If there’s anyone who knows how to go out with a bang, it’s Kiss. The band, which performed the fourth-to-last scheduled concert of its career to a packed Allstate Arena on Monday, left nothing to chance, putting on a flamboyant extravaganza that made some of its previous shows seem tame by comparison.
In other words, the 135-minute show offered the faithful almost every thrill they could desire—from fiery infernos and concussion bombs to balloon drops and white confetti storms. It’s also a stage enhanced by descending pods, rotating cranes, cat statues, a rising drum riser and a smoke-belching snake. It’s also a playlist full of favorites, hits, and classics from the heyday of Kiss’ creativity, the 10-year period before the band’s decision to ditch its makeover in 1983.
Yet it was the personalities that attracted the most attention; especially singer-guitarist Paul Stanley and singer-bassist Gene Simmons; the last original members and long-standing brain trust who have guided the band through the highs and lows. Although the term “icon” continues to lose its relevance due to overuse, it applies to both musicians.
Despite the countless moves they each perform on stage, they still seem larger than life. Adorned in a black vest, black pants, and knee-high platform heels adorned with jewels and chains, Stanley channeled the extrovert temperament of the combination circus ringmaster, overzealous street preacher, and enthusiastic trainer. Wearing his signature demon outfit (body armor, leather bat wings, long sleeve piece, tall platform dragon boots with dazzling red eyes), Simmons channeled his fascination with comic book superheroes and old-school horror movie monsters.
Considering the weight of the costume and the density of the oil paint reveals the 74-year-old Simmons’ ability to withstand the searing heat of recurring flames and move as well as her platform-heeled friend Adam Lambert (33 years younger). Queen United Center last month It stands as a kind of age-defying tour de force. Sometimes, Simmons’ face would sweat so much he couldn’t open his eyes. So he can be forgiven for rambling on about the lyrics to “I Love It Loud.”
A well-deserved rest in the form of retirement is imminent. Having completed their 50th anniversary, Kiss plans to call it a day in their hometown of New York City next weekend. The Marathon End of the Road Tour, which started in January 2019, was paused due to the epidemic, and visited more than 200 locations, will be completed with a two-night stand at Madison Square Garden.
Similar to other former acts who have changed their minds, Kiss has said goodbye before. The first Farewell Tour took place in 2000–01 and remains the band’s last tour featuring the full original lineup. Stanley later said that he viewed this contentious outing as the final chapter with guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss. Following personal dramas reminiscent of the mockumentary comedy “This Is Spinal Tap,” Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer took on the roles permanently until 2004.
Monday’s performance also marked the culmination of a relationship with Chicago that stretches back nearly five decades and includes more than two dozen shows. Kiss made their debut in DeKalb in April 1974. Less than two weeks later, in a multi-act bill reviewed by former Tribune critic Lynn Van Matre, the group appeared at the Aragon Ballroom as part of a tour that seeded the beginnings of a lasting connection. With the Midwest. Especially Kiss’s 1975 debut song “Alive!” Three of the four concerts recorded for. The album took place in the center.
Never needing words, Stanley discussed Kiss’ ties to Chicago, going so far as to make an odd mention of the hot dog stand Wieners Circle. And, of course, he entertained the group with his trademark over-the-top jokes – asking idle questions with obvious answers, repeating claims quoted in city after city, relying on reliable clichés – to give the group a necessary breather and maintain interest. But for all the expected flamboyance, some of the statements carried a dignity without the usual fuss.
Observing the precision of Monday’s event more than once, Stanley focused his attention on the audience. He thanked and praised his fans profusely and credited Kiss Army for their support and passion. Without introducing himself, his call to the crowd for the evening to serve as “a time to celebrate all that we do together” resonated with deep sincerity.
Additionally, boosting fans’ self-esteem, briefly distracting them from the drudgery of daily life, encouraging sexual freedom, and creating a feel-good atmosphere have always been Kiss’ specialties, strengths lost on many of the band’s critics. The nonjudgmental, all-hands-on-deck bond between listener and band defined the great fun and imagination of this show, as much as when Simmons ascended 20 feet in a hydraulic elevator and howled “God of Thunder.” Or like Stanley zip-lining to an auxiliary platform, stealing his stuff, and singing the double-entendre anthem “Love Gun.”
Along with Simmons’ blood-spitting and fire-breathing antics, Kiss has pulled off those tricks at its two previous local stops on this trek (in March 2019 and October 2021). The band also stuck to a very similar set list. The last song at Allstate Arena dates from 2009; Only four songs older than 1982. It doesn’t matter. Rather, the majority of the material—melodic, gritty, deceptively simple, anchored in catchy hooks—served as wise reminders of why Kiss’s influence had spread from indie rock to metal to country to post-punk.
Hard-hitting, offbeat songs like the menacing “100,000 Years,” the stormy “Cold Gin,” and the abrasive “Black Diamond” brought history full circle. They conveyed despair, desolation and decay, the moods and situations Kiss experienced when they emerged from New York in the mid-70s as underdogs who shared little in common with their contemporaries. Triumphant tunes like the explosive “Detroit Rock City” and “Shout It Out Loud” depicted the band emerging from the other side of the struggle. The joyful “Makin’ Love” and the persuasive “Lick It Up,” which commanded “Calling Dr. Love,” were jam-packed with the pleasures of a charmed life.
Although it slowed down in places, the songs maintained their familiar shapes. Kiss knew the importance of staying focused and steady. Stanley, whose voice went out of tune in high passages and strained during screams, no longer reaching the stratospheric falsetto realms, saved his pipes for verses and select choruses. While Simmons’s heavy meal rumbled and bellowed, Stanley’s cool tunes bounced and sulked.
Wisely, Thayer and Singer provided a significant vocal boost to many. This advantage also gave Stanley extra room to dance on the spot, moving in style with his guitars and jazz hands. As for Simmons’ tongue-wagging? This happened whenever he wanted.
Shortly before emerging in a blaze of brimstone, pyrotechnics and smashed guitar parts, Kiss silently walked around the edges of the stage, basking in the adoration and returning much of the love he had received. Of course, the band may no longer be the “hottest band in the world” as its famous pre-show announcement boasted. But one more night, Kiss did their best to convince everyone. Not a bad way to end an illustrious legacy.
Bob Gendron is a freelance critic.
Setlist for November 27 Allstate Arena:
“Detroit rock city”
“Heaven is burning”
“I love it out loud”
“Lick it up”
“Dr. “I’m looking for Love”
“I Make Love”
“God of lightning”
“I was created to love you”
“Do you love me”
“Rock n Roll All Night”