A band with good timing going back to when it merged glam-rock with heavy metal in the early 1970s and wound up with a merchandising gold mine, Kiss also picked a good time of year to say goodbye to its army of Minnesota fans.
The self-proclaimed Hottest Band in the World came to Target Center in Minneapolis on another brutally cold night Monday as part of its gainfully named End of the Road Tour.
Any of the 12,000-plus concertgoers who were still numb as they found their seats quickly thawed out as they hit their feet to opening song “Detroit Rock City,” featuring the usual mind-numbing onslaught of flame plumes and explosives that have fueled Kiss shows for four decades.
From the get-go, Monday’s 2¼-hour show seemed like just another standard Kiss affair — but a little bigger, more fiery and with a tad more nostalgic value, since it would purportedly be their last time in town.
Co-leaders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons stuck by their same lineup of the past 16 years, with fill-in members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer wearing the makeup and singing the songs of long-exiled guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss, original members of the band.
The only real updates were in the truly impressive, hi-fi stage and video production, and in the price tags on the tour merch (T-shirts: $50!).
Stanley certainly cashed in on the farewell emotions with his usual hyperbolic between-song banter.
“We’ve been coming to visit you people for a long time; we know what to expect from you,” he shouted after second song “Shout It Out Loud.”
The “Starchild”-faced singer went on to list Kiss’ early appearances at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1976 and Met Center in Bloomington in 1977 (leaving out a November 1974 date in Duluth). He and the band hit on many other historical points after that, too, rolling old black-and-white performance footage during the 1974 standard “Deuce” and recreating almost word-for-word the intro he gave on the original “Alive!” album before “Cold Gin.” Stanley even played up their 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction; he did so by slamming the hall for shrugging the band off for many years.
“They had to listen to you,” he bragged.
Internet murmurs of Stanley using prerecorded tracks to augment his vocals — after years of noticeably diminished singing power — didn’t hold up well Monday, since his voice creaked and cracked many times throughout the night.
His fiery “woooooaaaahs!” in the no-makeup, MTV-era hits “Lick It Up” and “Heaven’s on Fire” just plain hurt, but his vocals were just fine in older faves such as “Love Gun” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” The “new guys,” Thayer and especially Singer, provided some extra-supportive backup vocals, too.
Thayer long ago proved he’s plenty adept at recreating Frehley’s genre-defining guitar leads. Perhaps due to Frehley’s recent dust-up with Simmons, though, he didn’t get to sing a Frehley song. The piano that rose up to start off the encore assured fans Singer would get his turn at the mic, cueing the pre-recorded strings and fans’ waving cell-phone lights for “Beth.” Grandmas in the crowd ate that one up.
It was during some of 69-year-old Simmons’ tunes that the timing of Kiss calling it quits maybe seemed overdue.
After all these years, the demonic rocker’s must-do antics of blood-spewing (in “God of Thunder”) and fire-breathing (“War Machine”) seemed as low-rent and crusty as one of his 1976-era metal codpieces.
And anyone with a sixth-grade understanding of current events could hear how outdated his lyrics were in “Calling Dr. Love” (“So baby please, get on your knees …”). At least he didn’t sing “Christine Sixteen,” though.
Some of the best parts of Monday’s concert were the most gimmick-free and straight-ahead moments. “Let Me Go Rock ’n’ Roll” and the encore picks “Do You Love Me?” and “Rock and Roll All Nite” all would’ve been just as rousing if the stage hadn’t been any more elaborate than the Popcorn Club in Queens, N.Y. (site of the band’s first gig).
Those rowdy highlights actually begged the question if a more stripped-down farewell show would have been a better route for a final farewell. Perhaps that’s one idea to keep things fresh should Kiss’ End of the Road Tour not actually end until 2023.
Here's the full End of the Road set list from Monday:
- Detroit Rock City
- Shout It Out Loud
- Say Yeah
- Heaven's on Fire
- War Machine
- Lick It Up
- I Love It Loud
- 100,000 Years
- Cold Gin
- God of Thunder
- Psycho Circus
- Let Me Go, Rock and Roll
- Love Gun
- I Was Made for Lovin' You
- Black Diamond
- ENCORE: Beth
- Do You Love Me?
- Rock and Roll All Night