KISS are a tough nut to crack. Some people think KISS are washed-up shells of their former selves coasting along on their legacy with more pompousness than they are entitled to possess. Others consider KISS one of the greatest rock bands of all time, who completely changed the game and established new precedents in popular music.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Detractors would note that KISS are cocksure simply in the way they carry themselves, and Gene Simmons’ jaw likely has stretchmarks from his foot living in his mouth rent-free for so long. They would also try to dampen their status as pioneers in both music and shock value in pointing out that acts like The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (whom KISS cites as an influence) made parents clutch their pearls almost a decade before KISS’ formation in 1973, and that Blue Oyster Cult took on a similar sound almost five years before then.
Those who view KISS more favorably would point out that acts such as Metallica, Guns ’n’ Roses, Weezer, Pearl Jam, Melvins, Iron Maiden, Slayer and Soundgarden were influenced by KISS, and that Simmons took Van Halen under his wing back when they were starry-eyed novices playing club gigs. They would just as readily argue that they brought concert merchandising to a new frontier and were light years ahead of the curve in their emphasis on branding. (They even sell KISS-branded caskets and urns.)
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What makes KISS so enigmatic is that all these arguments hold merit.
KISS’ history of crying wolf about bidding farewell aside, the window of opportunity to see them becomes progressively more narrow as Simmons and Paul Stanley inch closer to their 70s. At risk of getting blasted by die-hard KISS fans, we'll say hardly anything is sadder than the prospect of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss’ solo tours being the closest thing left of the band’s golden age.
Bearing this in mind, KISS’ last Dallas show ever is not something to take lightly, and as evidenced by the American Airlines Center being nearly sold-out, people were willing to take another chance and go out of their way on a weeknight to bid them bon voyage.
KISS deserves credit where it is due. They have showmanship down to a science, and they certainly know how to captivate an audience. Stanley made almost all the stage banter of the night and was most interactive with the crowd, even going as far as zip-lining across the sea of attendees with guitar in hand and performing “Love Gun” and “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” on a platform that stood opposite the stage on the other side of the arena’s tarped basketball court.
Stanley made it a point to prove to Dallas just how familiar he is with the area, listing surrounding suburbs and giving Fort Worth more recognition than they normally get from touring acts. That's more than a contrived gesture. Stanley and Simmons own a Rock & Brews franchise in The Colony. KISS played what is now FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco in 2010. GuideLive reported that Simmons played a living room show in Frisco almost a year ago to this day.
Even if Stanley’s use of the “Texas is its own country” cliché came off as pandering, they are indubitably familiar with DFW, and he still managed to make Wednesday night feel special for Dallas.
Simmons is often the first person people think of when they hear KISS’ name, but Stanley was the face of the band, and even the most bitter of detractors would not help but be completely charmed by his stage persona.
That's not to say that Simmons wasn’t the center of attention at any point. About an hour into the band’s set, Simmons stood atop a rising platform in the center of of the stage that elevated him to the level of the ceiling-mounted speakers. He played a bass solo for about five minutes, and within that interim, had fake blood pouring from his mouth just like the old days.
Lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer had their share of the spotlight, as well. While playing “Cold Gin,” the former played a two- to three-minute guitar solo with intermittent pyrotechnic freak-outs, and when KISS came back for an encore, the latter played “Beth” on a piano before the remaining band members were anywhere to be seen.
Whether you believe KISS are truly going away this time, they treated Wednesday night like it was the last time they would ever see us, and as such, they went out with a bang.
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Fireworks crackled throughout the night but made a grand finale with the help of a confetti cannon and the band’s signature pyrotechnics as they closed their 2-hour, 15-minute set with “Rock and Roll All Nite.” By the time the band exited the stage, the entire arena, still recovering from the blizzard of confetti, smelled like gunpowder, and the smoke carried its way to the venue’s corridors.
A foolproof measure of a band’s stage prowess is if audience members are high on life as they leave the show, and KISS met that test.
Sure, KISS may not be the most pioneering band of all time, and Simmons may be fluent in groan-inducing asininities. But with KISS’s unquestionable impact on pop culture and indisputable ability to command a packed stadium, they have carved a space of royalty in the music world, and nobody left AAC on Wednesday night without remembering that.