I'll admit it. I was scared of Gene Simmons. As a little kid in the 70s, I prayed that I wouldn't have any dreams about KISS. Although I mentioned the band in those nightly prayers, it was Simmons who frightened me like no one else when I was seven.
Maybe it's because I'm an adult now; maybe it's because a heavier, 60-year-old Simmons seems less menacing and more cartoonish to me; it's probably a little of both, but he's not so scary anymore. What remains, however, is an odd fascination with the band that will be playing Cincinnati's Riverbend Music Center on Friday July 30. It is the closest they will be coming to Louisville; although they will also appear at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis on August 7.
The Cincinnati show will also feature Lexington band Superunknown as one of the opening acts. They were the winners of Guitar Center/Eventful On Stage With KISS competition. (Louisville band The Zoo Kings were also in the running.)
Even had the poorly named KFC Yum! Center been opened by now, chances are KISS wouldn't have come here since most shows on their summer Hottest Show on Earth tour are outdoors, anyway. Louisville Slugger Field would have been a nice venue, though. Nevertheless, just an hour-and a-half drive up I-71 will get you to the big rock spectacle, which is in many ways probably not so far removed from one of their concerts 30 years ago. Surely, there will be fireworks, rising stages, fire-eating, and blood spitting. And if the playing isn't the focus, or the acoustics aren't great, or even if the music isn't your cup of team, all of that almost seems ancillary. Few bands have ever embraced the gimmicks and tricks of a massive stage show quite like KISS, and few fans have gone away without being thoroughly entertained.
What is a bit different this time around is that they're promoting a new album. Sonic Boom is the first KISS record of new material since 1998's Psycho Circus. Although it's not a greatest hits or reunion tour, typical set lists so far on this tour have only included three songs from Sonic Boom. That, however, probably won't bother many longtime fans who want to hear the classics, especially those people who still think Peter Criss and Ace Frehley are in the band. The lineup over the past fifteen years, however, may be a little difficult for even a member of the KISS Army to get right.
Drummer Eric Singer became KISS' drummer in 1991 replacing the late Eric Carr (who replaced Peter Criss in 1981) and took a backseat when Criss returned. Since 2004, Singer has been KISS' only drummer. Guitarist Tommy Thayer actually was in the lineup with Criss beginning in 2002 and is part of the KISS Symphony DVD, which chronicles a super show with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It would be interesting to hear - deep down - how Criss and Frehley feel about someone else wearing the makeup and using the Spaceman and Catman personas they helped create. They have been gracious publically about it, but you'd think it would be a sore spot to say the least. But fans need to give Singer and Thayer credit. They had big shoes to fill ... six-inch platforms (rim shot). And their musicianship is on par or, some fans say, even better than those they replaced. Front man Paul Stanley remains in excellent shape as he, too, nears 60. He's still capable of dancing around and smashing guitars for two hours each night.
KISS last appeared in Louisville on December 8, 2003 when they played Freedom Hall. Freedom Hall was a popular stop for the band; KISS played there on April 29, 2000, June 30, 1996, December 29, 1987, December 12, 1985, December 15, 1984, December 12, 1977, August 9, 1976, and December 27, 1075. They also played a small club called Beggar's Banquet on April 14, 1974. What makes me feel old is that I distinctly remember radio commercials promoting the December 1977 show; you remember the type with the big voice guy using a dramatic delivery. For some reason, I thought KISS played the same night as A Charlie Brown Christmas aired. I could be wrong; I was only seven. I know; it doesn't matter.
Anyway, tickets for Friday's show range from $151.35-$38.10. The cheapest (and few) Pavilion seats left are $58.65. Lawn seats are $38.10, and children 14 and under get in free on the lawn with the purchase of an adult lawn ticket. This is good for up to four children per valid adult (21 and over). Who would have thought that one day KISS would be considered wholesome family entertainment? So, bring the kids. Plus, KISS will be donating one dollar from every ticket to the Wounded Warriors Project, a charity that benefits the United States Armed Forces.
Superunknown will be one of three opening acts along with The Academy Is... and The Envy. The opening sets begin at 6:30, so chances are KISS won't make their presence known until 8:00 or 8:30. It should be a lot of fun ... but not too scary.