Artist: KISS, Skindred, The Wild Things
Date: 2 – 05 July 2023
Whatever happens I will remember this night and the others like this forever. To quote another Glam Rock band; “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone."
This is the second time around for the KISS ‘End Of The Road’ tour in London. However, since it is obvious that we must be closer to the actual end, it bites just a little deeper.
First the supports, and, like the last few times KISS have played, the choices were not obvious ones by any means:
The Wild Things are a Pop Rock guitar based band. Vocals are strong and a bit April Lavigne nineties style with attitude. Strains of Deep Purple like keyboards and a sixties/seventies vibe runs through the music, although post Nirvana, there isn’t a guitar solo to be seen, just a helluva lot of strumming, so the keyboards, screaming and a lot of dancing on stage is used to fill the gap. They are cute, but not really my cup of tea.
Skindred are not my genre, being Rap/Ragga Rock, but Benji was looking like a Rockstar and was entertaining to watch with his flowers, monochromatic Union Jack and paint splashed police badge hidden under his coat. They have enough “Whoa–Oh” choruses for me to stay dialled in for a short set and and full marks for attitude and crowd engagement like an MC at a Rave (I Imagine, anyway, having never been to a large Rave myself). Although I was not sure about the acapella version of ‘If You Are Happy And You Know It’! They match the KISS philosophy in at least one crucial way, not caring about what society thinks or says, they just keep themselves happy ploughing their own furrow.
So, descending like the Gods they are, from the heavens, KISS launched into ‘Detroit Rock City’. It’s an iconic scene, we are led to believe we will never see again. Indeed, it’s difficult to believe that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are in their seventies. I couldn’t tap dance like Stanley in seven inch knee length platforms when I was a teenager. He’s in great condition and still ripped. When he shakes his ass to the audience in his spandex he knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s still got it. The band are still the ultimate spectacle – oh what a show!
We were only two songs in after ‘Shout It Out Loud’ when Paul reminded the crowd it was the last time they will ever play London to sounds of dismay, but he lifted the mood again by getting each side of the auditorium to cheer. Then we were into the massive riffs of ‘Deuce’ with Simmons at a sprightly 73 lifting his dragon beast heels like a mad demon spider to his waist either side.
To red and pink hellish lighting and plumes of flame, next up was ‘War Machine’, Followed by ‘Heaven’s On Fire’ and ‘I Love It Loud’ after which Simmons blew a fire cloud from his mouth which looked pretty impressive. After a brief rehearsal of the chorus with the audience it’s ‘Say Yeah’.
Tommy Thayer took centre stage in the spotlight for the start of ‘Cold Gin’ sung by Simmons, and at the end of that song Thayer remained alone on stage for his solo, shooting pyro from the end of his headstock causing “explosions” at the top of the back of the stage. Then - one of my favourites - ‘Lick It Up’ - cue for me to sing ALL the words. After that well known classic they launched into one “we haven’t played for a while” ‘Making Love’ from 1976’s ‘Rock And Roll Over’. The lights went up for Stanley to look at the audience and introduce ‘Calling Dr Love’ sung by Simmons.
Stanley and Thayer played guitar tag with some blistering licks, before he told the crowd that it’s the twentieth time they have played London and encouraged them to forget it’s Wednesday and act like it’s a Saturday night. The audience were probably exhausted though, as pretty much all the biggest Rock bands on the planet have been here for this charmed fortnight.
All the time Eric Singer had been holding Court at the back of the stage between two enormous black panthers with green laser eyes. He took the spotlight for the drum solo, twirling both sticks in each hand simultaneously. He engaged with the cameras to communicate with everyone, even those right at the back. The drum riser elevated right to the top of the ceiling while he played, a striking sight.
Stanley took the stage alone and did some microphone cord tricks, throwing it around like a lasso and letting it wrap and unwrap from his neck a la Michael Monroe. Next Simmons took over with his bass solo and blood vomiting taking him into the rafters on hydraulics for ‘God Of Thunder’.
Stanley told the crowd he remembers Hammersmith Odeon, The Marquee, Wembley, that he remembers it all and made anyone sitting down to get up “off their asses”. Then after making the crowd invite him by screaming his name he flew to the back of the auditorium on a zip wire to an island stage, a great way to make the people at the back feel special too. As the ultimate frontman he blossomed as the sole focal point of the arena and his voice sounded great for the ultimate Cock Rock song. Thayer came in with a blistering solo as he and Simmons were still on the main stage. After a bit of teasing with its melody and riffs on guitar and a perfectly sweet acapella of the iconic three “oo-oo-oo”s of that song for the audience to sing back, Stanley flew back to the main stage for the last song of the main set, ‘Black Diamond’, with huge fireworks like plumes and cartwheel-like light effects on the back of the screens.
For the encore it’s Singer’s time to shine on piano, front of stage, showing off his excellent voice for the epic ballad ‘Beth’. I was delighted that ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ is still in the set and Stanley’s voice sounded great on it live. It is my joint favourite KISS song with ‘Shock Me’ which has been taken out of the set since last time (although it was played at the VIP set earlier before the main show). No appearance of ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ either and the last song ever was ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’. Simmons shouted “London we love you!” and the confetti cannons went off. Stanley waved goodbye and did heart shapes with his fingers and thumbs. After the song finished Stanley swung high and smashed a guitar as if to say “won’t be needing this now” as he leant into the camera and said “London we will never forget you, goodbye”.
The set list has evolved from the last time they were at the 02 in 2017 although it retained the bare bones of that with a few different songs. Apart from the wild card ‘Making Love’ it is pretty much the same set as the last time they played Donington about a year ago.
KISS are and will remain the apotheosis of the over the top Glam Rock band. They still look and move exactly as they always did. The guitars sound the same. Paul’s voice has taken a hammering. For god’s sake, who wouldn’t get a little hoarse playing one night in three every year for decades. He’s still the ultimate Rock God no matter what and my favourite. “I can’t get enough of you Baby” indeed. Maybe with the advances in technology we will learn how to completely rejuvenate our bodies like in “Carry On Screaming”, and KISS, with all the money Simmons has been hoarding, can regenerate every night and we can do it all again. It’s a nice fantasy, but for now we have to say goodbye. Whatever happens I will remember this night and the others like this forever. To quote another Glam Rock band; “Don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”
Review Dawn Osborne Photos Dawn Osborne