Legendary hard rockers KISS played one of their final shows at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert on November 1st. The American rock-and-roll icons (who have released 44 albums, sold more than 100 million records, and toured all around the globe) are celebrating their 50th year as a band, and the end of their active touring. If this really was one of KISS’s final concerts, it was one to be remembered — the pure spectacle of a KISS show is something that every serious rock and roll fan was hopefully lucky enough to experience at least once in their lives. Like a heavy metal mecca, their stage show with its pyro, lasers, fire, and flames is a rite of passage for any music lover, young or old.
This show at the beautifully adorned Acrisure Arena was a fantastic pageant of excess, and certainly a contradiction to Gene Simmons’s proclamation that “Rock is dead.” The huge crowd of multi-generational face-painted fans in attendance and the multiple long merch lines proved otherwise; certainly rock still pays at least. The new arena, a 2.5 hour drive from San Diego, is lushly appointed with beautiful seating, excellent sight lines, and very well balanced sound. Let’s face it, at this point KISS fans want options, things like VIP seats and special standing areas, meet and greets with pre-show sound checks, luxury boxes, and stage used guitars, and luckily at a KISS show everything is for sale.
Much has been said about KISS’s alleged use of backing tracks. At this show, the band seemed like a well-oiled machine. The setlist was dialed in, the sound was fantastic, and the banter between songs was well crafted and meaningful. Eric Singer on drums is an absolute powerhouse who delivered a phenomenal and very live drum solo. Tommy Thayer on guitar played some fantastic solos as well, and had one of the coolest parts of the show blasting alien spaceships with pyro from his guitar. Gene Simmons on bass was an absolute blast to watch, rocking out, waving his tongue, spitting blood, and throwing the horns – a true rock god personified. Paul Stanley on vocals was a dynamo as always, singing his heart out, truly engaging with the crowd, flying through the air to a B-Stage, and being in insanely phenomenal shape for a 71-year-old musician who refuses to act his age.
As I stood and watched this show, I glanced around me several times and saw tears rolling down the cheeks of fans in the audience, their black and white face paint smearing in to the faces of sad clowns. Regardless of what you think of KISS, its members, its history, and the music, it’s clear that they’re meaningful to a huge group of people. KISS’s live show is unexplainable by words, photos, or video; it is a visceral and powerful force that literally collapsed fans in this audience to the ground. I hope the people that fainted on to that floor are ok, I hope that I remembered to buy enough KISS merch, and I really hope that this wasn’t the last time I get to see this band in concert.