“Aaaalright, Baltimore! You wanted the best. You got the best. The hottest band in the world… KISS”
Amidst exploding pyrotechnics, Paul Stanley sang the opening lines to “Detroit Rock City,” I feel uptight on a Saturday night / Nine o’clock, the radio’s the only light / I hear my song and it pulls me through / Comes on strong, tells me what I got to do — and a more perfect opening to a rock show there never was.
There is nothing to compare to live music. As I’ve heard it said before, if you wanna hear the record stay home. You can hear the same notes played the same way over and over again. But hearing those notes played over a room of screams and cheers with sweat (and maybe some spit) greasing the fretboard is the only real way to truly hear rock ‘n’ roll.
Of course, there are live recordings and, arguably, one of the best live recordings is KISS Alive!, which came out nearly 50 years ago when the band was still climbing that hill of success. But listening to the recording pales in comparison to the spectacle Paul, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer, and Tommy Thayer put on in Baltimore. Billed as the End of the Road World Tour, KISS originally announced the tour in 2018 which was then delayed due to the Covid pandemic but wrapped up in New York City after two nights at Madison Square Gardens. But before that final stop, the band’s second to last show ever rolled into Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on the cold and windy night of Nov. 29.
Walking up to the arena, which I hadn’t gone to since the old Civic Center days, it was like walking into a sea of black and white face paint of fans. As a testament as much to their music as to their stage performance, I saw nearly as many concert goers who were there seeing the band for their first time as fans seeing the band, to paraphrase Paul Stanley, for their “101st time.”
Although this was my first time seeing KISS, when I was a kid they were a storied band. Shrouded in mystery, these four figures dressed in thick boots and spikes with face paint this was a band that begged a backstory. And we were all too eager to create for them. From the band being from outer space to the even crazier tale about Gene having a cow tongue sewn to his own (because there was no way that was real). Of course these were just four guys from New York City beneath the facade, but to a kid in elementary school KISS were truly larger than life.
Heading into the arena it was clear KISS is still bigger than the sum of four guys in a band. Massive figures of Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy sandwiched the stage. And as the walk-on music of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” ended, and the booming tone of the announcer came on issuing the start of the show and the curtain hiding the stage fell away, the cheers were deafening.
Here are some photos of KISS snapped by David LaMason from the audience with a non-professional camera. (All pictures copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.)
You knew from that first song that this was going to be a ride. Within the span of 10 minutes there must have been a ton of pyrotechnics that had gone off. Sparks and rows of flames that spread across one end of the stage to the next and then behind Eric Singer’s drum riser erupted. I could feel the heat from the stands and knew it must have been so much hotter on that stage. Gene, Paul, and Tommy’s synchronized head bobbing and shuffle on “Deuce” as the band have since the mid-1970’s was perfect.
Each band member had his time to shine. From Gene Simmons’s fire breathing at the start of “I Love It Loud,” while surrounded by a cloud of fog that covered the stage in an eerie purple cloud to a blistering solo by Tommy Thayer, complete with rocketing fireworks from his guitar, there was no slow moment the entire evening.
Watch the official music video for “I Love It Loud” by KISS on YouTube:
“Hey, Bawltimore!” Paul Stanley shouted throughout the night. “Come on sing!” Paul spoke to the crowd in that way only he could — part MC and little like that sassy nana who’ll spoil you rotten the first chance she gets. Familiar and welcoming, this was a band that was here to have some fun and you couldn’t help but have a smile on your face taking it all in.
Even if KISS had been performing the same songs night after night I couldn’t tell. KISS gave it 110%. There was no phonin’ it in. And it looked like a helluva lot of fun, especially as Tommy and Paul traded licks — trying to match each other note for note. From “Calling Dr. Love” to the disco-tinged “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” and “Black Diamond,” it was a packed set list with all your favorites.
After the regular set, Eric Singer appeared at a grand piano to sing “Beth,” before the rest of the band returned to the stage for “Do You Love Me” and the piece de resistance “Rock and Roll All Nite” with a massive explosion of confetti with Gene and Tommy riding huge cranes. And as they floated over the crowd, Paul swung his guitar around and around before smashing it as explosions rained behind the stage.
It was an incredible send off to one to a legendary band. “Did you get what you came for?” Paul Stanley asked the crowd. The answer: a resounding “yes!”
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Heaven’s on Fire
I Love It Loud
Lick It Up
Calling Dr. Love
God of Thunder
I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Do You Love Me
Rock and Roll All Nite
KISS officially played their last live show in New York City on Dec. 2, and so ended the tour. The band have announced they will soon inaugurate a hologram tour of classic KISS, so perhaps keep your ears open for more developments!