Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Kiss - Live At The U.S. Cellular Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Here's the infamous Kiss concert review that I did a few years ago. I'm posting it because I lost it and a post pretty much guarantees I won't lose it again.

Live at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa
September 2, 2000

I’ll admit it; I can’t stand Kiss. Even during my formidable days as a young boy I hated them. Back then; I really couldn’t adequately describe why I disliked them. As I grew older, I understood that it was the cheesy theatrics, the poorly aped Stones riffs, and the blatant marketing tools they used that really turned me off. A pretty advanced criticism, I’d say, for a young boy growing up in a small Midwestern town in the 1970’s. Cameron Crowe can suck my dick.

Don’t get me wrong: Every other kid that I knew ate the shit up. My cousin, for example, was so into this New York quartet that he (like so many others) bought every single Goddamn solo Kiss album the first day they were released simply so he could get the poster that came with each album…In a brilliant marketing move, kids had to purchase every one of these Godforsaken records to make the poster complete. It struck me odd that it was the posters and not the music itself that made him shell out the $7.99 x 4. My cousin continued to collect this Kiss memorabilia and probably has a goldmine sitting in his closet. I also need to mention that my cousin ceased buying Kiss products the day they took off their makeup. When confronted with this, he explained that he felt that they “sold out” when they trotted back into the spotlight with Ace and Peter back in the fold during the mid-90’s. When I asked him the night before he got married in 1999 of what band he now follows, he said “The Church” without missing a beat. God finally gave rock and roll to him in.

Then there was my next-door neighbor, Bobby H., who also loved the kings in Satan’s service. Bobby marveled at Gene spitting blood on the cover of “Alive II” and declared that they were indeed the hottest band in the world. I think it was Bobby that perpetrated the rumor that, at every Kiss concert, a goblin was passed through the audience where the concertgoers were required to spit into the large cup. When it was filled with the saliva of the crowd, it would be passed back up to the stage where Gene would drink the contents of it proving how insane he really was. I didn’t buy it. I was more interested in the retarded open letter that Gene included inside the gatefold of the Kiss “Alive” album. If I recall correctly, it was filled with lots of sexual innuendos and encouraged people to buy the new Kiss comics that Marvel put out because they used their own blood in the ink. It should be noted that Bob grew up and later hung himself in his garage leaving a wife and several kids to ponder “why.” Perhaps it was because he could never afford to complete the collection of all four solo albums, and that really bummed him out.

During the seventies, my parents were friends with another married couple, Vel and Eric, who didn’t have any children. I enjoyed going over to their house my folks because the dude had an enormous record collection. While my parents socialized, I was left to Eric’s records and turntable and would often fall asleep with his enormous Koss headphones still attached to my skull; Eric always loved interrupting my slumber by suddenly turning up the stereo, sending me jolting up with eyes wide open. It’s important to note that Eric introduced me to Frank Zappa and never clued my folks in on the fact that I was memorizing the lyrics to “Dinah-Moe-Hum” while they were playing cards in the other room.
Vel and Eric came over to my parent’s house one evening to help wallpaper our guest room. Eric soon grew tired of the activity and joined me downstairs in watching a movie. That movie was “Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park.” We laughed together at the ridiculous plot, at Gene’s demonic growls and laser eyes, at Ace’s sudden bursts of “Ha!” and, most importantly, at why this piece of shit could possibly even be considered for airing on network television. It was reassuring to have somebody older and with more records than me to acknowledge that this band was a bunch of dumbasses that got lucky by taking an Alice Cooper routine to the next level. Only women and Gene bled back in 1979…

