Fresno Beehive

If fans wanted the best, that’s what they got from Kiss in its final Fresno concert

Scenes from Fresno’s last Kiss concert

Kiss played one last concert in Fresno on Feb. 8, 2019 as part of their "End of the Road" tour.
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Kiss played one last concert in Fresno on Feb. 8, 2019 as part of their "End of the Road" tour.

It’s easy to be too cool for Kiss.

If you think about it too hard, for too long, the band is Spinal Tap-level ridiculous.

There’s Paul Stanley, at 67 years old, in a vest and no shirt, silver fringe bouncing off platform boots as he does jazz hands to the crowd.. There’s Gene Simmons in a faux suit of armor, tongue licking his bass guitar and beating his chest like a gorilla. There’s Tommy Thayer shooting rockets out of his guitar and blinding the audience with the glare off his silver space suit while drummer Eric Singer sweats his makeup off playing with a leather choker around his neck.

Then there’s the off-stage stuff, the band politics like Simmons getting booted from Fox News, current and former members taking swipes at each other in the press, the drama preceding the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony — and the “End of the Road” tour, which stopped at Fresno’s Save Mart Center on Friday night.

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Kiss bassist Gene Simmons performs with the band during their End of the Road tour at the Save Mart Center in Fresno on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

That all goes away the moment the concert starts and the band descends from the top of the arena as from the heavens. Because now it’s all flame and fireworks and the opening chords of “Detroit Rock City.” You forget any ridiculousness and start fist-pumping along.

Much of what Kiss accomplished in its two-hour, 20-song set are arena-rock tropes — flying out over the audience or splitting the arena in half to see who can make. the most. noise. But they’re tropes in part because of Kiss and for the band it’s art form.

There was a moment during the intro to “100,000 Years” where Simmons is alone at the center of the stage. His arms crossed, he stares out at the crowd, looming and larger-than-life.

That feeling gets a callback at the end of the show, when the whole band freezes mid-motion.

It’s a comic book cover come to life, in full and blazing color and something few bands (hard rock or otherwise) attempt these days. Fewer still pull it off at anything close to this level (the Swedish band Ghost might come close).

So, yes, Kiss is ridiculous, but in the best possible way.

If this is indeed the end of the road for Kiss, they will be missed.

There was plenty to like

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Kiss guitarist and singer Paul Stanley holds a guitar pick in his mouth while performing with the band during their End of the Road tour at the Save Mart Center in Fresno on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Prior to the tour kickoff, there were concerns about Stanley’s voice and rumors (just this week, in fact) that he might lip sync his way through parts of the show. There were moments when his voice was rough (the verses of “I was Made for Loving You” and “Do You Love Me”), but he mostly hit all the right marks and comes off much more polished than others have on their final tours. (Motely Crue’s Vince Neil comes to mind.)

If he was lip syncing here, it didn’t show.

The intro to “God of Thunder” may be the single coolest bit of rock-star staging ever. Gene Simmons (as the Demon) is still scary as hell, maybe more now that his age shows some on the face. Watching him spit-up blood and make faces all bathed in red right was downright evil.

And some things they could do without

“War Machine,” off of 1982’s “Creatures of the Night,” is a decent enough song, with Simmons handling lead vocals. But if you’re going for a deep cut, there are better. Anything off side one of “Revenge,” maybe.

Sorry, Catman. As the drummer of an arena rock band (perhaps the arena rock band) you are entitled to take a drum solo. But it’s one less song that could have been on the set list. At least Spaceman shot rockets out of his guitar during his solo.

Other thoughts

Performance painter David Garibaldi wins the award for the weirdest openers for an arena rock show, spontaneously creating rock and roll portraits to music (Freddie Mercury to “We are the Champions,” Jimi Hendrix to an EDM version of “All Along the Watchtower”). It was awe-inspiring to watch his paintings unfold. To quote the guy behind me: “That’s (expletive) ridiculous!”

Is $75 too much for a Kiss baseball tee? It seems like a bit much.

Screening vintage footage of a band is a really cool bit of nostalgia for fans. It also has the sad effect of making you wish you could have seen the band in its prime. This was also true for Elton John.

Set list

  • Detroit Rock City
  • Shout It Out Loud
  • Deuce
  • Say Yeah
  • Heaven’s on Fire
  • War Machine
  • Lick It Up
  • 100,000 Years
  • God of Thunder
  • Cold Gin
  • Psycho Circus
  • I Love It Loud
  • Hide Your Heart
  • Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
  • Love Gun
  • I Was Made for Lovin’ You
  • Black Diamond

Encore:

  • Beth
  • Do You Love Me
  • Rock and Roll All Nite
Joshua Tehee covers breaking news for The Fresno Bee, with a focus on entertainment and a heavy emphasis on the Central Valley music scene. You can see him share the area’s top entertainment options Friday mornings on KMPH’s “Great Day” and read more of his work here.
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