Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Merry KISSmas, Part Deux

Okay, okay...it's no longer even REMOTELY the Christmas season. That ship has sailed, bee-yotch. I can't even try to slip one past by claiming that, somehow, January 13th is one of the fabled "12 Days of Christmas." Or, can I? After all, what ARE the 12 days of Christmas? No one really knows, do they? I mean, think about it: you got Christmas, and Christmas Eve...that's two. New Year's, and New Year's Eve...that's only four. I guess there are two Saturdays and two Sundays in there, that's eight...but what's next? Boxing Day? Even that would only make nine!

(Special thanx to eternal heroes Bob & Doug McKenzie)

So, the long & short of it...break was fine, if hectic. Lots of seeing family, good meals & conversations with little-seen friends, and hey, a bonus! None of us were sick for, like, at least a week there at the end! Sheesh. I thought it was bad enough that Miss Tessmacher and I were bringing home crud from our students...now The Rozzle brings home EVERY-fuckin'-thing from daycare. Blech. But, we had a good run, and we're more-or-less recharged and ready for the new semester. More on that later, however, as I do need to tidy up my blog life by closing out the second half of my Kiss concert experience. Yeah, that's right: last time only got us through the end of 1992, and hell, that was a LONG time ago! So here we go...

Reunion tour

I've said it before, but it bears repeating since I claim to be such a major Kiss fan: I thought the fabled reunion of the original lineup of Gene, Peter, Paul & Ace would be a tragic mistake. Seeing such a lineup perform live would be a dream come true, but I worried that it would spell the end of "forward progress" for the band from a musical standpoint...and as we've already established, for me Kiss was always about the music. I thought that the Revenge album was fantastic, their best in years, and that the lineup including Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer was musically the best and tightest Kiss had ever been. I was looking forward to their new album, Carnival of Souls, when the MTV Unplugged session happened, and the seeds of the reunion were sown. For the Unplugged show, Paul & Gene brought Ace & Peter out for a few songs, and the fan response was enormous. From there, the original four - in makeup - dropped by "unannounced" at the Grammys in February to co-present with Tupac. And so it goes...eventually, a huge tour got underway, with Kiss doing something like 200+ shows over the course of two years, playing to over 2 million people before they were done. I saw the tour opener, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Kiss has always given Detroit special shit: live albums get recorded there, a song gets written about the city...mostly because Detroit was the first place outside of New York that accepted Kiss, and it's where they first headlined a major arena. So, we got the tour opener, and I tell ya: hesitancy about the reunion aside, June 28, 1996 stands as one of the great nights of my life. I was with all of my best friends in the world, about to see the hottest band in the world, and it was a scorchingly hot day and evening; I remember that it still must have been about 75˚ when Kiss took the stage, well after dark. It was everything I wanted it to be, and more, if possible. I saw the show again in October, at the Palace...inexplicably taking (once again) an ex-girlfriend. What's my deal?!? Anyway, I remember when they first came on the stage she started cracking up. When I asked her what was so funny, she said they just looked so SILLY and TINY down there on the stage, in all their costumes and gear. I guess the non-fan gets used to seeing Kiss in photos, so the costumes, while unique, don't really come across as all that...but, when you see them live, it's a different thing. *shrug* So, reunion shows = great. Worst fears confirmed = yes.

Psycho Circus tour

Well, I'll give 'em credit: after finally releasing the dark, acoustically dry and punishing album Carnival of Souls (by the tail end of the "old" band), the newly-reformed original Kiss put out a much more rock-&-roll record: Psycho Circus. I enjoyed the previous release, but Circus was much more a Kiss record, sonically. There was still some forward musical momentum, and it was great to once again hear Ace & Peter singing harmonies, leads, and playing their instruments. Lots got said at the time that Peter actually didn't drum much on the album at all, but that's not the point of this blog. Suffice it to say, Detroit once again got blessed by Kiss during the resulting tour, because we got the New Year's Eve show of 1998. I finally took my CURRENT girlfriend (Miss Tessmacher!), and we headed out into a very snowy evening from my mom's house in the Thumb. We met Mike & Fun Guv for dinner, then proceeded to the show. The catch this time was that, to go along with the holographic CD cover of the album, the show was "in 3-D." Right. Because, you know, life is always so two-dimensional. But really, they actually pulled it off pretty well. You got your 3-D glasses at the door, and at certain points in the show, the cameras played back 3-D on the stage screens. Like I said, it worked well, but there's only so much of Ace poking his guitar neck at the audience or Gene waggining his tongue "in your face" that you really need, y'know? A clever idea, but probably way more expensive than it needed to be. Still: new music, new tour...THIS was a Kiss I was happy to have. Alas...the new dream would soon become the old nightmare...

Farewell tour

Seems that the dream of a reunited original Kiss was just that: a dream. Apparently Ace & Peter had been "signed" to only 5-year contracts, and by 2000 those contracts were nearing their end. There were rumblings in the Kiss Kamp that the oft-ostracized duo wanted more money, or were sick of the rules laid down by Gene & Paul...whatever the case, old wounds had been reopened and rather than continue to work in a hostile environment, Kiss decided to say "Farewell!" with a lengthy tour that included not just classic songs, but tunes from their entire catalog...even from the non-makeup years when Ace & Peter were gone. When I saw Kiss at the Palace in May of 2000, I genuinely believed I was seeing them for the last time. It was emotional for me, although I was fairly certain that there would be solo material (and possibly tours) from at least Paul & Ace. (Right on both counts, thanks!) Once again I was with some of my best friends, and Tess gamely shuffled along dressed in my now-vintage Lick It Up jersey from 1983...which had long ago ceased to fit me. Ahem. Even without new material, the show was fantastic, and I bid a tearful goodbye to the best band ever. Of course, that was before Kiss came to Michigan State for a show at the Breslin Center! Hell, I couldn't miss seeing them practically in my backyard, could I?!? I even walked to the damn concert!! Alas, I'm a little sorry I went to this one, because the Breslin audience seemed rather dead, and the show had a "phoned-in" aspect that put a sour taste in my mouth for what would be the last time I saw Kiss live...or would it??

Kiss/Aerosmith tour

A bunch of funny stuff happened after the Farewell tour. Paul, who often says he wants to leave the party before he's asked to, was now saying that he wasn't done being the frontman for Kiss. Gene too seemed to be banking on a continuation of Kiss. And so there was set into motion a bunch of odd one-off shows, or tours of little-visited lands like Australia, with a constant series of lineup changes. First Peter left, and Kiss toured Japan with Ace & Eric Singer (controversially wearing Peter's makeup, the rights to which he had long ago sold to Kiss). Then Ace was gone, replaced by longtime Kiss gopher and guitar tech Tommy Thayer, but Peter was back. It was this lineup that toured the U.S. in the summer & fall of 2003, co-headlining with Aerosmith. The combo shows work really well - think Billy Joel and Elton John - and seemed to be a good way for Kiss to continue without the rigors of doing new music. I was beginning to lose interest - I'd lived my dream of seeing the original lineup five times over by now - and was disheartened by the lack of new music. But, when my friend Mike wanted to take me and another close friend to see the combined tour at the new Tigers' ballpark, with close-up seats no less, I of course acceded. That first show was weirdly cancelled, though, because of the multi-state power outage that hit late that August. There actually WAS power in Detroit the night of the show, but with now way to set up the stage or run light/sound checks in the days before, it was deferred for a few weeks. The night of the show was great, though: Uncle Ted opened, and both Kiss & Aerosmith were bombastic. (The three of us agreed, later and indepently, that Kiss was the better live band; Aerosmith seemed to be "going through the motions.") This was also the tour I got to meet Kiss, or at least the 3/4s of them I cared about. No dis to Tommy, but - especially wearing Ace's makeup - he seems to have no believable personality of his own in the band, almost as if he's simply "playing" Ace in a tribute band. I waffled for weeks about spending the ridiculous amount of money it would take to get 2nd-row seats and a photo session, meet-&-greet with Paul, Gene & Peter, but in the end was convinced by Miss Tessmacher that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I should go for it. I drove through the cold rain in mid-November to Grand Rapids, which I discovered is a great place for a concert. Lemme tell ya: sitting up close? IS SO WORTH IT! Seriously, if you have a band or a performer that you genuinely care about, being close is totally the best. Pay for it...you won't regret it. After the show I was escorted backstage and had a great time getting my photo taken with my idols, and chatting briefly with each of them while they graciously signed my shit. The only problem is: I've now sort of done it all. I've seen the original group...I've met them...I've sat in the 2nd row...how do I go back to sitting in the fuckin' nosebleeds, just another faceless scream in the crowd? Answer: I probably DON'T. I skipped the 2004 summer tour altogether, and have no designs to catch any U.S. version of their just-completed Alive/35 European tour. Ace & Peter are both gone again - probably permanently - and with Eric & Tommy in their makeup...well, it really is hard to not see the group as 1/2 of a tribute band. I dunno. Maybe this promised "new album" will change that. We'll see.

Next time: NO KISS POST! I promises.


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