United Center Chicago
Saturday 3/2/10

The party bands of party bands, KISS, bring their “End of the Road” world tour to a packed United Center on a Saturday night in Chicago.
For the band KISS, this means lots of ear splitting explosions from the get go, lots of pyro, a smoking serpent to the immediate right of Gene Simmons, and so much more.
How about some hefty hydraulics, if anything to elevate Gene to the United Center rafters so he can perform his “God of Thunder” bass solo, after already splitting blood, (which is the norm in all KISS shows).
Or how about in the middle of “God of Thunder”- with Gene almost out of eye sight he’s so high up, and you emblazon images of Gene LED style, multiples of him, directly underneath him.
Oh believe me, there’s plenty more.
A KISS show is a party, even on a Saturday night in Chicago.
KISS Is a self marketing machine, the envy of other established bands in this regard, dating back to the mid seventies, when the cartoon characters of the band became promoted every which way you can think of, down to tin lunch boxes for crying out loud.
Me- I always dug the KISS bobblehead dolls, which were campy and fun.
In the rock pantheon, which all well know years from now, when this “End of the Road Tour” will finally finally come to an end (Who knows?) you’ll have to start somewhere with what they were trying to become, or how they were establishing themselves.
So they’re hard rock, anthem rock, party rock- sure. But the looks, the costumes- that’s without a doubt glam, and nothing but glam.
And it still holds true to this very day, simply by looking at their platform boots as a major example.
The banter the entire evening, from Paul Stanley, was hard and heavy and frequent between songs- mostly Paul asking “How ya doin’ Chicago!” “Had enough yet Chicago?” “You want more Chicago?” And on and on.
All of it is charming, jovial, having fun, with lots of crowd participation, trying to get everyone to embrace the extravagance of it all.
The show itself, outside of tweaks in the setlist, hasn’t much changed at all, outside of the use of more sophisticated pyro, for use in the indoor arenas.
Kicking off the night with “Detroit Rock City” with the band way up in the rafters, and assembling slowly downwards with vertical and horizontal pyro blazing off behind them, and then storming into “Shout it Out Loud”, and into “Deuce”- well- you get the picture.
This is a show designed for constant four on the floor, with no letup in the foreseeable future.
A KISS show is rock’s version of a family trip to a carnival, down to half their audience with face paint of their desired heroes, but also a show with lots of fake blood, and flaming torches, with fire breathing dome balls, and have to say it again and again – pyrotechnics baby.
And of course Paul Stanley midway through the show ziplined to a smaller stage at the back of the main floor to play a couple songs, most notably their disco hit from the late seventies – “I Was Made for Lovin’ You” (of all things- that particular song?) – as if the boys of KISS were covering all eras, I assume.
No matter- Paul was having fun stationed on a purplish airborne platform, before ziplining back to the main stage, guitar in hand, roadie at the ready to guide him safely and smoothly.
All done with a air traffic controller kind of professionalism.
Have to say the whole show has that kind of vibe about it. You would think after thousands of dates performing basically the same show, you’d have things down to not much going wrong in the mistakes department.
Which brings up a rub that most critics tend to highlight: A show like Kiss is set in stone, outside of adding verbally what city you’re playing in. Unpredictability and risks are considered secondary.
KISS makes it known front and center, that you want a show- you get a show, which is true.
But the show has no room for spontaneity, no matter what city you’re in.
It’s also a fun shoot for a photographer, simply because it’s well lit, with a lot of acts within the acts, and enough changes in scenery to keep you aware, gobsmacked and of course, entertained.
So many reviewers of a KISS show say the same godamned thing over and over: that they’re larger than life. That they’re the masters of stage and theatrics. That they’re consummate showman. That they’re the true legends of rock.
Ok- so that’s mostly true. But what gives? The rudimentary simple mindedness of it all. the music preaching to the lowest common denominator, bare bones and all.
So we might differ on that point, because it’s my opinion.
Personally, outside of a couple of their songs, I can take or leave it in regards to their catalog.
If a KISS song comes on the radio at any given moment, I will pass on hearing whatever song it is, because over the airwaves, it’s missing the visual theatrics.
It’s just not the same for me.
KISS fans are loyal. Always have been. They embrace their heroes through and through. There’s a reason why they’re called the KISS Army.
When photographing a KISS show, it’s equally fun being entertained by their loyal following, and how they embrace their band, growing up with them over the years.
Every show of KISS I’ve ever been at to work, you see families at their shows, young one’s to older one’s.
So this is KISS saying goodbye, thanking their fans from years and years of doing their best at giving it their all, each and every night, at every show.
But don’t count them out yet- the “end of the Road Tour” is never ending, at least for the foreseeable future.
Cheers- Bobby Talamine – Music Photographer

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