Kiss Live At O2 Arena London – 11 July 2019

By Phil Ashdown.

Kiss are finally calling it a day. Billed as the ‘Final Tour Ever’ this tour is The End Of The Road. Many rock purists mock them as being a brand rather than a band where their legacy is designed and packaged to sell tickets to the shows that in turn sells the merchandise. And they may have a point. Nobody is interested in new Kiss music, they exist as a live band and have always been infamous for the biggest, most bombastic spectacles in the genre.

My particular feelings on Kiss started as a 16-year old in 1976, with approaching exams and thoughts of what the Summer of ’76 would bring. Through the music press of the day (Sounds, NME and Melody Maker) my friend and I had read about this American rock band that wore character make-up and wore costumes with 7-inch platforms, breathed fire, rocket firing guitars and more explosions than your average Bond movie set. Having seen Queen at Christmas the previous year we decided to make our way to Hammersmith Odeon to check them out on their second of two dates at the iconic venue on the Destroyer Tour. We bought tickets from the box office in the afternoon so it clearly wasn’t a total sell-out. What we saw that night took our breath away and was partly to blame for my life-long love of rock music and attending live shows. This was Kiss’ first UK tour and some 43 years later I decided to see them for one final time at London’s O2 Arena.

Along with the other 20,000 fans packed into the arena tonight I knew exactly what to expect, a spectacular entrance, massive amounts of pyro, incredible stage show, choreographed stage moves, Gene would fly to the top of the lighting rig, Paul would zipline to a smaller stage near the console, Tommy’s guitar would shoot sparks and Eric would have his drum solo spot. They may use occasional backing tapes to assist with sound quality but what you do get at a Kiss show is a bloody good time.

From the moment they hit the stage descending on floating platforms from one of the best designed lighting rigs I’ve ever seen, the band are on top form and clearly loving every minute. Paul and Gene’s voices do suffer on occasion, particularly in the higher registers but this is a minor gripe as everything in this well-oiled machine ran perfectly. The sound was excellent with old favourites we all came to hear, from opener Detroit Rock City through Cold Gin, War Machine, 100,000 Years and God Of Thunder sounded fresh and meaty as ever.

Other tunes such as Psycho Circus and Say Yeah were so much better than their rather lackluster studio versions. Yes at times it became a bit pantomime and they certainly could have done without drummer Eric Singer sitting solo at a piano to deliver the ballad Beth, but I suppose it gave the other guys a chance to have a rest.

A Kiss show is all about spectacle. Simmons breathed fire using his flaming sword, spewed blood and he even has his own hydraulic platform for God Of Thunder, raising him up almost to the roof. Drummer Singer also has a drum set that raises high above the stage as flames and fireworks explode around him.

The night came to a close with Crazy Crazy Nights with giant Kiss balloons released above the crowd and during Rock And Roll All Nite accompanied by the loudest explosions I’ve ever heard and a blizzard of confetti sprayed over the entire arena floor that must have kept the cleaners busy for a week, followed by Simmons and Thayer taking a ride over the audience at the end of giant cranes!

If this really is the final farewell then they certainly went out in style.

And yes it did take me back to that 16-year old of 1976 and I left the venue with a feeling that we will never see their like again.

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    KISS Unmasked (Scarce 1986 Dutch-only Limited Edition individually numbered 11-track viny 'cartoon strip' picture disc LP. Official Phonogram release through the Dutch KISS Army fan club and limited to 1500 numbered copies. Only 13 titles were officially released - KISS, Hotter Than Hell, Destroyer, Rock And Roll Over, Love Gun, Dynasty, Unmasked, Music From The Elder, Killers, Creatures Of The Night, Lick It Up, Animalize & Asylum PIC6302032)

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