I almost bought Kiss’ “The Elder” back in the early 80’s because somebody told me that Gene and Paul were working with Lou Reed. It was a struggle: on one had I was curious to see if Kiss actually had some talent and Uncle Lou was there to give their image some creditability, or was he simply desperate for a quick buck because his contract with Arista had run out? I could never bring myself to buy it and, years later when I finally heard “The Elder,” thanked Jesus that I spent my hard earned money on Reed’s “The Blue Mask” instead. Other Kiss fans must have felt the same way too; “The Elder’ remains as the only Kiss album not to go gold. I heard that there was a local band in Iowa City that seriously contemplated performing “The Elder” in its entirety. That idea alone is more brilliant than the “concept” Kiss came up with and those guys, whoever they may be, deserve all future royalties of “The Elder” should they ever grow balls big enough to actually go through with it.
Kiss, by this time, decided to “rock out’ with their next release “Creatures of the Night.” I also seriously considered buying this one because of the big drum sound of “I Love It Loud.” The video ruled because it implied that, by simply listening to the song, Kiss could break the windows in your parent’s house and make your eyes glow. Shortly after that, you would find yourself wandering the streets with other teenagers whose eyes glowed like yours. Better believe it….
The make-up cash cow had run it’s course and Gene and Paul (rightly) assumed that they could gather some additional press if they appeared “unmasked” for “Lick It Up.” It was enough for Bobby H to forget what a piece of shit the real “Unmasked” was and go out and buy “Lick It Up” He expressed his glee at the new direction and I continued to chastise him by pointing out that even a monkey wearing a diaper could probably figure out the guitar part for “Lick It Up.” Bobby confirmed this by not naming his new Spaniel puppy Vinny Vincent and instead opted to name the dog “Jake” in honor of Ozzy’s new axeman Jake E. Lee. I was beginning to think that Bobby was coming around to my line of thinking.
I was almost floored soon after when a gay friend of mine went out and purchased “Animalize.” Our friendship was started on a mutual love of The Knack and it progressed into him supplying me with import Scritti Polliti singles and rare remixes of Yaz songs. How could this same individual who actually owned and enjoyed a Dead Or Alive album have Kiss in his record collection? Years later, it dawned on me that Paul Stanley often pranced around like a fairy and I came to the conclusion that “The Lover” probably played for “the other team” and my friend’s recent purchase of “Animalize” was merely a bad case of racing hormones. Whatever the reason, the album was full of shit. Only Gene’s track “Burn Bitch Burn” (sample lyric: “Burn Bitch Burn, ooh ooh ooh”) produced a smile on my face. I honestly felt that Kiss would be history within a year.

