End of the road tour
san diego - Anaheim ca feb 2019
Story by James West,
Photos by Danette West,
This surely cannot be the End Of The Road for Kiss! Paul, Gene, Ace, Peter, and the rest of the Kiss gang have been a part of my Rock and Roll DNA since I was 13 and witnessed sensory overload by the album Destroyer!
It has really been hard on me to face the reality that this truly could be their last hurrah. I mean, it’s happened before, right? I saw the Farewell Tour that soon meant the goodbye for both Peter and Ace, and now Paul and Gene are supposed to ride off into the sunset once this lengthy 3-year goodbye tour is over? I just don’t think they (especially Gene) could hang up the costumes!
I keep telling myself that hopefully this means they won’t stop making albums, and that they’re just going to perform Las Vegas residencies and special occasions. Replacements for the Demon and Starchild? Sorry, but it’s not gonna happen!!!
But… just in case, THE ROCKER CHIC and I thought it best to catch the band in concert NOW WHILE WE STILL CAN!
A couple of weeks ago we got pretty good seats at San Diego, and last week we scraped up enough to get the cheap seats In Anaheim, and we were even able to bring along THE ROCKER ILLUSTRATOR “Aack” for the spectacle also!
Just for your info, we have never tried using the “Press Pass” route to get tickets at concerts.
Our goal is to capture more than just great images of the band. The ENERGY of the event is what we’re after, and I can tell you this, Kiss fans… ENERGY is the one word that describes both concerts we witnessed from this still-phenomenal and relevant band!
We were pleasantly surprised at how many young people attended these concerts. Yes, there were tons of the old die-hards like myself, but also tons of teens and kids with parents that have never even seen the band live before! But each concert was a sellout, even though they were each being held on a week-night. Moms and Dads in face-paint; kids in face-paint; teens in face-paint; everyone was ready to get KISSED.
These shows felt more like “A Happening” than like a rock concert.
Maybe it was all just the nostalgia of knowing that this is the last time to see the spectacle that is KISS. But, I couldn’t believe there were still this many people who wanted to be part of the KISS ARMY over 40 years later!
This says a lot about a band that has been dismissed since day one as simply a circus act with amplifiers.
The Viejas Arena in San Diego is THE PLACE to see a rock concert! There’s not a bad seat in the house, and you are REALLY UP CLOSE
to everything in front of you.
We were situated in the back just by Paul’s “Love Gun” fly-out mini stage.
As no opening act was shown, I was hoping for a full-blown three hour or so spectacle that would commemorate each era of the band, complete with different staging, effects, and of course, special appearances by former band mates.
With the big blowout a few weeks ago between ACE and GENE, I figured it might just be a publicity stunt, and we might just see THE ACEMAN stroll out on the stage for Rocket Ride and Back In The New York Groove at least. But… No ACE… No PETER… No VINNIE… No BRUCE… Nothing… And Ace even LIVES IN SAN DIEGO!
But maybe it was a good thing it didn’t happen after all. Or maybe it’s in the plans for year 3 or something of this long-ass tour. Maybe a big KISS and makeup will happen once again…
Garibaldi Paints It Black!
But we did get an opening act.
American performance painter David Garibaldi actually did an amazing job with his "Rhythm and Hue" stage act in which he rapidly created paintings of notable rock musicians.
His artistry was amazing and he kept the audience and the music pumped up for the big event. I bet it was Paul who enlisted Garibaldi for the gig- seeing how Paul is also an amazing painter in his own right.
It was also cool that they auctioned off the Kiss painting with proceeds going to a local charity. Kiss have literally raised millions of dollars for charity during their career, and I personally salute them also for everything they have done for my fellow military service members and families over the years!
After cleaning up the paint splatter and a brief recess to double check the staging and hydraulics for the new stage, Kiss was ready to rock San Diego!
Then came the point of no return, with what sounded like Satan himself announcing- “WELL SAN DIEGO… YOU WANTED THE BEST, YOU GOT THE BEST, THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD- KISS!” and then all hell broke loose as a full arsenal of flash pots and rockets exploded as the curtains dropped- revealing the coolest and most-modern looking stage Kiss has ever brought to the masses.
I was immediately blown away by all the firepower, lasers, and neon lighting, all crammed into this massive yet concise and functional stage setup. The huge array of hectogon-shaped video screens reminded me some of Metallica’s current screen setup, but the Kiss screens moved about and tilted when needed for extra effect.
