There was a lot of anticipation building up to the KISS show smoking Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort. Press credentials were in short supply and late in arriving. The photography rules where more stringent than typical, too. Arrive by 6 p.m. — two songs only, then escorted out — no reviewer seats (but my friends at the GSR were kind enough to take care of me on that one) – If you’re staying, the camera equipment must leave the theater.
When I arrived shortly before 6 p.m., the line was already long. Fans started arriving about noon. Lots of them were in the process of applying their KISS face makeup. And smoke it did.
The crowd was amazingly diverse. There were a lot of fans in various degrees of KISS makeup and costume. You had beautiful people, ugly people, scary people, athletic types, young, old, physically challenged people, wasted people, politicians, and celebrities… It was your normal rock and roll show crowd.
Showmanship is the mainstay of a KISS show, and there was no shortage of that. If you have never seen a KISS show, it will take your breath away. If you have, you know what to expect. Lots of spit, blood (fake), pyrotechnics, fog, lights, makeup, costumes, posing and volume.
The show began with the band emerging to the roar of the crowd from a shroud of bloo- red fog that enveloped the stage, and promptly kicking into “Deuce.” Not wasting any time, Gene Simmons’ tongue made a quick appearance, darting out and waggling from side to side, spittle dripping from its tip (you gotta love it).
Since Simmons was right in from of me in my pit post, I really didn’t get a good view of the other band members, but it was hard to take my eyes off of this huge figure in a demonic bat-like costume right in from of me, shaking his head, mouth wide open, drooling and grabbing his crotch for the crowd. During his bass, solo it seemed as if he cut his lip, because about a pint of “blood” gushed out all over his chest, but he kept going. The show must go on.
Paul Stanley assumed the role of master of ceremonies, taking charge of all the announcing and chatting between songs. During “War Machine” he brought a young girl out from the wings to help him play guitar. She had on a KISS-adorned dress and Stanley’s star-child face makeup. She stood between him and his guitar while he played. When this was over and she was leaving the stage he had her stop and take a bow. It was very cool.
Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer, who joined the band full time in 2002, is an amazing player, shredding all night long. He especially killed it with an extended solo in “Shock Me.” Eric Singer has been playing the drums and singing with KISS since 1991, joining the band after the death of drummer Eric Carr. Together, these two with Simmons and Stanley make a tight foursome and a powerful band. With ages ranging from 58 to 67, the energy onstage is amazing. Not too many men could pull off wearing a half-shirt at age 65, but Stanley looked to be in great shape. He even flashed a little nipple at the crowd, laughing as he did it.
After “Black Diamond,” Reno Mayor Hillary Shieve and Lotus radio’s Shane Whitecloud came out along with a full color guard. The mayor presented KISS with the key to the city and declared April 21, “KISS Day” during their salute to the armed forces. Whitecloud, who works with The Veterans Resource Center, came to the mic to also acknowledge KISS’ personal involvement with veterans and their contribution of $150,000 to “Hiring our Heroes,” a nationwide initiative to help veterans, transitioning service members and military spouses find meaningful employment opportunities.
When it comes to KISS, I am neither a lover nor a hater. There is no debating that KISS has left its mark on American culture. The band has gone from the crazy rock ‘n’ roll group that mothers hid their daughters from, to the classic iconic band that parents take their kids to. KISS is not just men in tights wearing makeup and playing rock ‘n’ roll. They are truly wonderful people.
Next stop for KISS: Moscow, Russia on Monday, May 1; Helsinki, Finland, on Thursday, May 4; Stockholm, Sweden, on Saturday, May 6.
Get off the couch and go out and hear live music. You just might be surprised at what you enjoy.
Gene Simmons – bass guitar, vocals, fire breathing blood drooler
Paul Stanley – guitars, vocals, MC
Tommy Thayer – lead guitar, vocals, shredding
Eric Singer – drums, vocals, rhythm master
- SET LIST
Shout it Out Loud
Hide Your Heart
I Love it Loud
Lick It Up
Let Me Go Rock ‘n Roll
Detroit Rock City
Rock ‘n Roll All Night