May 5’th 2010
Echo Arena, Liverpool
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 in Europe, under the banner SONIC BOOM OVER EUROPE: FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE BOOM. The new tour started just a few days ago in Sheffield, and now it was time to check 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 for 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 tons of pyro and explosion, and BOOM!!! KISS was on stage and headed directly into the new album-opening track, “Modern Day Delilah.” Wow! Still, after witnessing a series of past KISS tours, this new entrance went right away in the top three. Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, and Tommy Thayer were standing over some lifter which first raised them in heights and then it carried them over Eric Singer’s drum set in the front of the stage. It’s tough to put in words, but this entrance did look impressive—loads of explosions, dozens of giant 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 worked out great, 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 tight compared to some past tours. Next, it was time to jump back into classics. “Cold Gin,” an old Ace Frehley favorite, sounded good, and Simmons’s lead vocals were over the top like always before. “Let Me Go Rock ‘n Roll” followed before Stanley’s turn to switch back in the lead vocals in “Firehouse.” Simmons performed his classic fire breathing at the end of the song, and people went even crazier if that’s possible. Unfortunately, “Say Yeah,” another song from SONIC BOOM, dropped the mood down very quickly. While Paul did his best, it was challenging for him to get the audience to sing along to this new song. The fact is that there are a lot of better songs SONIC BOOM than “Say Yeah.” It’s just a filler.
Things went back to normal when the band headed into “Deuce.” Next, Paul announced they would play a song, “Which hasn’t been played since KISS performed in Top of the Pops.” The song was “Crazy Crazy Nights,” the crowd went nuts. It’s been over twenty years since the band last time played live this pop-rock classic. “Crazy Crazy Nights” was a massive hit in the U.K in the late ’80s. The song went down like a storm, and people sang along in the choruses like wild animals. Hopefully, this song remains on the setlist outside of the U.K as well because it was one of the show’s highlights.
“Calling Dr.Love” continued Simmons’s classic series from the mid-seventies before it was Tommy Thayer’s turn to take over lead vocals. Although Tommy now is “the Spaceman” in KISS, it just didn’t felt right when he was singing Ace Frehley’s signature song “Shock Me.” There’s nothing wrong with Tommy’s vocals or playing. Actually, he’s a better singer and guitarist than Ace ever was, but this is still some way wrong, and he should sing some other song instead. Because of that, it became another low point of the show.
Everyone knows that each show has its ups and downs, and Tommy’s and Eric’s following instrumental duet was another highlight of the evening. It does sound strange to say that any solo part would be the show’s highlight, but now, it was true. Tommy first started his guitar solo in the “traditional way” before Eric “surprisingly” joined him. Together, they jammed something that 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’s trick worked out fine, but what was a funny addition to that, almost traditional, the thing was that after Tommy finished his shooting, Eric returns behind his kit and shot a rocket as well using a bazooka. Finally, there were some new elements in the KISS show!
“I Am Animal,” another track from SONIC BOOM followed next. Visually, the stage looked “true evil” with all the cool effects, but the song still failed to go almost anywhere. It’s not about anything else but the song itself. In brief, the song is boring. Again, there are better songs on SONIC BOOM. Next, Paul announced it’s time to go back in time and play some KISS classics. The band headed into “100 000 Years”. It’s one of the tracks that the band has been continually 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…
Finally, it was the blood-spitting time. This part of the show has always been the ultimate show climax, and Gene did not disappoint. The blood-spitting “Demon” looked “true evil” while performing in the middle of an enormous 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 to the show. A noisy church bell clanged, and a white spot from “heaven” spotted Demon and tried to blind him down in the middle of his blood-spitting. Fortunately, Demon got his blood business finished, and soon he was fly in heights and landed on his mini-platform. Another Simmons’s standard “I Love It Loud” followed and received an outstanding and noisy response from the crowd. Next, Paul Stanley started to hymn the famous verses of his favorite KISS song, “Love Gun.” When he asks people to sing along, and they obeyed. Loud. Unsurprisingly, Stanley once again had difficulty achieving higher notes. Maybe the band should start seriously thinking about dropping some “classic” songs from the setlist? There is always a reason for everything, and those changes would serve both Paul and the audience. This performance evoked memories from Ian Gillan singing “Child In Time” live the last time in the id ’90s. He couldn’t handle it anymore, so it got soon dribbled.
“Black Diamond” was the next classic in line. As always, Paul first played some riffs and sang a segment of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” before hitting the famous intro part. The song got an almost enormous response. Song worked out perfectly as always and not least because of the excellent lead vocals of Eric Singer. All drummers who have played at KISS have been great singers, and Singer is no exception. The last song of the gig was, of course, “Detroit Rock City,” or should we say, “Liverpool Rock City.” Tons of explosions and pyro made the audience both deaf and blind at the same time. Finally, Eric’s drums rose to heights, and the stage was full of smoke, flames, and exploding fireworks.
The actual show was over, and the band left the stage. Rhythmical “We want KISS!” roaring started immediately, and within few minutes band returned on stage. Paul then gave a longish speech where he announced that band is going to play 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 went down pretty well. A small instrumental part of the Who classic “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was included in the song’s middle. “Shout It Out Loud” continued bands hit marathons, and so did “I Was Made For Loving You.” The song literally got some of the crowd to dance. Of course, Paul Stanley “flew” over the audience and then landed on a spinning platform across from the stage and sang the song over there.
Another pleasant addition to the setlist for the evening was the next heard “God Gave Rock ‘n Roll to You II.” It sounded terrific. During the song, a lot of vintage pictures and video clips from the band’s past were shown on the background screens. It was a touching moment for many people. Although this song was a massive hit in Europe, especially in the U.K, it’s been a long time since this song was a part of the setlist. Hopefully, it will now stay there for the rest of the tour.
“Rock And Roll All Nite” closed the evening as expected. For a while, there was an almost unrealistic state of being. when the air was full of confetti, and the bombs exploded like in World War II, There was so much pyro and explosives used that it felt that the stage would literally explode, but fortunately, it didn’t happen. At the very end, Stanley broke one of his guitars in pieces, and the show was over. Band returned briefly and did thank their audience, and lights came on. The gig was finally over, and it can be said that it felt like the band left their audience almost speechless in a positive way. There’s no denying that this was once again a superb rock ‘n roll spectacle and a hell of a great show. There was blood spitting, fire breathing, levitating drums, rocket shooting guitars, pyro, explosions, and much more. All the familiar KISS elements from previous tours were seen again, but some new stuff was also added. 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 band’s foursome playing and singing sounded tight, and the whole band sounded much better than what they did two years ago (not even to mention the reunion tour). 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 lineup ever?
Surprisingly, when this tour is billed as the “Sonic Boom Over Europe,” the setlist only included three SONIC BOOM tracks. The rest was just the typical Best of -with no surprises. Band with such an extensive and prime back catalog should be brave and do at least a few more changes in the setlist. Although the band can still put out a great show, they should also listen more to 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 excellent reviews, the show wasn’t sold-out. Either was Liverpool Arena. It was easy to estimate that there were perhaps 3,000-4,000 people in the audience, about 60% of the venue’s 6,000 capacity. This show was the band’s first time performing in Liverpool, so the low numbers were surprising. However, “You Wanted The Best, You Got The Best” is still absolutely true.
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