Kiss (End Of The Road 2019 - Manchester)

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Kiss (End Of The Road 2019) - Manchester Arena, Manchester (UK) - 12 July 2019

"You wanted the best, you got the best. The hottest band in the world, Kiss!" Never a band to hide their light under a bushel, Kiss have always been very self-assured. To have this level of cockiness (confidence) you have to be able to back it up, and over the years they have proven themselves to their devout fans (the Kiss Army) and proved their detractors wrong. They promised the 'End Of The World Farewell Tour' would be bigger and better than anything that had gone before, and lo and behold, they only went and did it, again!

There was definitely an air that this was in fact their farewell tour, but rather than it be a sad and sombre occasion, the fans turned up in their thousands in joyous party mood. Indeed, the atmosphere was palpable, and when the strains of Led Zeppelin's 'Rock 'n' Roll' faded, and the two large video screens either side of the stage (shaped in the Kiss Army logo) showed the four band members leave the dressing room it reached fever pitch. The aforementioned statement was heard from behind the huge curtain, emblazoned with the Kiss logo. Then BANG! The curtain fell and Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer, clad in full make-up and stage gear, descended to the stage floor from elevated platforms. Lights, pyro and a huge octagonal video-screen left fans, seeing Kiss for the first time, picking their jaws off the floor, whilst long-term fans were just simply in awe of their heroes. All this to set opener, the classic 'Detroit Rock City'. They say go home, or go big. Kiss decided to go big, following up the opening number with further classics 'Shout It Out Loud' and 'Deuce'. Fears of poor vocals and backing tapes were unfounded, and indeed Stanley sounded better than the last time I saw him headline at Download in 2015. The YouTube clips recorded on people's cell-phones might contradict that statement; however, trust me, I was there!

Unfortunately, many of us in attendance at this evening's show missed their last tour due to the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande show in May 2017. Stanley frequently said how Manchester was in their thoughts, but did not over elaborate on the cowardly assault. He repeatedly addressed the partisan crowd in his own inimitable way. Yes, it's very pantomime, but it's all part of the show.

With a back catalogue stretching all the back to their 1974 eponymous album, it was always going to be an impossibility to please all the fans. 'Say Yeah' from 'Sonic Boom' was to me an odd choice; personally I would have preferred 'Creatures Of The Night' (or 'Nowhere To Run', 'Sure Know Something', 'Who Wants To Be Lonely' or 'Tears Are Falling'). We certainly didn't need the Karaoke lyrics for this song.

'I Love It Loud' is another number I'm not overly impressed with, but it works well in the live arena. 'Heaven's On Fire' reaffirmed how good the vocals sounded, and featured an insane amount of pyrotechnics for an indoor show. I could feel the heat of the flames on stage from my vantage point on the upper tier at the rear of the arena. Further pyro continued during 'War Machine', one of Simmons finest moments; it came replete with video backdrop and concluded with the bassist breathing fire.

Who can believe that 'Lick It Up' is now thirty-six years old, the first album to be released without their famous trademark makeup. 'Calling Doctor Love' is fun, if not cheesy and '100,000 Years' had the die-hard Kiss fans in raptures and preceded an enjoyable Singer drum solo whose drum riser rose to the ceiling of the arena. It may be not as impressive as Crüe's Tommy Lee, but technically it was far better.

The band was not the only thing hot within the Manchester Arena, so it was only appropriate we cooled down with some 'Cold Gin'. Simmons produced a short bass solo at the beginning of 'God Of Thunder', and several minutes later saw the Demon spitting blood at its conclusion.

The surprise of the evening was just how good 'Psycho Circus' was; not a track I would have initially included on the shortlist, but it was executed to perfection and went down a storm. 'Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll' saw more solos, including Thayer's rocket guitar. Then it was time for Star Child to fly above the crowd on a zip wire to a purposeful built mini stage near the sound desk at the rear of the arena. Unbelievably, the atmosphere seemed to crank up a notch for my favourite part of the whole evening, 'Love Gun' and 'I Was Made For Loving You', where it was debatable who was louder, the band or the audience. Spine-chilling moments to be sure.

Stanley returned to the stage for set closer 'Black Diamond' with even more pyrotechnics. The band took a deserved standing ovation before leaving, for Singer to return front and centre behind a grand piano for the classic ballad 'Beth'. Very appropriate for this evening's phenomenal performance was U.K. favourite 'Crazy, Crazy Nights', with dozens of black and white Kiss balloons being let loose from overhead gantries. Then, the moment we hoped would never arrive, the final time most of us would witness Kiss playing live; cue 'Rock 'n' Roll All Nite'. The ticker tape cannons meant the band were invisible for most of the final anthem, although Simmons and Thayer did come out into the audience aboard large robotic arms, before even more pyro brought one of the greatest ever Rock 'n' Roll shows to a conclusion. A final image of "Kiss Loves Manchester" came up on the video screen as the delirious fans filed out of the arena to 'God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You II'.

It's worth remembering that Stanley is sixty-seven years old and Simmons is fast approaching three score years and ten. They played nearly two and a quarter hours of high energy rock 'n' roll and I hope I have their vigour when I reach that age. Kiss were one of the original Rock arena bands who set the standards for others to follow. The self-proclaimed "hottest band in the world" now bow out having raised the bar even higher.

Review by Mark Donnelly
Photos by: Mick Parry & Mark Donnelly

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