Still Rockin’ In Detroit

Our pal and photographer John Davisson is a huge Kiss fan. So much so that he flew from his home in Florida to Detroit last week, joining fellow Pollstar photog Scott Legato to witness the band launch their Alive 35 tour. Since none of us could get the time off from our six jobs to be there, we asked him to give us (and you) a fan’s-eye view of things.

I grew up with Kiss in the late ’70s. I got my cerebral rock from Rush, my bluesy roots rock from Aerosmith, my operatic rock from Queen and my aggression from Ted Nugent. But it was Kiss when I wanted to “rock and roll all night and party every day.” Like a lot of teenagers, I had posters of my favorite bands plastered all over my walls. Kiss dominated them all. Partly because they had the best posters (and the most). Their Alive II tour was one of my first concerts.

Photo: Scott Legato
Fans are packed in to the rafters at Detroit’s Cobo Arena for the kick off of Kiss’ 35th anniversary tour.

I used to read the magazines about Kiss to learn my Kisstory and today I still know their real names, their vices and motivators. On the Dynasty tour, I was able to sneak in a camera (anybody remember 110 Instamatic cameras, the camera-phone of the day?). That lead to a passion for photographing concerts which grew from that Instamatic to 35mm and eventually to digital photography. Now I’m a respected senior music photographer with photos published in many outlets. Thanks guys!

So it was with great zeal that I headed to Detroit to see Kiss open their US tour with a two-night stand at Cobo Arena, the venue that helped propel them into the arena rock realm after they recorded the first Alive album there in the 70’s. Cobo Arena, now one of the older arenas in the country, is about to be retired so the band felt it best to pay their last respects to the place that was so much a part of the Kiss success story.

Photo: Scott Legato
Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer.

The guys invited some fans to the venue the night before the first show for a meet and greet, a brief dress rehearsal, to watch the recording of a few songs for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and to watch them film some scenes for “Modern Day Delilah,” the first video from their upcoming album Sonic Boom (out Oct. 6).

Kiss’ Alive 35 tour is a celebration of three-and-a-half decades of Kisstory and a tribute to Alive. So the band kicked off the first night by playing the album, almost in its entirety and pretty close to the original running order. For some reason, they dropped “Firehouse” and “Rock Bottom.”

Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are no longer touring with Kiss, replaced by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer respectively. Hearing classics like “She,” “Deuce,” “Strutter,” “Got to Choose,” and “Parasite” was still a real treat though. Gene Simmons breathed fire during “Hotter Than Hell” and there was some nice pyro throughout, especially during “100,000 Years” and “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Tommy Thayer had a guitar solo that featured fireworks shooting from his guitar, just like Ace’s used to. Eric Singer’s drum kit elevated and revolved during his drum solo.

Photo: Scott Legato
Paul Stanley

The show ended with a long encore that brought the Kisstory into the present with “Shout It Out Loud,” “Lick It Up,” “I Love It Loud” (during which Gene spit blood and flew up to the lighting rig) and “Modern Day Delilah.” Then Paul Stanley stepped onto a winch that carried him over the audience to a revolving second stage at the back of the hall for “Love Gun.” The final song of the night was a final thank you to the city – a pyro-heavy “Detroit Rock City.”

The stage and costumes might have been a little different but it was still the spectacle I know and love from Kiss, with enough confetti to completely cover the floor by the end of the show. Kiss is still very much alive 35 years after they started. And that makes this fan, and the legion of fans that make up the Kiss Army, very happy.