They weren’t, of course, so I had to settle with surrounding myself around people who despised Kiss as much as I did. I went almost an entire decade without hearing any new Kiss material and life was good.
That trend ended when I received a promotional copy of Kiss’ “Revenge” cd while working at a top 40 station. Initial reviews had been positive and with this in mind, I took the free copy home to give it a listen. It wasn’t bad. As a matter of fact, “Revenge” remains as the only Kiss album that I’ve ever heard in which I didn’t mock while listening to it to this day. Is it any surprise then that, a couple of years after the release of “Revenge,” Gene and Paul sacked the album’s line up? Perhaps they felt out of their element with critics actually liking their music.
During 1995, in one of those moments that you just can’t quite explain, I went out and bought the Gene Simmons solo album. The cover caught my eye: a cartoon Gene looking menacing with a trickle of blood creeping from his snarling lips. I’ve got to own this simply for the cover, I thought. I looked at the liner notes and noticed the album contained an amazing assortment of guests: Liza Minelli, Cher, that dude the slut-groupie Pamela DeBarres married, and a cast of others who should have known better
I forked over three bucks for the thing and felt smug. Technically, I hadn’t really bought a Kiss album. Since it was used, there was no risk of any member of Kiss receiving royalties from my hard-earned dollar. As I walked out of the record store I was still rationalizing the purchase with myself. Even if the music was a total farce, I could still salvage the sleeve as a reminder of how much I hated Kiss. Besides, I was almost thirty years old at the time, and it would be almost sacrilegious not to own at least one Kiss album. Sometimes it’s tough being a white boy.
The album is a total hack job. I’m not joking when I say that it has to be one of the worst albums ever made. The best thing on the album is Gene’s (straight) rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star” which I later learned he included on the effort as a joke. I couldn’t contain myself in telling others at what a piece of shit the Gene Simmons solo album was. Most people were confused by my passionate hatred at a record that was approaching twenty years old. Only my cousin Jason understood my pain. “If you think that one sucks,” he said, “try listening to the Peter Criss solo album…It’s even worse.” Another friend of mine also said the exact same thing and even added that the Paul Stanley solo release ain’t no Sgt. Pepper either. Of course, none of this could erase the fact that the hottest band in the world had finally duped me.
Around the same time as the Gene Simmons solo album fiasco, I went out and bought a copy of their “masterpiece” album “Destroyer.” I bought it for no fucking good reason at a Wal Mart in Shenandoah, Iowa while visiting my wife’s parents. We had grown tired of listening to an alternative station in Omaha play 311 over and over in anticipation of these hometown boys return to Nebraska. 311 originally started in the state’s largest city and then realized that Chip Davis wasn’t going to release shit from them on his American Gramophone record company. Chip had found sickening success with his Yuletide moog noodle outfit Manheim Steamroller who’s name makes me think of Bob and Doug McKenzie rolling over each other yelling “Steamroller!” in the movie “Strange Brew.” Chip hadn’t even attempted to do anything pop since manning the boards for C.W. McCall and milking millions of dollars out of retarded Americans who thought that c.b. radios were something they had to own.
Anyway, 311 got brains, moved to L.A. (just like Poison) and then found themselves with a gold album on Capricorn. The kids in Omaha ate them up because they were “hometown” heroes and the only alternative radio station in town would play them every goddamn hour. This grew really old really fast and I joined my wife on a make-up run (no pun intended) to Wal-Mart. The Shenandoah Wal Mart had plenty of 1.) country music and 2.) bad hair band music. On this day, the cover for “Destroyer” was looking mighty good and, since our Honda didn’t have a c.d. player, I settled on a cassette copy of their most popular studio album. It was a masterpiece, all right…a master piece of shit. This is what prompted people to start bands? This is the same group that the Replacements covered? Either there’s something really wrong with me or the rest of the world became hypnotized with Gene’s laser eyes while watching the phantom of the park movie.
First of all, the production. Bob Ezrin, in typical Bob Ezrin fashion filled the album with a bunch of corny sound effects (just like he did with Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”). Gene and Paul’s songwriting made it easy to understand why 15 year old white boys loved them so much, because they sound like they were written by 15 year old white boys. The performances were far from “heavy” or “metal” but I attribute this to the lads themselves and not Mr. Ezrin. Bob did a fine job with Alice Cooper’s “Love It To Death” album and that thing was 10 times heavier than “Destroyer.” If you want a real picture of what heavy metal was in ’78, stay clear of “Destroyer” and go straight for “…Bullocks” by the Sex Pistols. I’m also a firm believer that Sid Vicious could play bass better than Gene even while nodding out in his own drool.
About five years later, I get a call from my friend Brad who works at a classic rock radio station in Iowa City. He had scored two extra comp tickets to see Kiss in their “Farewell” tour in Cedar Rapids and asked if my wife and I would like to go. It took me a second…I had to consider the gas it would take to get there, but I eventually said yes. I was surprised at my wife’s reaction when I told her the news. She seemed genuinely excited about going and her enthusiasm slowly spread to me. I had been told time and time again of how Kiss really never translated well to vinyl. The best way to truly appreciate the majesty of Kiss was in a live concert. I dug out the cassette copy of “Destroyer,” played it until Gene uttered the words “I command you to kneel” before pushing the eject button. What the fuck had I gotten myself into?
My wife soothed me with words like “It’s not like we’re doing anything this weekend” and “It’s not every weekend you get to see Kiss.” She was right. We hopped in the car and headed up to the Kiss concert.
I picked up Brad and his friend Tanya (who hates Kiss too) in Iowa City. Brad must have sensed my hesitation because he kept saying that the show would be very entertaining as we shared obligatory pre-concert bong hits. I noticed how Brad used the word “entertaining” rather than “rocking” or “intense” or “fuckin’ awesome.” My wife fretted over he appearance feeling that she would somehow be outdone by some Kiss hotty. I assured her that her worries were unjust as Kiss only attracts skanks who think that wearing leopard skin pants four sizes too small is acceptable in the new century. With everyone in good shape for the show, we drove to Cedar Rapids.
Dinner at Denny’s made us miss both Skid Row and Ted Nugent. Brad and I were bummed at this, as we were both excited at the prospect of The Motor City Madman screaming at the crowd to kill animals and to leave the country if we didn’t speak English. Michigan has produced some pretty fucked up people…and they all need our support, including Uncle Ted.
Remember that time when a rare white buffalo was born on a farm in Wisconsin? Ted, God bless him, asked if he could buy it with the sole purpose of killing it. He even managed to offend some Native Americans who viewed the white buffalo as sacred. I’d probably feel like killing The Nuge myself if the fucker hadn’t written “Free For All.” With head hung low, I accepted my fate that I would not be seeing “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” on that Saturday night.
Unfazed, the four of us took our seats as the house music played The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” over the p.a. The sound guy cranked up the music when Keith Moon starts to lay into his kit after the synth part in the middle, right before Daltry comes back in. Right when Rodger hits the crescendo “Yyyyyeeeeaaaaahhh!!!” the road crew drops a Kiss curtain covering up the stage entirely. This was a que to all of the retards and drunks that it was almost time for the show.
Less than ten minutes later, a man comes on the P.A. with the same motherfucking spiel that they’ve been doing for over 25 years: “Alright Cedar Rapids! You wanted the best and you’ve got the best! Please welcome the hottest band in the world….KISS!!!” And with that, they launch into “Detroit Rock City” just like they do on their live albums.

