KISS/Def Leppard | 08.28.14

live KISS_smWith classic songs like “Shout It Out Loud,” “Lick It Up,” and “Calling Dr. Love,” who needs deep cuts?

 


live KISS

Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, St. Louis

It was a particularly “metal” night, with the skies over Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre exhibiting enough thunder and lightning to give even the God of Thunder pause. This didn’t stop the 18,000 rock fans from packing the venue for the KISS and Def Leppard concert.

The Dead Daisies started off the night with a raucous set, entrenched in the classic rock–radio vibe of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company, and Free. It was a homecoming of sorts for their guitarist, Guns N Roses axe man and Pale Divine legend Richard Fortus. His melodic solos cut through the mix as he ably struck every rock star pose like a boss. As usual, no one could keep their eyes off him, and by the time they played a scorching version of The Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” the crowd could have cared less if it was the apocalypse going on, much less a thunderstorm.

Def Leppard took the stage with “Let It Go” from their multiplatinum 1981 album High ’n’ Dry, with guitarists Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen effortlessly trading off solos as “The Ricks” (Allen and Savage) kept the rhythm grooving like a well-oiled pop-rock machine. Joe Elliot, decades into the game, has a voice that maintains the classic feel of the old material, but enough kicked-around maturity to keep it fresh after singing these songs forever. The video screens were put to magnificent use, especially on “Rocket,” where they seemed to morph into a solid wall of 3D television screens, each transmitting pieces of rock history. From “Photograph” to “Love Bites,” the set was a veritable Top 40 playlist, with the crowd singing along to nearly every word. It was clear that the evening’s headliners had no issue with being shown up. And just how about those headliners?

Celebrating their 40th anniversary, as well as their recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, KISS made the type of bombastic entrance that only they could. Descending from the top of the stage on a giant metal spider to the tune of the Grammy-nominated “Psycho Circus,” KISS hit the ground running, with more pyro in one show than Verizon Amphitheatre has seen all summer. The spider itself turned out to be a lighting truss unlike anything I’d ever seen, changing shape and surrounding the band members, sometimes resembling a giant claw. The KISS Army was there to have a good time, so it hardly mattered that the set list hadn’t changed much. With classic songs like “Shout It Out Loud,” “Lick It Up,” and “Calling Dr. Love,” who needs deep cuts? The set wasn’t without surprises, however; it was a treat to hear “Hotter than Hell,” and an even bigger surprise hearing the under-appreciated gem “Hide Your Heart” from the band’s non-makeup era album, Hot in the Shade.

From Simmons breathing fire after “War Machine,” and spitting blood and flying to the top of the lighting truss on “God of Thunder,” to guitarist Tommy Thayer shooting rockets from the tip of his guitar, the band packed every trick in the book into the show. Lead vocalist and guitarist Paul Stanley got into the action flying from the main stage to a smaller stage in the middle of the amphitheatre for spirited renditions of “Love Gun” and “Black Diamond.” Stanley reminisced about visiting St. Louis over the past 40 years, even namedropping Kiel Auditorium and the Checkerdome before remarking that KISS has been pummeling St. Louis since “before a lot of you were even born.”

Looking around at the smiles and sing-alongs, it’s worth noting that that no one was missing former members of the band at all. KISS, like it or not, is an institution, and everyone was simply having too damn much fun to be pining for those who just can’t hack it any longer. With Stanley in fine voice, Simmons still stalking the stage like the lizard king of Transylvania, Thayer displaying his typically fiery fretwork, and Singer assaulting the skins with a precision and groove the band had never had previously, why stop? So, happy 40th anniversary, boys; don’t forget to stop by St. Louis on your 50th. | Jim Ousley

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