The Sound And The Fury!
Of course, “The Show” is only one part of the Kiss experience; “The Sound” was also amazing and in your face as well. I’ve seen Kiss several times over the years, but the sights and sounds I witnessed at this concert far exceeded anything else from past tours. Even the reunion tour, which still remains my favorite concert of all time with the four originals in fine form, didn’t bring the goods like this tour. The audio from the monitors sounded like raw power and adrenaline, and every song sounded superb!
I believe people in general weren’t expecting what they were getting; you could literally see the surprise on their faces as Kiss overwhelmed them with a show they would never forget. It was business as usual for Kiss, but for new fans and even old Kiss Army members like myself it was a much-needed escape from everyday existence.
What about that set list?
I was expecting a much more diverse setlist that would truly represent all aspects of Kiss’ career, but I was still happy with the songs on this tour.
“Detroit Rock City” is always awesome to start the show with. That's what I like about a Kiss concert- Hit 'em hard out the gate!
With San Diego we got to witness the awesome stage show in all it’s glory with all the bombast and fireworks during Rock City.
With Anaheim we got a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes as we literally watched the band make its way to the stage and onto the platforms.
Instead of the “Show” that we got from being front and center in San Diego, we got the “Sound” and “Roadies View” of what really goes on in putting this extravaganza together.
Both views were awesome, but nothing beats front and center!
Both “Shout It Out Loud” and “Deuce” were delivered with precision and intensity, and soon the audience knew they were witnessing a band that is still operating at the same extraordinary pace that they’ve been performing at for over 40 years; not bad for 70-year-olds!
“Say Yeah” was the only song performed from the Singer and Thayer era albums and it surprisingly sounded great in the set list. I’m glad they played “Heaven’s On Fire” as it’s a great song from Animalize. The only thing missing was the cool fire plumes that used to be used to go along with the beat on previous tours.
“War Machine” is one of my favorite Kiss songs, and it mirrors Gene’s personality perfectly. It also alerts us Kiss Army troops that he will be spitting fire at the end of the song and to get ready to try and get a cool shot! Unfortunately, I have never gotten a great picture of Gene’s fire-breathing no matter what different settings I use on the point and shoot! Danette got lucky and got a good one this time around though- The Rocker Chic saves the day again!
“Lick It Up” is another great concert standard and Kiss never disappoints with it. Sure, Vinnie would have been nice to see, but the riffs were hammered out great by both Paul and Tommy. We also got an additional treat with them locking in sync with the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the end.
“100,000 Years” was nice to see with Eric Singer’s extended drum solo played to precision. Even though I miss the jazz-type swing and swagger of Peter Criss’ drumming, Eric did an exceptional job the whole night, and to both me and Aack he sounded a lot like Eric Carr playing at times. What a great tribute!
“God Of Thunder” is always the pinnacle at Kiss shows for me. It showcases the Demon in all his glory with a song that fits him like a glove, even though it was written by Paul. Ha!
Again, Kiss Army alert, get ready for blood! I got a decent shot of Gene staring up to the bright lights of the heavens while oozing with the deep red blood from the depths of hell. There's never a bad shot of Gene Fucking Simmons!
it's cold gin time again!
“Cold Gin” always sounds great live, whether being performed by Kiss or by Ace. Of course, I would’ve loved to have seen Ace step into the ring and play this with his old bandmates, but it still sounded great. We were a little curious though as to why they would play “the drinking” song without the drinkers in the group though.
TIME TO GO PSYCHO!!!
Say what you will about “Psycho Circus” but I still think it was one of their better songs and albums, even with all the “who played what” goings-on with the album. This song is a great way to kick off the second half of the show. Again, the cool-ass video screens and lighting were in full force and helped serve as a great segue-way between song timelines.
Another fist pumper “I Love It Loud” brought the audience together both in song and in spirit, and Eric Singer simply demolished the drum kit during this.
To me the only possible misstep with songs was with a song you would think would be awesome live, and that’s “Hide Your Heart”. It simply just didn’t measure up to the rest even though I like both album versions from Kiss and from Ace Frehley (Ace’s is better).
WHAT? NO ROCK AND ROLL OVER?
Going old school again, Kiss delivered “Let Me Go, Rock And Roll” with precision, although this one I could have sacrificed also to another offering, say… possibly... from their best album that they DIDN'T EVEN PLAY A SINGLE SONG FROM-- ROCK AND ROLL OVER!