My wife was so happy that I was right on with the “skank” comment I made before and she thoroughly enjoyed watching the middle aged sluts make a “rock ‘n roll” symbol with one hand while clutching a plastic cup of Budweiser in the other. Most of the men in the audience had to be in their mid to upper thirties and most could use a shot of Rogaine in addition to their $5 beers. We sat next to two gentlemen who felt that the farewell tour of Kiss was such an important event that they towed their kids to the show. Both kids had to be younger than nine and both sported what looked like huge 70’s era headphones guised up as hearing protectors. They looked like Mathew Sweet did on the cover of his “100% Fun” album with the biggest difference being that Mathew was grinning from ear to ear in his child photo, and these kids were so fucking far from even thinking about cracking a smile.
I naively thought that the farewell tour with the original members would only focus on their material from the seventies. Gene and Paul, however, had other plans. This farewell tour would consist of the hits, including those that were made after Ace and Peter had left the fold. Ironically, Gene and Paul chose to avoid the band’s material from the 90’s and did not once acknowledge Eric Carr. Here’s a guy that manned the drum riser longer than Peter Criss and could actually keep a fucking beat. Gene made such a huge stink when Rolling Stone magazine failed to list his obituary when he died in ’91 and yet they now seem to have forgotten his role on the band’s farewell tour. The least they could have done was to display his image on the video screen whenever they did one of their “through the past” video montages.
It was quite a spectacle watching the old farts try to breathe some life into their awful 80’s material. Thankfully, they only did a handful of this shit and focused on their classic fare from the previous decade. They even let Space Ace do a couple of solo songs, which, after hearing his tone-deaf voice, made me wish that Paul and Gene pulled a song off of “Crazy Nights.”
Ace trotted out a “I can’t believe a man with so much technology at his disposal could sound so awful” version of the Stones’ “2000 Man.” It was so bad that The Glimmer Twins should file a restraining order against Ace Frehley for coming anywhere near the song in the future. To keep the fans attention away from the fact that Ace was so fucking far off key, the video monitors displayed some pathetic computer generated cartoon of the members of Kiss as superheroes. If the members of Kiss want to play cards, couldn’t they do it without an Ace in their deck?
Towards the end of the obligatory Ace guitar solo, smoke started to pour from the pickups. This was to signify that when Ace does a guitar “solo” it generates enough heat that his guitar actually catches on fire. In reality, it was just another ploy to distract the audience from the fact that even that Nigel from Spinal Tap played a better solo with his feet. Ace would often lose a pick while “jamming out” and flash a thumbs up to the crowd like the Fonz would. The crowd screamed, Ace continued, and then one of the most hilarious things I have even seen at a rock concert happened. The video monitors started to flash the word “ACE” on the screen in a desperate attempt to get the crowd to wake up. Like Iowa cattle, many in the crowd followed the instructions and started to chant “Ace!” as the word flashed on and off. Ace stopped, gave a “thumbs up,” said “Alright!” like he thought we were screaming for him to continue “shredding.”
Space Ace’s guitar started to produce some effects and it suddenly lifted from his arms and flew away. It is at this point that Frehley does a Henny Youngman one-liner like “Oh man! I that was my favorite guitar!” or “Oh man! I just got that guitar!” Before Ace could start doing more stand up, the rest of the senior citizens returned to rock our balls off.
Paul said the words “Cedar Rapids” forty-three times throughout the concert with three of them add-libbed in a ballad and one of them mouthed unmiked that I caught from watching him on the jumbo-tron. He did his “I want to get close to you, but you have to want me bad enough to scream” bit. The jumbo-tron displayed an image of a v.u. meter to which Paul instructed us to scream so loud that the needle would go “all the way into the red.” The crowd screamed. The man behind the soundboard turned up the audience mike. The needle went into the red. Paul grabbed a bar and flew to the other side of the arena. He sang a song about how much he loved us and said “Cedar Rapids” some more. He then flew back to the stage and left us feeling used like Pamela DeBarres.

