KISS / Motley Crue / Treatment
August 4, 2012
Gexa Energy Pavilion
Review by David Dunn
Photos by Barry Bond
What is it about rock and roll that inspires grown men to apply white pancake makeup on their face, complete with a black star on the right eye, then go out and happily flaunt themselves in public? The answer can be summed up in one word - KISS.
By all accounts, this band should have been put to pasture a long, long time ago. But let's face it, if any group truly had nine lives - despite the absence of the original 'crazy cat' Peter Criss - it's this one true costumed creation. In fact, if you really want to know why KISS is bigger, bolder and badder than ever before, you can trace it back to the genius of Gene Simmons. His reality show, Gene Simmons' Family Jewels, was a master stroke in marketing. It 'humanized' the tongue wagging, fire-breathing, blood gurgling bass player to the point it literally transcended itself into KISS.
Tonight's crowd of some 15,000 included a multitude of families with parents eager to share, and pass on the KISS experience, to their own children. And with tickets individually priced at anywhere from $50 to $190 on up, (not including all the service charges added to the ticket or the VIP Packages both bands offered), this was one expensive event for your family to attend. But in the end, none of that mattered. Simply put, you can't put a monetary figure on priceless memories, and that's exactly what this show was all about.
First up on this brutally hot night was a young English band called The Treatment. Singer Matt Jones did his best to get the crowd engaged despite the staggering amount of empty seats they performed in front of. One of the problems for an opening act, no matter how talented they are, is the fact no one has ever heard of them. For those that were curious, they saw an excellent performance. Jones' has an excellent set of pipes on him. It's too soon to tell if this band has real staying power, but right now they're living the dream, so more power to them. The musicians were tight and they definitely have a lead singer that can handle anything that's thrown at him. They are a band to take note of in the future, especially if they are fortunate to bang out a hit single on their next recording.
After a brief set change, it was time for Motley Crue. As people were streaming in to the covered pavilion to quickly take their seats, a curious procession took place. With a variety of Cirque Du Soleil type performers doing their acrobatic best on stage to distract the crowd, a small troupe of Mardi Gras masked performers marched in parade-like fashion through the aisles. Led by two Motley 'hotties' carrying banners, the grand entrance by the small formation was met with roaring approval as it made its way to the stage. And wouldn't you know, when the masks came off, Nikki, Tommy and Vince stood before an adoring audience. The next thing you know, the band is playing the title track to the album, Saints of Los Angeles. It was all smoke and fire from there.
The Crue's stage set up was the exact same one they took out on the road last year, complete with Tommy Lee's 360 degree roller riding drum set up. The song selection was pretty much the same, except for the three good ones they left out, and the brand new one they added. I would have preferred to hear "Too Fast For Love", "Looks that Kill" or even "Smoking in the Boys Room" to "Live Wire", "Primal Scream" or even "Don't Go Away." Alas, it wasn't going to be the case. The new Motley tune, "Sex", pretty much turned into a bathroom break song for hundreds of people who streamed out to reboot themselves for another round of refreshments.
There has been a lot of rumbling in chat rooms, and in the press, that Vince Neil's voice just isn't what it used to be. For the record, who cares? I thought he did just fine dealing with the intense Texas heat and the continuous reign of fire that seemed to erupt all around him throughout the band's 75-minute set. One thing critics always seem to forget is this. When you're a fan singing all the Crue songs you know with the rest of the crowd, the last thing you're going to worry about is whether or not Vince is hitting all the right notes, or even the correct lyrics. Motley Crue is, and always will be, a celebration. They were the perfect tune-up for the ultimate joy ride that lay ahead.
Before I go any further, I have to say one thing. The New York Times newspaper is beyond desperate now. They had a booth out in the food courtyard that was selling a subscription to their Sunday edition. In exchange for signing up, you would receive a KISS t-shirt. Many people were spending the outrageous price of $3.95 for the Times' Sunday paper - getting their free concert shirt - then promptly walking off laughing about how they were going to cancel their subscription. The Times is considered the paper of record for all liberals, and is the official bible of the Democrat Party. If you think you're going to appeal to a KISS / Motley Crue fan base to increase your subscription base, you've got to be out of your mind. Instead of the N.Y. Times working this crowd, it was the other way around. For Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, however, it was just another revenue stream they were more than happy to take in.
After that amusing discovery, and more people watching, the stagehands had customized the stage for the KISS extravaganza that was about to come. When the lights finally went down, the crowd roared. It kept on cheering when guitarist Tommy Thayer launched into the familiar guitar chord opening of the KISS classic, "Detroit Rock City," as the band entered on a floating platform. From that moment that point forward, it was game on.
Like I mentioned earlier, KISS has become a family friendly affair these days. There were kids of all ages at this event, many with their faces painted to resemble the musicians on stage. And when I say kids of all ages, I'm talking about the adults as well. Again, making the pilgrimage to this show gave hundreds of parents the perfect excuse to connect with the same teen spirit that drew them to KISS in their youth. Gene did his usual blood spewing routine, and the obligatory blowing of fire from his mouth, to the delight of the real and old youngsters in the crowd. As an added twist, both Simmons and his brother from another mother, Paul Stanley, even flew above the delighted, cheering audience below to a mini-stage to perform "Love Gun". Why, the band even played a song, "Hell or Hallelujah" off their new album coming out in October.
This KISS / Crue tour is interesting not because of the combination - well, okay it is - but for the extra mile Gene and Paul have gone to monetized the situation. They are offering a special VIP package at every show for $1250 per individual. This special deal gives a fan special access to the group. For those willing to go the extra monetary mile, KISS is going to make it worth your while. First, you are guaranteed a ticket in the first ten rows. You also get picture and autograph sessions with the entire band. Your gift bag includes custom guitar picks, T-shirts, an 18K gold-plated KISS ring and your very own private concert with the band. These sound check gigs range anywhere from 5 - 10 songs, depending on how the band is feeling that day. And they aren't pulling any punches on the material they play either. Many of the tunes are true KISS classics like "Cold Gin", "Beth", "Strutter", "Christine Sixteen", "Calling Dr. Love", "Deuce" and "Hotter Than Hell". Depending on which songs they play, it's guaranteed those tunes will not appear on the general set list the band performs later that evening. So, the bottom line is this. If you're willing to shell out the dough, Paul and Gene will definitely put on a show.
As I alluded to earlier, the KISS of yesterday has gone through a tremendous transformation as far as image is concerned. This band was once considered an X-rated, hell-raising, anti-religious abomination. In today's reality, KISS has become a kinder, gentler group that many consider has real family values. Again, I tip my hat to Gene Simmons for pulling off the remarkable Houdini act. The funny thing about the new perception is this. There never was a compromise on this band's part to change who they are. They've been doing the exact same schtick for 40 years and are now beloved icons.
There will never be another KISS. It took a special type of genius to put together this creation for the long haul. It is also took a special group of musicians to write the lyrics and create the music to stand the test of time. Is KISS the band it once was? Cosmetically yes, musically no! And honestly, that's all this crowd cared about was the past. In more ways than one, KISS has become a generational love affair to be shared and passed on. No one musical entity will ever do it better in our lifetime. And for that reason alone, this band has every reason to 'shout it out loud!'
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