“Dr Love” was missed terribly and should be included in this final farewell song salute. It is, after-all, my favorite Kiss Song!!!
PULL THE TRIGGER OF MY
In San Diego, this was the part of the show we were most looking forward too, and that was Paul flying out onto the hovering audience stage to sing “Love Gun”.
We were all excited, but soon dismayed as the damn mini-stage blocked everything, and Paul didn’t even turn around to wave to us right directly behind him.
Not that The Rocker Chick didn’t mind seeing the backside of Paul Stanley, but c’mon, we were right there, dude!
Turn the hell around and acknowledge us please! In Anaheim the mini stage was floor mounted so everyone could see Paul, and we actually got better shots of him flying across the venue there!
“I Was Made For Loving You” was also played on the mini-stage to the delight of the crowd. It was Kiss’ biggest selling single of their career and also The Rocker Chic’s and my wedding song when we got married at the Kiss Hotter Than Hell Chapel in Las Vegas!
Yes, I’m a big fan of both Dynasty and this groovy song, so for all of you haters out there- Let it go, rock and roll!
BACK OFF ON THE BACKING TRACKS!
Just a quick note about autotune and backing tracks:
Yes, I did hear some backing tracks on the chorus of some songs, but Paul did not in any way depend on them. He lowered his register and adjusted his high notes on songs like “I Was Made For Loving You” and others to be more in his vocal range.
Even Gene had some help, too, but in no way did it take away from the performance of the songs.
C'mon folks- give these guys a break- They're lucky they can even still talk much less sing!
Hallelujah Holy Shit!
Pass Me The Tylenol!
Paul returned to the main stage to start the intro to “Black Diamond” and you new the fireworks were coming. Of course, nothing will ever compare to the bombast you hear on Kiss Alive, but being a bit too close to the onstage bomb factory during the performance at Anaheim literally killed my eardrums!
I love it loud like the next rocker, but holy shit those cannons and flash pots were LOUD BEYOND COMPREHENSION! And it wasn’t just a couple of sonic booms- Kiss was relentless with the bomb attack; Hell, I bet the amount of money Kiss spent just to put on this one show was more than a regular rock group makes on an entire tour!
Beth is still calling!
Yes, a piano came down from the rafters just like at the Motley Crue show we saw on their final tour, but c’mon Nikki Sixx, you know the Crue owes 80% of their show to what Kiss originated in the 70’s!
Sorry had to vent a little there, let’s continue: “Beth” was sung really well by Eric.
Sure, it should have been Peter’s spotlight, but I sincerely feel both Eric and Tommy played these shows with respect to both the songs and the past members who originally sung and played on them.
“Do You Love Me” is my favorite track from Destroyer next to “Shout It Out Loud”, and like “Shout”, this song never disappoints a crowd, especially when you have both Tommy and Gene on hydraulic lifts hovering across the crowd and throwing pics while jamming to the undeniable beat of this great song.
And then there’s the finale, “Rock And Roll All Night”, still as relevant as it was when it hit #12 on the Billboard charts back in early 1976. It’s amazing the confetti machines still worked after shooting out so much confetti that it completely covered the floor of the arena as well as the top of every fan attending this incredible show.
THE ROCKER'S WISH LIST
Obviously, I wish there were more songs in the set list, but what was played was delivered with both passion and authority as only Kiss can deliver.
Cross your fingers... Maybe just maybe by year three of this tour rolls around we might get fortunate to hear other great Kiss songs like “Who Wants To Be Lonely,” “Larger Than Life,” “Within,” “Trial By Fire”, “Take It Off,” and why not throw in a little “A World Without Heroes,” just for the sake of the show.
Well, maybe that one would be a bit of a stretch, but why not push the envelope a little and give the fans some true surprises in the set list. On a good note, at least “Shandi” didn’t make an appearance! LOL
In summary, Kiss still puts on the best damn live rock show you will ever see in your life. They are going out at the top of their game just the way they want to. They will truly not be fully appreciated until a decade or so from now, when the next generation of rockers decides to revisit the best damn decade of rock music- the kick ass 70’s!
Thank you Demon, Starchild, Spaceman, and Catman- You taught me not to be afraid to rock this world on my own terms. You also gave me the greatest escape from the woes of life.
I am forever your rock soldier in the Kiss Army! - Eternally your fan, James West