Peter Criss practically smiled throughout every minute of the show from behind his kit. Here’s a list of three things that I imagined him smiling about: 1.) I’m so happy that Gene and Paul asked me to come back…Christ I was this close to having the bank foreclose on my house. 2.) Unbelievable! The crowd can’t even tell that the drum track is coming straight from a D.A.T. deck beneath the drum riser! 3.) I’m glad you’re dead, Eric Carr…Like paper covers rock, a cat beats the shit out of a fox every day of the week.
From what I understand, Peter stopped doing a drum solo about the fourth week into the tour. I really could care less who recommended this, Peter or the other members of the band, but whoever’s idea it was deserves a medal. Anyone who struggles with just staying in time should not have the words “drum solo” in their vocabulary.
Later on in the show, the kitty came out under a friggin’ disco ball and mewled “Beth” karaoke-style to the crowd. Pete exclaimed that he had never seen so many women around the front of the stage (“Usually it’s all guys!”) as he handed out roses to the skanks who had, no doubt, heard the excuse “me and the boys will be playin’ all night” far too many times than they cared to remember.
Gene breathed fire and, goddamnit, walked away without any third degree burns. The lights turned to green and Brad looked at me to announce that next would be a bass solo followed by (oh Christ) “God Of Thunder.”
My wife, who received a bass guitar less than a year prior to the concert, could play a bass guitar solo better than Gene Simmons. A bass solo in Gene’s world consists of the sound guy turning up the bass until it distorts, having Gene pluck one friggin’ note over and over again, spitting up blood and saliva on the first three rows of the crowd, and having the stage crew lift his fifty year old ass up to a platform above the stage where he commands the crowd to kneel before the God of Thunder. “Fly, fucker, fly!” I thought.
“God Of Thunder” was probably the highlight of the show. Not because of what was on stage, but because I saw the faces of true horror on the two kids sitting next to us as they looked at their fathers pleading “I don’t like this, Daddy” who remained unconcerned. They lowered Gene’s ass back down to stage left and Paul came back out with another half dozen “Cedar Rapids!”

