matter who’s been behind the drum kit in KISS but there’s always been a great singing talent sitting there. The main set closed with one of the all time KISS classic “Detroit Rock City” or should we say “Liverpool Rock City” here. Tons of explosions and pyro were used and in the end Eric’s drums leviated in the air. The main show was over and band left the stage.Rhythmical “We want KISS!” roaring started immediately and within few minutes band returned on stage. Paul then did a longish speech where he announced that band is going to play some more .In Paul’s words: “We’re going to play just one encore but it will be the longest encore ever!” “Lick It Up” started the game again and it went down pretty well. A small instrumental part of the Who classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was included in the middle of the song. “Shout It Out Loud” continued bands hit maraton and so did “I Was Made For Loving You” too which literally made most of the crowd dance around the arena. Paul Stanley did his famous flying around the venue and sang most of the song on a spinning platform in splendid isolation across the main stage.
Evening’s second pleasant additions in set list succeed when band next headed into “God Gave Rock’n Roll to You II”. Song sounded simply amazing and also vintage pictures shown, including Eric Carr, Janis Joplin, John Lennon etc, in the backing screen were impressive and clearly touched many people. Although this song was a huge hit in here, especially in U.K, it’s been a while since this song has been in a set list in Europe but hopefully it will now stay there for the rest of the tour.
“Rock And Roll All Nite” closed the evening as expected. There was an almost unreal atmosphere when tons of confetti was shot in the air with cannons. There was so much pyro and explosives used that it felt that stage will literally explode in the air but fortunately it didn’t happen. In the very end Stanley broke one of his guitars in pieces and then the show was over. Band returned briefly and did thank their audience and then lights came on. When all was said and done, the band left behind almost speechless crowd. There’s no denying that this was once again a superb rock’n roll spectacle and hell of a show. There was a blood spitting, fire breathing, levitating drums, rocket shooting guitars, pyro, explosions and much more. All those familiar KISS concert elements were seen and there was some cool amendments added as well. Although the make-up surely helps hide the wrinkles, people should remember that Simmons and Stanley, both are around the age of 60 years, just finished stomping and jumping around in six inch platform shoes for over 120 minutes. That’s something which alone is highly respectable. Stanley had some problems with his voice on high notes but overall the bands foursome playing and singing was now really tight and It can be established that the band now did sound much better than what they did two years ago (not to even mention times when re-union first started). Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are gone but Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer do bring so much more punch and technical prowess that it can be said that musically this current lineup is perhaps the strongest KISS line up ever?
Surprisingly, for a tour billed the “Sonic Boom Over Europe”, there were only three tracks from the new album played, with the rest of the set devoted to the best of -hits with only a few rarely played and lesser-known tracks included. Band with such an extensive and prime back catalogue should be brave and do some radical changes in the set list. Although band can still put out a great show they should also listen more what their fans really want to hear in the future. SONIC BOOM OVER EUROPE -tour started just three days ago from Sheffield and although it also got some really good reviews, show wasn’t sellout and neither was Liverpool Arena. Fast approximate calculation tells that there were perhaps 3000-4000 people in the audience when full capacity is around 6000 seats there. It’s a little surprising as far as this was bands first time ever performance in Liverpool but on the other hand, perhaps seven shows in U.K is simply too much on these difficult and tight economical times? Anyway, “You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best”, is still absolutely true.
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