Review by John Jeffrey, Photos By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
Niagara Falls, NY – When it was announced earlier in the year that KISS would be playing a special outdoor concert at the Seneca Niagara Casino, I knew from seeing the Hollywood Vampires (featuring Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp) playing the same setup a year prior, that KISS’ show would have to be scaled down to fit the confines of the venue. This is not unfamiliar territory for KISS, as several of the shows that they are performing on this leg of the “KISS World” tour are ‘one-off’ type shows, which have the band playing venues you normally wouldn’t be seeing them perform in. While KISS drummer, Eric Singer, likened the situation to putting “10 pounds of bologna in a 5 pound bag,” many people wondered exactly how scaled down their show would be, in order to fit the room they were allotted in the casino parking lot.
Upon arriving at the venue, it was clear that the arrangements were not conducive for either Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley’s flying routines, although they were able to utilize the lifts at the end of the show which elevate Simmons and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer above the crowd during “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Regardless of the size of the stage, the 6,000+ fans in attendance enjoyed every minute of their 90 minute set, as many Niagara Falls natives seemed just to be happy to see the band return to the city for the first time since 1976.
In addition to the band dealing with smaller accommodations than they are usually accustomed to, mother nature also played a hand in slightly wreaking some havoc on the night’s proceedings. Huge gusts of wind made it difficult for KISS to use their traditional drop cloth curtain, while the crew struggled with it, at one point, even some of the photographers in the pit where trying to help by holding it in place. But after what seemed like an endless struggle, and it knocking over one of the confetti shooters, the KISS crew decided not to use it at all.
After some last second adjustments were made to the front center of the stage, KISS graced the stage around 8:30 pm and broke into the classic opening track from ‘KISS Alive!,’ “Deuce.” Although the flames seemed shorter in height due to shorter stage ceiling, there was no shortage of smoke, bombs or fire as the band wowed the KISS Army as they always do.
Setlist wise, while diehards always want to hear the more obscure tunes, KISS really hit on all points with their 16 song set. Playing most of their hits, throwing in one b-side (“Flaming Youth” from ‘Destroyer’) and playing one track representing the current lineup, “Say Yeah” from 2009’s ‘Sonic Boom’ CD, you really couldn’t ask for more than that.
Both Singer and Thayer got their opportunities to bask in the spotlight, as the current “Catman” sang the obligatory “Black Diamond,” Tommy simply killed it when he took the mic to sing lead on “Shock Me,” which was followed up by his guitar solo segment. Over the past several years of watching Thayer doing his solo routine (which he continues to utilize the rocket launching guitar effect on this tour), it seems like he’s really honed in on his choice of guitar licks and the timing of his rocket propelled explosions. It was the perfect mix of visual and audio – ear and eye candy – and the perfect length of time to make the fans take notice of how awesome he really is as KISS’ lead guitarist, without overstaying his welcome.
With co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley still being the two focal points after all these years, they never fail to entertain and Stanley’s command of the crowd remains unmatched and Simmons’s tried and true blood spitting and fire breathing routines never fail to elicit the reactions from the crowd that they continue to do after 40+ years. Again, the elements played a factor in the show when Simmons had to re position his stance onstage before unleashing his ball of flame, as the swirling winds made it difficult to decipher which way the wind was actually blowing.
Whether people saw KISS for the first time that night or for the 50th or 500th time, everyone left the show with a smile on their face. The bottom line is that KISS entertains the crowd like no other band in the history of rock and roll, and while often imitated, there will never be another band quite like KISS.
KISS Setlist- 08-19-2017