Review / photos - John Jeffrey
When KISS had announced their 2016 Summer “Freedom To Rock” tour in America, it came as somewhat of a surprise, as there was much speculation regarding whether or not KISS would tour this year in the US, as it was heavily rumored that KISS would be doing a European trek this time around. In addition, there was some discussion about KISS doing the Live Nations sheds, but KISS opted to stay cool this summer by playing mostly indoor arenas, instead of the hot and sweaty, outdoor amphitheaters.
Traveling the country throughout July and August and closing September 10th in Huntington, West Virginia, the KISS “Freedom To Rock” tour will wind up bringing the band to more than 25 cities that they haven't been to in over 10+ years and four brand new cities as well. Considering KISS announced their tour somewhat later than previously announced tours by bands like Guns n' Roses and Def Leppard, it was a smart move on the band's behalf to take the “Freedom To Rock” tour to fans in markets that haven't had the chance to see them in some time, or ever at all.
Rock Music Star had the opportunity to catch the tour at 2 stops on the east coast, August 27th in Erie, PA and August 29th in Rochester, NY. Since the beginning of the tour (which started in Boise, ID on July 7th), the band has experimented with quite a few different tunes and also changing the order of the songs, before settling on the set that band performed on both nights I had the opportunity to witness. With all of the changes the band has made, I am most impressed by how well the set flowed. Having seen KISS live now over 50 times, I have to say that the current set they are performing is perhaps the fastest paced show I've ever seen them do. Starting with what has been an opening show staple for many years, "Detroit Rock City" - leading right into the Gene Simmons' classic, with perhaps the coolest choreographed stage move in rock and roll history (aka "The KISS sway") - "Deuce," KISS pummels the crowd with hit after hit, keeping the fans on their feet, with their fists in the air. Throughout the hit laden set, KISS diehards get fed morsels with the rarely played 'Destroyer' gem, "Flaming Youth" and "War Machine," as the latter has replaced "Firehouse," once again becoming the song to showcase Gene's fire breathing act.
Keeping the stage raps to a minimum, in order for Paul Stanley to preserve his voice (which when asked to evaluate the current condition of his pipes, Stanley will tell you, "I never promise perfection, but I guarantee passion"), the band quickly segued in and out solo spots by Simmons and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer. Thayer, who by the way, has become much more than a repl-ace-ment (see what I did there?), as he plays every guitar solo with the perfect combination of technique, vibrato and just enough slop, to keep it "rock and roll."
You can never say enough good things about KISS drummer, Eric Singer. Singer has been the MVP for KISS now for many years, as not only is he the ultimate power-house drummer, but he is the consummate showman behind the kit and when Paul Stanley says that Eric the best vocalist in the band, I wouldn't argue that assessment.
The only time the show slows down is during the encores, when Stanley addresses the crowd regarding their undying support of the US military. For the "Freedom to Rock" tour, KISS have partnered with Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) and Veteran Tickets Foundation (Vet Tix) to salute members of the National Guard and military Reserve forces. Every night of the tour, KISS hires a currently serving member of the National Guard or Reserve force to be a “Roadie for the Day.” In addition, KISS donates a limited number of tickets to veterans in each community and distribute those tickets through VetTix.org. As each of the tour stops are all home to a large number of Army and Air National Guard or Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Reserve members, Stanley reminds us that "freedom" isn't necessarily "free" for everybody, as it’s "been upheld by our veterans and active duty service members.” The band also brings up several armed service members onstage, as they testify their dedication to the men and women in uniform, by symbolically handing over a giant check for $150,000 to this tour's cause.
Visually, the "Freedom of Rock" tour is very similar to the stage KISS created for their 2014 Vegas residency, which was just released as 'KISS Rocks Vegas' on August 26th - in multiple formats (DVD + CD, Blu-ray + CD, DVD + 2 LP, and the Deluxe Edition DVD + Blu-ray + 2 CD). While some may say the stage is simplistic in design, in this case, less IS more, as just seeing the four members onstage and on the big screen behind them is completely entertaining, just in itself. Add the pyro, the bombs, the lasers, the flying rigs and the confetti, it's as Paul Stanley says, "anyone with enough money can buy our stage, but not just anyone can be KISS."
As this tour winds down, one can't help but think, "what will be next for KISS?" For a band, whose oldest members are nearly 70 years of age, it's just incredible to see how much they still have left in the tank. They may slow down, they may bend, but they will never break. KISS is immortal. You wanted the best, you got the best!
For more on KISS, visit www.kissonline.com
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Do You Love Me
I Love It Loud
God of Thunder
Lick It Up
The Star-Spangled Banner
Rock and Roll All Nite