The skanks continued to show their breasts every time the video cameras were pointed in their direction. Paul, in a desperate attempt to display a certain amount of machismo exclaimed that Cedar Rapids had become a “nipple-fest” which encouraged more skanks to flash the meatheads that like seeing tities at rock concerts. For about a half second, I believed that Paul was not gay.

More annoying than Paul trying to cover up his homosexuality was his constant yapping in between songs. Kiss would play a four-minute song and then Paul would go on and on for about five minutes about how we “had made (his) dreams come true” and how “people said that we couldn’t last…But twenty five years later, (we’d) proved them all wrong!” I swear to God, they could have knocked off almost an hour off of the total time of the show if someone had the balls to tell Paul Stanley to shut the fuck up.

Remember that long falsetto yodeling that Paul did at the beginning of “Heaven’s On Fire?” He now does that at the beginning of almost every fucking song. Sample: “All right Cedar Rapids! We’re gonna do something off of “Love Gun” for yooooooooohohohohohohohooooo!!!!” This wouldn’t have been so bad if the sound levels hadn’t been so motherfucking high. At the risk of sounding old, they had this thing way too loud for the concrete slab known as the U.S. Cellular Center and every goddamn thing bounced off the walls like the Grand Canyon.

It was loud beyond annoying…it was painful. The only reason for this that I could come up with was that they wanted it loud so that you wouldn’t forget the show for days afterwards because of tinnitus. Let me make it clear that it wasn’t really the band that was too loud, just Ace’s treble-heavy guitar and Paul’s annoying “there’s a butt-plug in my asshole” yodels. My wife had to actually go to the doctor a week after the show because her ears hurt so much. It was determined that she had an ear infection (nothing to do with the concert) but the doctor did detect an inflamed eardrum and lectured her for not wearing ear protection. I have to admit, though, if you have to go to the doctor for an after-concert ear problem, it’s cool to tell the physician that Kiss brought you to his office.

In total, Kiss played for two and a half hours (or ninety minutes if you take away Paul Stanley’s banter) like this really was the last time they’d be in Cedar Rapids. Paul mentioned that the (U.S. Cellular Center) arena was like “home” to them because they had played there every tour since 1983. Before that, Paul exclaimed that they used to play at the “coliseum,” a venue that doesn’t even exist in Cedar Rapids.

Hello Cleveland!

For a “farewell” tour, I expected the place to be sold out and was surprised that there were plenty of vacant seats. Surprised until I found out that ticket prices were a staggering $55 bucks for general admission. I didn’t learn this until the middle of the show and Paul tried to justify the hefty ticket prices towards the end of the concert. He went on for ten minutes about how we would pay the same amount of money that we paid (nada…thanks Brad!) and would never see the kind of showmanship that we were witnessing on that night. He continued to preach about how they started the band because they felt ripped off one night after seeing a show that wasn’t entertaining. According to Paul, Kiss was formed to show the rest of the rock and roll world how heavy metal should be played on stage and to give people their money’s worth. Give me my money’s worth, Paul, send me a friggin’ check for my wife’s doctor’s visit!

None of this shit mattered to the crowd, which consisted (mostly) of overweight skanks and middle-aged meth-lab owners. Remarkably, there were very few “metal heads” in the audience, which may be the very reason that Kiss are throwing in the towel.

Kiss has always been about marketing and not, as Paul described it, about giving the people their money’s worth. Does a real music fan actually need comic books printed in blood, poseable action figures (they could hardly do anything), or posters depicting the lads as revolutionary soldiers in the Kiss army? Kiss has always been about taking people’s money and the “farewell” tour was a last attempt at getting a buck before the bottom fell out.

You have got to give the band props for lasting this long and, yes, there have been numerous times when they were declared dead only to make a full financial recovery. The props I’m talking about are working up a new way to market themselves just when they are about to leave the rock and roll radar screen. The unmasking of Kiss in the mid 80’s, the power ballads of the late 80’s, the return of Bob Ezrin behind the boards during the early 90’s when grunge bands cited them as influential, and finally the reunion of the mid 90’s. These are prime examples of a band (specifically Gene and Paul) working a marketing machine that generated hype among a fan base that doesn’t know any better.

Take a look at the bands that cite them as influential. None of them went to the lengths that Kiss did when it came to self-promotion. They understood that 1.) they would never be able to compete with them on that level and 2.) the band was in reality a scam that “masked” their lack of musical ability. Kiss were never really very good at what they did, but they provided an image that depicted them as being much better than they really were.

And dumbshits bought it. I believe that the Kiss Army is divided into two distinct camps: those that are too stupid to tell and those that “get it” but accept the decadence that they promote. Whatever camp you’re a part of is irrelevant, you’re still a dumbshit, and that includes me. I believe as a young boy that Peter Criss was an excellent drummer. Why? Because of the size of his drum kit! Duh! When you’re nine years old you logically assume that he needs all of those tom toms because he’s going to play them. Years later, you start to notice that, out of all those drum accessories, Peter only seems to play the snare, high-hat and bass drum.

My hatred started because I felt used; I was wound way too tight to really understand that what they were doing was perfectly cool. It wasn’t until after seeing them live during their supposed last tour that I finally “got it.” They sucked shit but the concert was probably one of the best things that I’d ever seen because I knew that they knew they sucked shit. Gene and Paul probably sleep well at the end of the day and they may even take offense at this idea, but I’m positive that deep inside, the lashing that they have taken from critics over the past twenty-five years has created a certain amount of self-doubt.

They’ve written some good songs, but they’ve never really been able to come up with an excellent song that rock radio embraces enough to look beyond their pre-pubescent image machine. The Dave Clark Five sold as many records as the Beatles at one time, yet one band has stood the test of time while the other has been demoted to Dick Bartley’s oldies show. Kiss will probably meet the same fate, and part of me “like(s) it like that.”

Let’s look at this another way. In my mind, the Bay City Rollers “Saturday Night” and Kiss’ “Rock And Roll All Night” are virtually identical. Both songs are based in a rock formula and are easy to remember (nice hook). My eleven year old knows (a little) about Kiss but has no idea about the Rollers. Why? Because she’s never seen the Bay City Rollers jumping around in their little Scottish kilts but she has seen Kiss in Pepsi commercials rocking all night, partying every day, and enjoying the joy of cola. Her children will probably feel the same way about Kiss as she feels about the Bay City Rollers and they’ll never hear their music unless an ad agency uses “Sure Know Something” to sell Dr. Pepper.

What I’m getting to is that Kiss, specifically Gene and Paul, need to be in the rock and roll arena to perpetuate the myth. Without them, the myth, the band, the songs, grow stagnate and quickly become a memory triggered by the local oldies station. We probably won’t see white teenagers stumble onto Kiss the way that my generation stumbled onto The Doors or Led Zeppelin. What you’ll have instead is a middle-age father listening to an oldies station while driving his kids when suddenly “Detroit Rock City” comes on the radio. Dad will get so excited and try to explain why they were the “hottest band in the world” only to have a tough time selling it. Again, the biggest obstacle is that the band won’t be around to promote themselves but, you must admit, Kiss has never really been groundbreaking in their music either. So the kids ignore Dad (just like I ignored my Dad’s enthusiasm for the Dave Clark Five when they came on the radio!) and the radio station they listen to won’t be championing the band either (like my favorite stations championed the Beatles, Zep, or The Doors). Suddenly Dad hears Kiss segue right into The Bay City Rollers or Anita Ward’s “Ring My Bell” if they’re playing “I Was Made For Loving You.”

Nothing that Kiss did in Cedar Rapids changed my opinion of them. It promoted the myth to the converted at the same time they cleaned out their fan’s wallets (again). And Paul was wrong about justifying their hefty ticket price. I’ve seen better pyrotechnics at a Flaming Lips show in a small club and paid under $10 for that. Had I paid $110 for a pair of Kiss tickets, I would have been pissed. I would have fumed at the barking sound, poor musicianship, predictable showmanship, and endless banter.
As it stands, I didn’t pay for the tickets and it was worth the drive up to Cedar Rapids and dinner at Denny’s. At that price, it was one hell of a show and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I got to see the original members of Kiss do their shtick in full regalia and I had a good laugh at their expense.

After the band performed their final encore, the house lights came up to the sound of “God Gave Rock And Roll To You.” For many, the band was and will continue to be a religion but I remain an atheist. As the crowd filed out, we walked towards the floor. Our foursome saw the roadies start the load-out, the confetti-lined floor, and the garbage cans overflowing with beer cups. If there was a gospel to Kiss, it would have to be those three things: the workers that build the temple every night, the pageantry of the prayer cloths and the holy water the parishioners buy for just five bucks a cup. Paul Stanley is more cunning than Robert Tilton, however, as he has yet to be investigated by the I.R.S.

Our group was suddenly met by security as we were asked to leave the floor and exit the U.S. Cellular arena. With yellow jackets and walkie-talkies they ushered out the faithful and prevented us from watching the road crew dismantle the temple for just a few minutes more. Through the tinnitus I could hear one say: “Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain…”

Thursday, March 10, 2005

What About The Voice Of Geddy Lee?

I’ve always been receptive towards new music, but like any other music fanatic, there was a time in which my record collection was probably just as weak as the people I ridicule today. Ok, maybe not that bad, but I did have my share of duds while growing up. After all, I’m the guy that got pissed at Heather A. for putting a few saltine crackers on 38 Special’s “Wild Eyed Southern Boys” as it played on my turntable at my very first “the parents are away” party. Now I understand she was doing me a favor in her drunken comedy gesture. Thank you Heather. Too bad I couldn’t return the favor later on by telling you “speed kills.” She’s one of those chicks that came from a well-to-do family, got caught up in meth, and now looks 10 years older than me. She even came close to losing her kids after she left them outside in subzero weather while she did whatever mothers do under the influence of methamphetamines.
I stole at least four albums from her older brother: Ozzy Osborne’s “Diary Of A Madman,” Van Halen’s “Fair Warning,” Rush’s “All The World’s A Stage” and Billy Squier’s “Don’t Say No.” I was doing pretty good up until Billy Squier. And I don’t know what the fuck was with me and stealing back then. I nicked several albums from Woolsworth (do you know how hard it was to steal albums?), cassettes from K-Mart, and a shitload of cassettes from unlocked cars parked in the hospital parking lot. I would go to the orthodontist and then check for unlocked vehicles on the way back to school. I picked up Lindsey Buckingham’s “Law & Order,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Live,” and Tom Petty’s “Hard Promises” this way. Not once did I get busted.
I touched my first vagina to the sounds of Rush’s “All The World’s A Stage” 8-track. Even then I was an overachiever: using a format that essentially has no real ending seemed like the perfect soundtrack to exploring the warmth of womanhood. Never mind the actual songs were nowhere near sexual, sans the seven minute version of “In The End.” But whatever: forethought and sensitivity were never really an issue with the girl that once made a beeline towards my willy, backstage in the middle school auditorium. Besides, she seemed impressed that I could recite “I can see what you mean/It just takes me longer” alongside Geddy Lee. The man with the squeaky voice was my first finger bang companion.

But getting back to the kleptomania, I really have no idea what possessed me to steal music. It wasn’t like there was other examples of my material thievery either. I probably stole nothing more in value that some Bazooka Joe bubble gum up until that point. Music made me do crazy thing. Like cash in all of my savings bonds to a ton of albums down at the mall. There was something so powerful about having enough cash to actually secure an entire weekend worth of quality listening material. “Quality” being very subjective to the age and time. It’s obvious that “Hold On Loosely” held a special place in my heart for a brief period in my life. Perhaps if I wasn’t so cynical, it might still hold a place of fondness with me today. For the record: I’ve never stopped loving that live Rush album.