KISS With Def Leppard Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas Sunday, July 13, 2014
Paul Stanley can fly. He soared over the audience, a star shooting across a starlit sky Sunday night at the Gexas Energy Pavilion. He landed on a spinning platform, while a demon, a cat and his Space Ace protector waited in the shadows. Standing above the crowd, Stanley played his guitar and worked the crowd like the superstar he is.
It's been 40 years. I've waited nearly half of my life to see the "greatest show on earth." Thousands of people were in attendance and one dollar of every ticket was donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. I'd never seen this many people at the pavilion in the two years I've been reporting for the Dallas Observer. KISS and Def Leppard didn't disappoint.
Def Leppard opened for KISS, playing hits like "Hysteria," "Bringing on the Heartbreak" and "Love Bites," reminding me of every breakup I experienced when I was younger. Hearing "Armageddon It" and "Let's Get Rocked" after all these years made it nearly impossible not to sing along with the rest of the crowd.
A big screen behind the band flashed pictures of yesteryear, and a few of when drummer Rick Allen still had both of his arms. Losing an arm would end most musicians' careers, but Allen not only retained his ability but increased his talent by becoming an animal on the drums. Hair disheveled, drenched in sweat as he drove the beat with one arm and two feet, Allen resembled a demonic animal beating his drums in a place that felt like hell. It was perfect.
Singer Joe Elliot wore a jacket in hell. Several of them, in fact. It was 101 degrees but felt like 120 inside the amphitheater, increasing the closer you got to the stage. "This is officially the hottest gig... in Dallas," said Elliot after closing the show with an encore performance that included "Rock of Ages" and "Photograph." He should have worn a muscle t-shirt.
KISS took the heat to the next level. Riding atop a giant mechanical spider, Starchild (Paul Stanely), the Demon (Gene Simmons) and Space Ace (Tommy Thayer) descended toward the stage while Catman (Eric Singer) beat away on his drums. Bombs exploded, flames flashed and sparks shot from guitars, with the remnants of the supermoon lingering above. It was the perfect way to celebrate 40 years of a band that finally earned their rightful place in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.
"The hottest band in the world," said the announcer, and the guys proved it by unloading their decades of hits. "Hotter Than Hell," "Love Gun," "War Machine" -- they were in top form this evening. Despite what some would consider a rocky start (the heat took your breath away, especially wearing spandex and heavy makeup) Starchild quickly recovered and fired everyone up. Guitars loaded with picks like bullets in a gun belt, he and Space Ace threw pick after pick into the crowd while fireworks exploded while bursts of flame blazed and a mad demon blew fire.
By the end of the night, the water in my cup was boiling.
Standing at center stage, wielding a battle-axe bass, the Demon looked menacing wearing bloodstained armor with horns protruding from his shoulders and calves. Black and white makeup streaked as the temperature increased, he resembled a possessed mime. Spitting blood was just one of his many tricks. He could also fly. Black wings bellowing under his arms as he soared to take his place atop the mechanical spider. He roared his anthem "God of Thunder" and fucked his microphone with his tongue. The kids in the audience were mesmerized.
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A night of KISS is the epitome of arena shows. No one does it better.
If there were any mishaps in musicianship, no one seemed to notice it. I was too busy enjoying my first KISS Alive experience and becoming a full member of the KISS Army.
At the end of the show, instead of teasing the audience by lingering off stage for their encore return, KISS decided not to waste time due to a city noise ordinance. They ended the night with crowd favorites "Detroit Rock City" and "Rock 'n' Roll All Night." As the rest of the band said their goodbyes, Starchild smashed what I hoped was a guitar made in China against the stage.
It truly was the "greatest show on earth."