By Whitney Vickers
FAIRBORN – They showed us everything they’ve got, kept on dancin’ ‘til the room got hot, we drove them wild and they drove the crowd crazy.
Kiss performed its “Freedom to Rock” tour to the Wright State University Nutter Center Monday night, which was nothing short of energetic and creative. Highlighted by lasers and lights, fire and explosions, blood and floating band members, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley asked the crowd about midway through the show how many attendees were seeing Kiss live for the first time that night, which was met by a good deal of hands raised in the air.
“Aug. 22 isn’t a night you’ll forget,” he said. “Nobody forgets their first Kiss concert.”
And he was right.
The group brought every bit of energy it took to entertain fans of all ages. Children sported black-and-white paint on their faces, while adults came dressed in their favorite Kiss attire.
When Kiss was finally ready to start the show, the arena darkened, only highlighted with floating red lights and a low bass. Stanley’s voice echoed across the crowd, which brought fans to their feet.
“Alright, Dayton,” he said. “You wanted the best, you got the best — the hottest band in the world — Kiss.”
The curtain that hid the band from the crowd fell to the ground, revealing explosions behind drummer Eric Singer. Stanley, bassist and vocalist Gene Simmons and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer stood upon a raised platform as they played the beginning riffs for “Detroit Rock City.”
It was followed by “Deuce,” “Shout it Out Loud,” “Do you Love Me,” and “I Love it Loud.”
Stanley highlighted the fact that they were playing without pre-recorded music.
“What you hear is the four of us because we are a rock-n-roll band, because that’s what you deserve,” he said.
Monday’s concert was the first time the group had performed in the region since 2000. Travel back in time 41 years ago and take away 21 albums, millions of dollars, several tours, an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, changing band members and a reality show, and Kiss was first rocking the city. But during it all, members of the Kiss Army remained faithful. A sea of Kiss t-shirts waved throughout the Nutter Center and a number of fans dressed to impersonate band members, offering selfies to whoever would ask.
Kiss continued the show with “Flaming Youth,” followed by a solo by Simmons.
The arena darkened, the crowd shouted and his bass became the star of the show. He was highlighted by smoke at his feet and a green spotlight as he stood upon the stage on his own. Heavy bells started to accompany his instrument. He looked up, held his head still from previously jerking it back and forth, lights strobed and blood poured out of his mouth, which was met by even louder shouts from the crowd — then Simmons’s well-known tongue took over stardom as his solo continued.
That is, until Simmons was suspended into the air onto the center bank of lights above the stage, playing “God of Thunder” as he did so.
As the remaining Kiss members returned to the stage, they continued the show with “Psycho Circus,” “Shock Me” and a solo by Thayer, including a flaming rocket shot from his guitar, “Cold Gin” and “Lick it Up,” which has been played more than 1,500 times since its release in 1983 by 29 artists.
The crowd didn’t seem to mind that it had been played a few times. The “Lick it up” performance, along with all the other songs, was not short of flashing lights, explosions on stage and smoke at band members feet. But the difference the extra stage effects had during other songs and “Lick it Up” is that any crowd members who had taken a seat at that point found themselves standing up again, waving their arms, singing along and dancing to the music. Everyone seemed to know the words.
The show went on with “War Machine”, allowing Simmons to blow fire, and “Love Gun.” By this point, Stanley was ready to immerse himself into the crowd. He asked attendees to yell out his name to help welcome him before stepping onto a trapeze-like device, floating above the heads of attendees closest to the stage and stepping off onto another spinning platform located on the opposite side of the stage.
“Black Diamond” served as a transition song that indicated that the end of the show was near. Kiss, as well as the entire crowd, sang “Beth” together in the encore.
The band highlighted patriotism and military service members as Stanley explained the title of their tour, “Freedom to Rock,” followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner.
And, just like they’ve been doing since the 70s, Kiss “rock and rolled all night” and the leftover excitement from the show carried this reporter through partying the next day.
Editors note: Whitney Vickers had seen local artists perform at small venues and bars in the past, but this was her first concert of this kind. She experienced it alongside her coworker, friend and mother.