It’s Friday afternoon beer-o’clock. We’re in the ground floor bar of the Corner Hotel in Richmond having some warm up drinks. Richmond’s hipster elite are on the rooftop bar quaffing Peronis in the sun but we couldn’t care less. Downstairs we sit on black vinyl stools with Carlton Draught pints and Wild Turkey and Coke chasers, hogging what little sunlight has the audacity to make it through the windows of this seedy bar. It’s hot and my denim clad arse is sticking to the vinyl. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Condensation from the glasses leaves a toxic, ammonia blue puddle on the table. A toxicity perfectly matched to the shit we’re talking. In the restaurant next door hipsters are eating Vietnamese street food and pretending to be relevant – worse still important in this gentrified, yet grungy suburb. Unlike them we’re here for a reason. Kiss is playing at the Rod Laver Arena.
Call me cynical and you’d be right. I’ve read 3 out of 4 of the band members’ autobiographies (all the concubines couldn’t get me to read Gene Simmons’ book). I loved the band as a teenager but as a middle aged guy, I’m wondering how many of these drinks it will take to make me love the upcoming gig. A friend got a good deal on the tickets, otherwise I wouldn’t have been interested. The bar is filling up with headbanger types clearly out for the concert. Even more clearly ‘not from here’. One bloke has hot rod flames tattooed on the back of his head, while another middle aged ruckus looking auntie laments not having anywhere to add here latest tattoo brainwave. Some of the guys are wearing ‘the farewell tour’ Kiss shirts from 10 years ago with no irony or smartarsery whatsoever. They just love the band.
Despite appearances they’re a decent bunch. A bearded dude taking his pool shot at the billiards table bangs his arse into mine. He’s all friendly and apologetic and I move out the way so he can take his shot. Definitely not your arrogant, coke addled Richmond boy that would glass you, quick as look at you if you got too close to his $300 flannelette shirt. I’m warming to this crowd. Time for a quick pizza slice and it’s off to the gig.
The Dead Daisies are the support act. The ooze a ‘we really are a big deal’ vibe. Hearing them from the corridors it’s a bit Alice in Chains meets The Doors. But that’s only the half of it. Seeing this band is what really makes it. The drummer throws his fist in the air, thrusts a drum stick 10 feet high and catches it without missing a beat. He’s flailing and banging every last bit of his drum kit like he stole it, and it looks awesome. Then the singer stops the band for intros and he pulls out his ‘drum chucks’, two drum sticks he’s tied together and spins like num chucks. The Daisies have a swagger and arrogance only a band as good as this deserve. Turns out the keyboards are none other than Dizzy Reed, of Guns and Roses fame. The lead guitarist is from The Baby Animals and the singer is none other than John Corabi who did a stint with Motley Crue. “I’m not taking the piss Melbourne but can you make some noise?” Corabi says, wanting some action from the stiff crowd.
The crowd picks up a bit and the stadiums almost full as the Dead Daisies end their set. The bass player literally throws his bass across the stage. Out of nowhere, his roadie’s fist emerges from the top of a black curtain and catches the bass without flinching. You can’t deny their cool. They have their glam rock antics down pat. But it’s clearly obvious the show’s only begun. They leave the stage and a giant black curtain covers the entire stage from all angles. Houdini never showed how to do his tricks and neither do Kiss.
It’s 9pm on the dot. Lights start from behind the black curtain and the crowd just lose their shit. Down comes the black curtain and the band is raised 50 feet in the air on this massive spider shaped riser. It’s Detroit Rock City time! The spider lowers down to the ground and Kiss start kicking arse and taking names, big time. The lights and flame pots are so bright I put my sunnies on and they stayed on for the rest of the show! If the US invaded Iraq with this finely rehearsed precision it would be the 51st state by now.
Drummer Eric Singer looks like he’s playing at about 10%. Then they start playing a few songs like Creatures of the Night, War Machine and I Love It Loud. Sure they go down fine, almost like the first warmish beer of a heavy drinking session. For one song there’s even a cheesy One Direction-esque video montage of photos of Kiss in their young days. It was borderline cringeworthy and Eric Singer is still looking bored. Thankfully they’re getting this stuff out of the way early, before Stanley gets into some ‘old school’ Kiss. Now we’re cooking!
Green lasers start shooting out of the stage over the audience. Stanley also whiles up the crowd saying how they started the tour in Perth (booo!), then Adelaide (double pants!) and how last night’s show in Melbourne was louder. He announces all the place names in perfect Aussie pronunciation, which makes it convincing that these guys really do love playing down here. Let it be said, Paul really knows how to win over an audience.
So they prattle off all the seventies Kiss classics flawlessly. Even if you wanted to see Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, you can’t deny this line up works. Eric Singer’s now in the groove and loving it. These older songs have far more groove. They’re tight and limber and you couldn’t distill any more talent out of them. Gene breathes fire and Paul Stanley takes a flying fox across the audience in his seven inch heels, playing Black Diamond a few feet away from me. Absolutely brilliant. That was awesome. Kids and their dads are now totally rocking out in an age defying awesomeness. These little tackers aren’t just tagging along, they love it!
At this point it would be impossible to deny Kiss their comeuppance. Show me a band that can put on a show of this calibre this consistently, and they’re [well Paul and Gene are] in their sixties! The gig ends in ticker tape flying everywhere and all is awesome. The smell of gunpowder and fireworks is rife through the air. This is not a mosh pit. It’s almost heavy metal pantomime but whatever it is it’s awesome. Despite my prejudices, Kiss have nailed it. Best show ever.