KISS detonates a “Sonic Boom” at Acrisure Arena in Palm Springs
On November 1, 2023 KISS continued their “End of the Road Tour,” which initially started in 2019, and was originally scheduled to conclude on July 17, 2021 in New York City. The tour was announced in September 2018 following a KISS performance of the band’s classic song “Detroit Rock City” on “America’s Got Talent,” but due to the pandemic it has stretched over four years, and will be wrapping up at the beginning of December in Madison Square Garden with two final shows. This will be the third time KISS has announced it would be their last show, perhaps three is a charm, and it could be their KISS goodbye!
Paul Stanley has stated, “this is going to be the biggest show we’ve ever put on,” with over the top pyrotechnics, hydrolic stages, industrial sized bucket trucks that hoist Gene and Tommy high in the air while playing over the sold-out crowd, massive blow up figurines of each member in the band placed as book ends on each side of the stage, and the largest video screens which assure that everyone has the best seat in the venue. Stanley added: “I know there are entertainers right now who can draw bigger crowds, but I don’t know if they are going to in the next 50 years. We have done that. Our devoted fan base is almost like a tribe. We don’t make art that is intellectual, we make art that’s emotional. That’s why people remember their first KISS concert, their first KISS song, and they remember when KISS first came on the radio. It’s a powerful connection.”
“We can’t be running around for that much longer in 40 pounds of gear,” Stanley previously told Rolling Stone of the farewell tour. “There’s nothing maudlin about it. It’s a celebration with our fans around the world. We wanted to raise the bar again as to what a band can do live. That’s really what we’ve always done. We’ve always wanted to be the band we never saw. There are a lot of shows out there that have KISS DNA in them because there really weren’t shows of any magnitude before us.”
If you’re reading this, you most likely are a KISS fanatic and just can’t get enough of them. The band has this effect on its fans, aka The KISS Army. I know the feeling, because from the first time I was exposed to their KISS Alive album in 1976 at the age of 12, I was hooked! Pretty much everything about KISS is amazing: the self-mythologizing, the boldness, and the complete grandiosity of their stage show, which is like the 4th of July. The band have earned the loyalty that fills arenas after 50 years by giving the crowds what they want, and they have become one of rock’s biggest brands, claiming “You wanted the best, you got the best!”
I’m not going to give you the complete KISSTORY, you should know that by now, although, KISS is regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of all time, as well as one of the best selling bands of all time, selling more than 75 million records worldwide, including 21 million albums. KISS has also earned 30 Gold albums, the most of any band from the United States. KISS has 14 Platinum albums, three of which went multi-platinum. On April 10, 2014, the four original members of KISS, Gene Simmons aka (The Demon), Paul Stanley aka (Starchild), Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. KISS was ranked by MTV as the ninth “Greatest Metal Band of All Time,” and placed tenth on VH1’s “100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock” list, as well as being ranked as the third “Best Metal and Hard Rock Live Band of All Time.” The current members of KISS include Gene Simmons (founding member on bass/co-lead vocals), Paul Stanley (founding member on guitar/co-lead vocals), Tommy Thayer (guitar/backing vocals), and Eric Singer (drums/backing vocals). This has been their long standing line-up for quite some time.
The doors opened at 6pm, and there was already a couple thousand fans waiting out front at 4pm when I arrived, sporting their vintage tour t-shirts, some dressed up like their favorite KISS idols plus many fans with their faces painted.
Acrisure Arena is located in the greater Palm Springs area, and opened its doors in December of 2022 with a max capacity of 11,000. It is the home arena for the American Hockey League’s Coachella Valley Firebirds. So in essence, this was an intimate setting to see the biggest band in the world!
Over the loud speaker the famously coined phrase of, “You wanted the best, you got the best!,” launched the beginning of the show, as the huge black KISS curtain dropped over the heads of 11,000 fans while pyrotechnics erupted and fireballs shot towards the ceiling. Each member of the band was standing on octagon flying saucer-type platforms that lowered them onstage from high above the lighting rigs, and the show had begun with three thunderous fist-pumping sing-a-longs: “Detroit Rock City,” “Shout it Out Loud,” and “Deuce,” all punctuated with more explosions and fire than ever before.
The setlist dipped into several eras, including ‘80s hits such as an extended “Lick It Up” that included some cool dual guitar bits from Stanley and Thayer that dipped into the familiar middle section of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” up to 2009′s Sonic Boom. But it leaned heavily on the first three albums with fan favorites including “Cold Gin” and “Black Diamond,” and moved into Simmons’ “Dr. Love.”
Simmons, whose deep, gravelly voice still oozes with salacity, nailed all of his lead vocals and of course gave fans what they came for, spitting fire during a thumping “Love It Loud” and drooling “blood” during his bass solo followed by “God of Thunder” on a small rising stage.
The stage show is always one of the best parts of a KISS show. There are several octagons on the stage that are all screens. They change completely throughout the show. During “God of Thunder” they all become Gene’s face singing at you, for a powerful and very cool effect. The pyro and explosions are non stop. Almost every song has something different. Singer’s drums are up on a riser that goes up into the air right in front of a massive flame throwing machine. The flames come sideways, then horizontal and vertical, they go everywhere. All the regular effects are still there, with Gene blood spitting and fire breathing. The stage and show are a massive celebration of KISS. This was one of the best KISS shows I have ever seen!
They’ve also never lost the hard rock habit of giving everyone a solo, and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer’s were impressive, with fireworks shooting out of his headstock, while Singer thumped tremendous speeds of fills on his kit. Despite being older, Stanley is still a fully capable performer. He introduced every song with encapsulating energy, and even ziplined out to a platform in the middle of the audience to perform, “Love Gun” and stayed out for the beginning of the 1979 classic, “I Was Made for Lovin’ You.” But nobody commanded attention quite like Simmons. His abnormally long yet world famous tongue was a true spectacle and a staple of the KISS experience. Simmons also stole the show with vocals on “Calling Dr. Love,” then with a flaming sword display while singing “War Machine,” and then an engaging call and response with the audience paired with fake blood oozing from his mouth to lead into “God of Thunder.” At the age of 72, Simmons has kept the wild spirit that made him such a high profile rockstar at his peak.
KISS ended the show with “I Was Made for Loving You” upon Stanley’s return to the stage, but fans knew there was an encore to follow, as a piano was pulled onto the stage while the lights were out for Singer to play and sing “Beth,” for an emotional and less exotic ballad (the bands only #1 hit), that all fans could relate to.
KISS closed the encore with “Rock and Roll All Nite” as confetti sprayed all over the stage and the stands, and the air was filled with sulphur. The entire venue sang along, and soaked the moment in as it was the last time many of them would see the legendary band live.
Stanley gave the concert a strong ending, as he kissed all over the body of his guitar before he emphatically brought it to the ground, teasing us of smashing it in two. Then he twirled the microphone, grabbed it and looked to the crowd, addressing everyone one last time with “Palm Springs! Don’t forget about us, as we will never forget about you. We love you. Goodnight!” and the lights went out.
Detroit Rock City
Shout it Out Loud
Heaven’s on Fire
I Love it Loud
Lick it Up
God of Thunder
I Was Made for Lovin’ You
Do You Love Me
Rock and Roll All Nite