KISS at Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre, June 27 2011. Ted Reckoning photo
I recently posted an abbreviated version of Kyle Harcott‘s KISS in Abbotsford concert review on my online Vancouver entertainment magazine, The Snipe News. Here’s Kyle’s original review, with a few minor edits. Photos by Ted Reckoning.
KISS at Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Center, Abbotsford, BC, Monday 27 June 2011
- by Kyle Harcott
Perhaps it’s the age bracket, but for some of us, KISS is not just a couple of 60-year-old men playing 40-year-old songs as an excuse to hawk various cheaply-made trinkets bearing their logo and image. Yes, there are still those of us around who grew up with KISS as a band, not a brand, and to many their early canon (some say up to Alive II, some say beyond that) is beyond reproach. Even now I beseech you to name a better live (ahem) album than Alive! You can’t. It simply doesn’t exist. Be all that as it may, though, I’m not nostalgic enough, nor naïve enough to ignore that in 2011, it’s no stretch to say KISS has well overstayed their welcome.
Perhaps this is the reason why, on their latest We’re-Never-Going-To-Retire Tour, KISS is playing secondary markets, towns like Kamloops and Abbotsford, with smaller sheds – yet even still, only to three-quarters-full houses. I’ll admit, as a “lapsed” KISS fan (i.e., one who swears by the [early] albums but doesn’t drink the Gene $immon$ Kool-Aid [too expensive]), there is a certain perverse glee in knowing I am seeing the band in Abbotsford and not Vancouver – it somehow doesn’t seem right, and yet it totally does.
Nonetheless – even the cynical old bastard in me cannot completely suppress a jackassed grin when the lights go down and I hear The Voice: “AWWWWWRIGHT ABBOTSFORD! YOU WANTED THE BEST AND YOU GOT THE BEST! THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD: KEEEUSSSSSSS!!!!” The curtain drops and there they are on the massive stage: Gene, Paul, and those other two dudes dressed up like Ace and Peter. Everything is very bright, the pyro is very hot. Instantly I am transported to that moment forever crystallized in my memory, some 30-odd years ago as my elder cousins showed me the jacket to Hotter Than Hell for the first time. I was transfixed then. I am surprised, all this time later, to find I still AM.
Kicking off proceedings with “Modern Day Delilah” from their 2009 album Sonic Boom (I know, right – KISS are still putting out albums?), the old men use the opener as a chance to preen and work the shooters in the photo pit – presumably because nobody particularly cares how bad they might possibly botch the new song amidst all the posing. With the new fluff out of the way, they dive right into “Cold Gin” and finally Abbotsford roars its approval – the crowd knows this one. And the next one. And the next. And save for one other new song early on in the set, the entire rest of the setlist is bonafide KISS classics – not a single B-side to be found here.
Of course, I could take the cheap shots: Gene’s puffy jowls during the blood-spit sequence make him look like something akin to a bloated black-metal Elvis, in monster boots instead of a rhinestone jumpsuit; Paul’s rude chest hair appears to have grown even more abundant in his senior years and his incessant (and incessantly bad) by-the-book stage banter (insert an Abbotsford-approved Vancouver-diss here, interject a lookth-lahk-we-gonna-have-ourthelveth-a-rock-n-roll-pawty-tonight there) is still the most ludicrous (and mincing) in the biz; that-dude-dressed-up-as-Ace copping every nuance of Frehley’s classic performance and shtick (sorry, Tommy Thayer, nobody and I mean nobody should be allowed to sing “Shock Me” except Ace. Period. I WILL overlook the floating, firework-shooting Les Pauls. This time.)
Surprisingly, I’ve got no beef with dude-dressed-up-like-Peter, because everybody knows Eric Singer is ten times the drummer Peter Criss ever was, and his bombastic drum solo proved it beyond a doubt. But I won’t take the cheap shots. Truth is, I was having more fun than I’d expected to, and it was good to hear a lot of those songs played live again. Much better than when I saw the full original KISS back in 1996 on the first reunion tour, when a lot of the classics were played at what felt like half-speed, so the drummer could keep up. Say what you will about Tommy & Eric “playing” Ace & Peter, at least they can play. And they want to.
As such, the Abbotsford show was everything you’d expect a KISS concert to be: the big production, the fire, the smoke bombs, the blood. I’m guessing if I’d stuck around for the encore, I’d have gotten confetti and a levitating drum riser, too. We even got a bit of a Spinal Tap moment at the conclusion of Eric Singer’s drum solo, as he brandished a rocket launcher and fired upon a prop lighting rig, sending it tumbling to the ground. Too bad he had the weapon turned around and shot the loaded firework backwards. Thankfully nothing caught fire (that wasn’t meant to) and on went the show.
Even with all the gimmicks and trappings, a KISS show is still all about the songs, and for the most part, the setlist was rock solid, spanning the ‘70s heyday with a toe-dip into early ‘80s territory too. For the most part, the songs were even played note-for-note from the albums, though a lot of the time the sound in Abbotsford’s shed left a lot to be desired. I decided to beat traffic and split the scene halfway thru “Black Diamond”, before the encore, because to me, that’s the song a KISS show should end on. I really had no desire to hear “Rock and Roll All Nite” again.
So, while my starry-eyed inner five-year-old was sated by the big time rock show KISS put on, I’m happy to report my curmudgeonly inner mid-30s-year-old was equally sarcastically sated by what I saw. All it took was a trip past one of many merch tables set up throughout the venue to gawk at overpriced KISS junk (and there was loads of it). I realize that KISS will never again be what they represented to me in my childhood, but all the same I’m glad I got to see them again, if only because it means I now know I won’t want to on their next tour.
KISS in Abbotsford setlist:
- Modern Day Delilah
- Cold Gin
- Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
- Say Yeah
- Do You Love Me?
Tommy & Eric jam / drum solo / guitar solo
- Calling Dr. Love
- Shock Me
- God of Thunder
- Love Gun
- I Love It Loud
- 100,000 Years
- Black Diamond
- Detroit Rock City
- Lick It Up
- Shout It Out Loud
- Rock and Roll All Nite