Friday Night: Kiss & Mötley Crüe at The Woodlands

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What can we say about the Knights in Satan's Service? Now winding up their fourth decade in existence, the band has come full circle, from '70s superstardom through difficult transitions in the '80s and '90s (including multiple personnel changes) to more or less embrace their status as a nostalgia act that still releases the occasional album (Monster drops next month). Folks coming to a Kiss show don't want a deep exploration of Sonic Boom, though, they want the hits, and we (mostly) got them Friday night.

The only new cut was "Hell or Hallelujah," off the upcoming album. Other than that, the set consisted mostly of cuts from the band's salad days (1974-77), with the other most recent song being 1983's "Lick It Up." It says something about both a band and their audience when they can consistently ignore ten entire albums' worth of material during their shows, I'm just not sure what that is exactly.

Familiarity often breeds contempt, but after a while you have to hand it to a couple of (again) old dudes (Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are both over 60, and Stanley still rides a zip line out a sound booth platform to perform "Love Gun," two hip replacement surgeries be damned) who put on that make-up and strap on those platform boots every night just so a bunch of gibbons from H-Town could hoot along to "Shout It Out Loud."

And for the record, that was us screaming "YOU GOT TO HAVE A PARTY" during the chorus.

One gets the impression the foursome could perform most of these songs in their sleep (and reportedly did on tours in the late '80s). Do we miss original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss? Do most people realize it's been Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer behind the Starman and Catman make-up for the last decade? Would they care?

Singer's been behind the kit for as long as Criss ever was (and is a better drummer besides), and Thayer is as competent as he needs to be, and also takes over Frehley's vocal duties on "Shock Me."

And while we'll always take musicians' statements of love for any city their in with a fist-sized grain of salt, Stanley really does seem to have affection for Houston (or as he pronounces it, "Ha-Yew-Ston!"), fondly recalling past shows at the Summit. And if you needed proof we really are America's Coolest City, they whipped out "Cold Gin" for one of the only times on this tour. Take that, Dallas.

Are they cheesy? Uh, hello, they spit fire ("Firehouse") and blood ("God of Thunder") and dress like the Knights of the Round Table by way of Fetish Factory. Even so, you can't help listening to a solid rock track like "Black Diamond" (from 1982's Creatures of the Night their eponymous 1974 debut album) wondering if, in their quieter moments, they wonder what life would've been like as a straightforward blues-rock outfit.

Yeah, probably a lot fewer groupies.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar