Sunday night, KISS, an American Rock Phenomenon currently on its “End of the Road Tour,” brought its one-of-a-kind showmanship to Atlanta’s Cellairis Amphitheatre at Lakewood. Founding members Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons continued to demonstrate what makes the band so beloved by its millions of fans, 13,000 of which, according to Stanley, were attending the evening’s event.
Since 1973, the band has been the brainchild of Stanley, who is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist, and Simmons, who also sings lead and ably plays the bass guitar.
“The first time we were here was in 1974 at a place called the Electric Ballroom,” announced Stanley, his New York brogue proudly audible as he stood at the front of the stage. He went on to celebrate the longtime fans in Atlanta throughout the night.
The other current members of KISS, drummer and vocalist Eric Singer and guitarist Tommy Thayer, demonstrated that the band’s music is more than just entertainment. For many like myself, it is a time capsule from a cherished era in our lives. That era remains within our reach at every KISS concert we attend. It is a celebration of youthful exhuberance, bombastic bravado, and amplified, guitar-oriented Rock ‘N’ Roll set alight with top-notch pyrotechnics.
KISS was among the first to challenge audiences with explosions, massive light shows, and dramatic stage antics. Most recently they outdid themselves again at their New Year’s Eve 2020 concert in Dubai. The show broke the records for most flame projections launched simultaneously and for the highest flame projections in a music concert. Certainly, the band has not mellowed with age, nor have they lost the sound of their crowd-pleasing catalogue of Rock and Roll anthems and hit singles.
I met up with my concert-going buddies Chris Frederick and David Hudson for the show, and Laura, David’s college student daughter, joined us for the big event. She had never seen KISS in concert before, though David has seen them numerous times. She was already aware of the band’s numerous big hits thanks to David blasting them from the family’s home stereos and car radios. It was a generational experience watching the show with someone who was only now experiencing KISS firsthand. It made the event that much more exciting because of her perspective.
Onstage, Stanley noted in an early bit of stage banter that KISS has made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since they were last in Atlanta. He said he knew that the Hall was not a fan of KISS , but that KISS’s fans demanded they be instated. Because of that, they accepted the honor. What may seem to some like pandering to their fanbase in actuality has basis in fact. The hall has long snubbed numerous bands it has not personally liked, ignoring their cultural significance.
Never have there been bigger outsiders in popular music to successfully become mainstream trendsetters than KISS.
As the show began with “Detroit Rock City,” the introductory song from their 1976 platinum album “Destroyer,” we fans were on our feet cheering as the shifts in the song were punctuated by explosions and fire blasts. Stanley, dancing across the stage and holding his guitar up triumphantly, was paired with Thayer who flawlessly replicated original lead guitarist Ace Frehley’s solo. It took us fans back to being pre-teens, listening to our KISS albums, cassettes, and eight-track tapes, enthralled by the imagery and the music all at once.
Halfway through the concert, Laura said she thought Simmons might be her favorite of the group.
“Good choice!” I remarked, as I knew that Gene has famously stated that he is fascinated by himself as well, having made his mark in America as the child of a Holocaust survivor from Israel. I think he is due great respect for what he and Stanley have accomplished — leading “The Hottest Band in the World.”
With a massive shower of confetti, more explosions, and the chorus of “Rock and Roll All Nite” blasting, there was no hotter band to witness on Sunday night.
Alex McGill is an educator and musician living in Haralson County.