Review by John Jeffrey, Photos by Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Darien, NY - Ending the 2012 concert season at the Darien Lake PAC was the show which paired rock legends KISS and Motley Crue, with the bill being aptly named, "The Tour." It's been almost 30 years since the bands have toured together, as Motley Crue opened up for KISS on a string of dates during the "Creatures of the Night" tour, before they were unceremoniously booted off the tour for some lewd behavior involving a couple members of the Crue, and then KISS drummer, Eric Carr's girlfriend. Both bands were in very different places in their careers than they are today. In 1983, KISS were at the end of their first phase in makeup, and trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves, as their popularity was severely waning at that point. Motley Crue were just at the beginning of their rise to fame, as they were about to begin the "Shout At the Devil" era. Three decades later, KISS is in their second phase of having their makeup on, while Motley has long since taken theirs off, and both bands are still enjoying having huge successful careers, and are as popular as ever in 2012.
When "The Tour" was announced back in March of this year, with everything that was being talked about, it initially seemed that "The Tour" would be in support of new albums by both bands, but unfortunately, that did not materialize. KISS' release date for their "Monster" CD got pushed back from the originally slated date in June (which would have been before "The Tour" commenced) to October (9th). And while Motley were promising a new release as well, bassist Nikki Sixx recently put the kibosh on those initial rumblings and stated that there are no plans at all for a new Motley Crue album. What the fans did get were 2 abbreviated 80 minute sets by both bands, featuring their 'greatest hits' and one new song from each group. In addition, they added the UK group, The Treatment, to open the show.
Being the middle of September, it was a reasonably warm Fall evening. After a quick 30 minute set by The Treatment, Motley hit the stage around half past seven. Utilizing a camouflaged version of the KISS stage, Motley opened the show with the title track to their most recent CD, 2008's "Saints of Los Angeles." Playing song after song, Motley seemed like an indestructible machine, up until singer Vince Neil announced to the crowd that he had a broken foot (which he suffered a few days earlier in Cleveland, OH) and said that KISS lent him one of their boots in order to make it through the show. Even hobbling around with what looked like a modified Tommy Thayer boot, Neil was all over the stage, doing his typical sing every other word routine. Crue's presentation was more theatrical than KISS,' as there were several stage props and dancers used throughout their set. One thing I noticed is Motley's fascination with testing the limits of how much abuse their fan base will take at their concerts. Whether it's buckets of fake blood, Nikki Sixx's spitting machine, or full on water cannons dousing the crowd with gallons of H2O, it seems the Motley fans must be gluttons for punishment, as they keep coming back for more. With the temperature dropping down into the 50's, it seemed like a bad idea to repeatedly spray the audience with water, considering how cold it was getting.
Tommy Lee got his moment in the spotlight with his 'roller coaster' drum solo, which he started doing on the previous Motley tour. In case you haven't seen it, Lee's drum set is actually mounted on full scale rollercoaster rail, which travels 360 degrees on the one full loop they constructed in the center part of the stage. Tommy plays along to Die Antwoord's "I Fink U Freeky" as he circles the loop, and for his 'finale,' he picks a contest winner from the crowd to ride the coaster with him, as they jam out to the "Love Rollercoaster." Crue ended their set with the classic "Kickstart My Heart," which was rather fitting, as the intro to the song is similar to Montrose's "Bad Motor Scooter," which is the song KISS would frequently play over the PA system before starting their show.
As the ending notes of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" rattled through the PA, the droning sound - which I know all too well - reverberated throughout the PAC. The time was here, KISS is coming!! Fans screamed and cheered as the giant black and silver "KISS" curtain dropped revealing the KISS frontline of Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley, as they grinded out the hammering riff to the beginning of "Detroit Rock City," as they descended from the ceiling of the stage on a platform, which lowered them to center stage. This amazing opening set the tone for a great show by the 'hottest band in the land.' Although the sound started out uneven, once they got the guitar mix right, it was golden from that point on. While Motley relied on the stage and the theatrics for their show, the four members of KISS are the show, and the stage is simply their vehicle to amplify their already outrageous personas. Amplify they did, as a mixture of stage shots and pre-recorded video were shown on the giant video screen, which ran the whole length of the stage. The descending steps on either side of the drum riser had lights which lit up in correlation to whatever images were on the video screen. At the end of the steps were smaller video screens, which extended to the far edges of each side of the stage. Although there was no physical KISS sign onstage, there were several images of the logo shown on the screen and drummer Eric Singer had to 2 miniature light up KISS logos on his bass drum skins.
On this tour, KISS have tuned their guitars a half step lower than they usually do. Going from E flat down to D has given the songs a heavier sound. In addition to the lower tuning, they have purposely slowed the tempo down on some of the songs like "War Machine" and "Firehouse," making them sound really thunderous. Tommy and Eric's combined solo spot was once again the highlight of the show. This time around, they shortened the musical interludes a bit, making it flow a little better, which made for a tighter performance.
A topic of much discussion as of late has been Paul Stanley's voice. Every since undergoing vocal surgery last year, Paul's vocals have been under scrutiny by the fans. After making some minor adjustments (the lower tuning, less talking in between songs, etc.), Paul seems really comfortable when he's singing and sounded great on this night. His vocals were remarkable on "Hell Or Hallelujah" (the first single from "Monster") and heard him hit some of the highest notes I've ever heard him sing on "Lick It Up."
Gene Simmons, of course, was 'the man.' Perhaps one of the most underrated bassists in rock and roll, Simmons held down the low end all night. While he usually sticks to the traditional bass lines, sometimes Gene will improv a little and throw in some tasty licks, as he did on "Shock Me." For the past few weeks on "The Tour," KISS has been changing up the second last encore song, and on this night, Gene Simmons let everyone know that he is still "Dr. Love." Ending the show with "Rock and Roll All Night," it seemed surreal in how quick the show was over. But hearing the 20,000 plus at Darien Lake sing the chorus to "RARAN" was definitely a perfect ending to a great season of music at the PAC. KISS proved that they definitely saved the best for last.
Special Thanks to Lynn McDonnell and Eric Singer for allowing RockMusicStar to cover this show.