For the last twenty years I’ve been saying I’ve got to catch Kiss, American shock-rock pioneers and merch monsters who literally changed the dynamic of popular music. Ok, so they have their critics; business over music, yada yada yada … but actually, Kiss have got some serious tunes. And, so I’d been told many times, going to see them live isn’t something you ever forget.
The night began with The Wild Things, a British rock band fronted by lead singer Sydney Rae White, star of the hit Netflix/BBC show Uncle. Now this is a band that knows how to entertain, and she is really quite a character. They confidently delivered a punchy set of riffy organ licks and ear-pricking riffs that certainly imbued those already in the arena with bubbling energy. The band closed their short set with Drunk Again, which certainly held its own sense of foreboding. Definitely worth checking out though!
Skindred, the Welsh heavy metal quartet formed in Newport in 1998, were next on the bill, raving through a vast mix of older and newer tunes with a cheeky cover of Jump by Van Halen thrown in the mix. It’s a bit much for me, if I’m honest – though the musicality and entertainment value is undeniable.
Legendary and eccentric outfit Kiss graced the stage at Manchester AO Arena for their much-anticipated final tour just before 9pm, all guns and lights and fireworks and pyrotechnics blazing. With an atmosphere charged with excitement and nostalgia, it was the kind of epic and fantastical introduction to a show that only they could deliver, with each band member descending from the roof on what appeared to be UFO’s! The band, now largely in their 70’s, then delivered a spectacularly energetic and dramatic performance that will forever be etched in the minds of those lucky enough to be there one last time.
From the moment the lights dimmed and the iconic Kiss logo illuminated the backdrop, the crowd erupted into a thunderous roar. Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, the band’s mainstays and corporate brains, commanded the stage in full makeup and attire with absolute dominance. Ever the showman (and possibly the most entertaining I’ve ever seen), Stanley turned the energy in the arena on and off like a tap, vowing parts of the audience to scream and narrating the show with excitable ease, thus setting the stage for an extraordinary night of rock and roll.
Kiss captivated the audience with their unparalleled showmanship and larger-than-life presence. From explosive pyrotechnics to intricate stage setups (including what must have been 100 foot tall statues of the four of them), every detail was meticulously crafted to deliver a truly immersive experience. It was a visual feast, with dazzling costumes, elaborate props, and breathtaking special effects that brought their music to life in an unforgettable way. They are no musical mugs either. The band flawlessly journeyed through a dynamic setlist that spanned their remarkable career, treating fans to classic hits like Rock and Roll All Nite, Detroit Rock City, Psycho Circus, Shout It Out Loud and I Was Made for Lovin’ You. Each song was met with an explosion of howls and frantic applause, showcasing the enduring impact that Kiss has had on generations of rock music lovers. Manchester was on fire with Kiss in the house.
What truly stood out about the performance was the undeniable passion and energy displayed by the band, which these days includes the inch-perfect yet explosive guitar playing of Tommy Thayer, and staggeringly energetic and formidable drumming of Eric Singer, who lit the arena with a thumping drum solo to rival any of the greats. Despite this being their farewell tour, their boundless enthusiasm radiated throughout the huge room. It was evident that, even after all these years, they still love what they do and appreciate the unwavering support from their fans. “We love you!” screamed Stanley repeatedly. “And we’ll never forget you!”
Stanley stole the show, however, careering over the crowd on a zipline to a small platform at the back, where he delivered a scintillating version of Love Gun. In all of his camp, sexualised and rebellious glory, Stanley has maintained the power to captivate the masses with his brazen, unflinching delivery.
As the final notes of their encore filled the air, the crowd erupted into an emotional standing ovation, expressing their gratitude for the decades of memorable music and unforgettable performances. Kiss have bid a heartfelt farewell to their fans on this long and heavy tour, leaving an indelible mark on the world of rock and roll, and a few deaf ears from frantically loud fireworks that fizzed and fizzled and cracked and crackled.
This was not simply a concert. This was a celebration; a testament to the enduring power of their music and the profound impact Kiss, much worthy Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, have had on the classic rock genre. Bittersweet closure can’t stop the heart beating and the smiles raging.
Thanks for the music, the makeup and the memories.