KISS Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 17, 2010
For more photos from the show, see our slideshow here.
There are those who say that KISS is dying. Fans have heard this before.
Even before WWII, fathers sternly told their children that comic-book superheroes were not real, that the storylines were just fluff and that young boys' imaginations would eventually mature and merge someday with real life, that our comic books and our oh-so-perfect heroes would become a distant memory, just an adolescent phase like our love of popular music. And then everyone saw their imaginary superheroes walking across the stage, playing guitars and singing lyrics that were real and meant just for those of us who wanted to believe.
Our fathers were wrong.
KISS is either like going to church or going to the circus. Friday night the lights dimmed, the band was shown backstage walking toward the curtain via a giant screen, and when all went black, the entirety of the Woodlands heard (and chanted along to) KISS' signature entrance: "You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world... KISS!"
And Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer took the stage as the crowd cheered. Simmons and Stanley, the only two remaining original members, were the stars for most of the evening, but Singer and Thayer got their chances to shine later on in the set.
They began with a song off their new album, Sonic Boom, and followed it with a song off their first. The rest of the night was mostly older material, with the band playing a total of about seven songs off their new album. KISS performed for close to three hours, beginning a little after 8:30 and finishing up just before 11:30 p.m.
About halfway through the show, Aftermath began to wonder if Stanley dyes his chest hair. Then we realized, "Of course not. KISS keeps him young."
Every couple of songs, three of the members would slip backstage - we assume to reapply makeup) as one of the four entertained the crowd with fireworks - dialogue or high-flying stunts like when Simmons was lifted above the rafters as bells rang ominously.
The crowd was riled up by Stanley, who reminded them that KISS would be visiting Dallas the next night, when he challenged Houstonians to be a better, louder crowd, to prove to him that we were a rock and roll city.
Their encore, which lasted for about 45 minutes, began with Singer performing "Beth," originally written and sung by Peter Criss. While the vocals weren't quite as raspy as the original recording, Singer's interpretation was strong, and the crowd was receptive.
Near the end of the encore, three Marines joined KISS onstage, and Stanely began to wave an American flag. "These are the heroes of the 21st century, the heroes of modern America," Stanley said as the crowd roared. "Now Houston, Texas, you are about to send a message to all these brave men and women... they may not hear the message, but they will hear about the message."
Led by Stanley onstage, the entire crowd then recited the Pledge of Allegiance, and the guitarist then presented the Marines with a check for $405,308 made out to the Wounded Warriors Care Project, which provides services to severely injured veterans. (KISS is donating one dollar from every ticket sold on its current tour to the project.)
The moment was heartwarming, and the Pavilion shook beneath our feet. Then one Marine, who had stood still and kept a stoic face throughout the cheering, fist-bumped Gene Simmons.
Aftermath has now seen everything.
Last week, Rocks Off ran an article in which we discussed KISS merchandise the band hasn't thought of (yet), and we mentioned KISS churches. We were wrong.
KISS is now and has always been a church, with a Bible to boot: The Bible of fire-breathing music. And for those of you who weren't there, Simmons did perform his signature spitting through a fiery sword handle. Did you ever doubt that he would?
The concert was full of music, but KISS has never been solely about the music. KISS has always been about their live performances - the flames, the lights, the stunts, the makeup and the armor - and they didn't fail to deliver on Friday. In fact, they went above and beyond.
Simmons and Stanley both flew high above the stage and the crowd a few times during the show, and fireworks and flames were the backdrop for the entire performance, but beyond that the band has come together as greater than the sum of its parts.
Now the band serves as a reminder that rock and roll can still be fun, that it doesn't have to be just a job, and that concerts can still be an escape from life rather than a reminder of everything wrong with the world.
The big finale was, of course, "Rock and Roll All Nite," which was expected but still warmly welcomed, coupled with loads of confetti poured over the screaming fans. (Think the Flaming Lips' finale at Summer Fest but with an older crowd.) It was far from original, but it did the trick to get a few of the fans who had become tired during the long evening to rise from their seats.
As Aftermath walked out of the show, we were handed a Cherry Dr. Pepper. At any other concert, we would have been pissed, but after a KISS show, we just laughed, opened it and drank up.
It doesn't matter how many Farewell Tours they have, because they'll always bring a crowd. You can't trust the Internet, the newspapers, television or tomorrow. But you can trust that KISS can never die.
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Personal Bias: Aftermath grew up listening to KISS, because our parents wouldn't buy us any of Marilyn Manson's CDs when we were younger, and KISS's Greatest Hits album didn't have a parental advisory sticker. We jammed with our Pops.
The Crowd: The lawn had a few younger fans, but most of the seats were filled with 35-to-65 year olds.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I think I saw a Juggalo!"
Random Notebook Dump: New rule: throwing up your devil horns is only acceptable at KISS and Metallica concerts. Agreed?