Released: 2008, New Door/Universal Music
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Musically speaking, the only two members of the original KISS that really possessed any sense of songwriting ability were Ace Frehley and Paul Stanley. Peter Criss’ fondness for penning songs that your grandparents would listen to and Gene Simmons’ proven track record of not being able to write anything that didn’t involve at least ten lewd references pretty much left the field open for Stanley and Frehley. While the latter’s solo career seemed promising at first with Frehley’s Comet, it was quickly derailed through substance abuse, but Stanley remained true to the game, keeping KISS on the straight and narrow for 35 years while Simmons’ dedication wavered while he dabbled in acting, producing and various business ventures. So despite a brief run of well-received solo dates in 1989, the only non-KISS music heard from Paul Stanley had been via his 1978 solo album. That was until 2006’s LIVE TO WIN, an album that still managed to rock beneath its glossy, over-produced sheen.
Stanley embarked on a short U.S. tour in support of LIVE TO WIN and during his stop in Chicago, filmed the show for the new DVD, ONE LIVE KISS. A no-frills release that features only the nearly two-hour concert, ONE LIVE KISS is a must-have for any KISS fan whose umpteenth-generation bootleg copy of Paul Stanley’s 1989 solo tour was the only respite for hearing some rare gems without the glitz and glamour of the full-fledged KISS stage brouhaha.
A short introduction chronicling his rise from the Jewish boy in Queens to fledgling musician driving a cab gives Stanley a chance to pepper his narrative with dozens of clichéd anecdotes he and Simmons have been known for over the years but it quickly cuts to the meat-and-potatoes of why we’re all here. The setlist is an excellent mix of KISS hits, rarely-played album cuts and material culled from LIVE TO WIN and Stanley’s 1978 KISS solo album. “A Million To One”?! “Got To Choose”?! “”Magic Touch”?! “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me”?! Yep, this is a dream for fans of Stanley and KISS who pray they never have to hear “Rock and Roll All Nite” ever again. Seeing Stanley up close and personal with about 500 fans in a small theatre is a far cry from the 20,000-seat arenas that KISS has been filling since reuniting with the original lineup in 1996 and it is clear he is happy to be back in front of a living, breathing crowd. His vocals are given plenty of room to breathe without the KISS theatrics overshadowing everything and while sitting comfortably in his mid-fifties, Stanley has never sounded better. The version of “I Still Love You” here is heinously over-sung and “I Want You” goes on far too-long but when reigned in, Stanley really delivers on songs like “Live To Win,” “Tonight You Belong To Me” and “Hide Your Heart,” showcasing his dynamic range and powerful voice. The four LIVE TO WIN songs featured here are also much rawer in their live versions with guitars taking over the abundance of keyboards and samples and the dramatic vocal effects that really watered down the studio cuts.
The musicians Stanley has backing him are none other than the house band from the television show, ROCK STAR. Certainly capable, tried-and-true studio musicians in their own right, these guys nail their respective parts. Despite his ridiculous faux-hawk, lead guitarist Rafael Moreira faithfully unleashes all the searing solos that Ace Frehley delivered on the KISS originals but also adds his own subtle twists in spots. Jim McGorman, Paul Mirkovich and Sasha Krivtsov stay relatively out of the spotlight but drummer Nate Morton is so ridiculously over-animated throughout the set, you’d think he was vying for equal billing with Stanley himself.
A 5.1 DTS track shares space with a Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix and the concert is presented in anamorphic widescreen, so despite the lack of extras or other goodies, the presentation of the show itself is certainly top-notch.
It’s been a long time coming (hell, it took two years for this show to make it on to DVD and into stores) but fans of Paul Stanley can finally relish in seeing The Starchild sans makeup giving attention to his underrated songwriting and solo material. Stanley will never escape the KISS shadow he helped create back in the loft at 10 East 23rd Street, but while Gene Simmons’ only musical output has been 2004’s ludicrous bomb, ASSHOLE, KISS fans the world over can sit back and take in ONE LIVE KISS, showcasing the real musical impetus that has driven “the hottest band in the world” through commercial successes and failures since 1973.