Summer is here! And so begins this year’s shows where many historic rock bands are teaming up to tour the USA. The first of these shows was last nights epic evening with the opening night of the Kiss and Def Leppard 40 night Summer Tour.
The show began promptly at 7pm with Kobra and the Lotus opening the show. The generally uninterested crowd livened up when they burst into a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda”. Smart move.
Def Leppard would be the next band to take the stage. But before they did, several veterans and current soldiers stationed at Hill Air Force Base presented the U.S. flag and the audience rose to their feet while the soldiers and vets sang the national anthem. As it turns out, proceeds from this tour will go to helping the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps meet the needs of soldiers hurt in battle. KISS and Def Leppard hired one veteran each to be a roadie on this tour. We were introduced to these new hires, and they were received with a roaring ovation.
Now, I want you to know the point of view I’m coming from when concerning these two headliners. Def Leppard was huge when I was in elementary school. There wasn’t a day that went by, where someone wasn’t wearing Joe Elliot’s iconic Union Jack sleeveless shirt. They stayed popular until the beginning of my high school days. Therefore, I knew all their hits, whether I wanted to or not. KISS on the other hand were a little before my time. Gene Simmons “Demon” character used to scare me when he would do his legendary coughing up blood routine. When I reached high school, KISS was past their no make up phase, and had returned to their classic look. But KISS wasn’t really considered cool in my high school days. I come from the time when Nirvana showed up, and changed everything. Only the true head bangers stayed strong in the KISS Army. My association with KISS is seeing them as greedy business men looking to sell merchandise more than their music. Gene Simmons to me always just seemed to be a slime ball with a random reality show with somehow really well adjusted kids. So when this show was announced, my interest was to see Def Leppard and hear all the hits I once knew. I was less interested in seeing KISS, but I felt like they are such an iconic group, it seems like a band I should see at least once.
So, as final preparations were being made for Def Leppard’s appearance, The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” was playing on the PA. Generally before a band takes the stage, a song will play and gradually get louder signifying the start of the show. Once the song ends, the band comes out. I was fully expecting this formula when Def Leppard mixed things up! Just as I thought the song would be fading out, the curtain hiding the band was quickly sucked away and there they were, Def Leppard in all their glory! And they continued playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where the recording had left off! I loved it! The crowd was in a rage right from the get go. The sun was still out and was shining on the stage, so we weren’t able to see the digital screens just yet, so the band was left to their own devices. They were all over the stage, keeping the crowd fired up. It’s amazing, these guys have played many of these songs for 30 years. But the thing I like about Def Leppard is they play these songs with the type of energy that would lead you to believe they had just released these songs. Now, as if it was scripted, just as the sun was setting, they slowed things down with a couple rock ballads. They added a special twist with an acoustic version of their hit, “Bringing on the heartbreak”. At first I thought they went with this version in order to preserve Joe’s voice. But at the end of the song, they switched to the original version, and he hit all those high notes just fine. They closed the main set with “Armaggedon it” and of course the peak song of the set “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. Sometimes it’s hard to get the crowd going when it’s still light out, but this could have been the final song of the whole evening with the way the audience was responding to this song. They were singing every lyric at the top of their lungs and throwing their fists and rock n roll signs in the air. It was easily my favorite moment of the evening. They returned to the stage to perform their final two songs “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph”. They left the audience in a frenzy, and already hoping they would come back to town soon. Def Leppard understands the formula for putting on a great rock show. They would be a tough act to follow, and honestly, I don’t know how KISS is going to do it for 40 shows.
After about an impressive 20 minutes of roadie work, KISS was set to take the stage. And did they ever take that stage. When their curtain fell, we saw the band lowering from the top of their light rig, which was designed in the form of a spider. This came as no surprise, as KISS is known for their spectacular staging. From the start, the show was filled with fireworks, crazy lights, and pyrotechnics. As I stated before, I’m not a member of the KISS Army, so I only knew a handful of songs. But the thing I liked, is they seemed like they were having fun. Paul Stanley seemed elated to announce to the crowd of over twenty thousand, that this show broke the USANA Amphitheater attendance record. I must say, it was kinda cool to be part of that kind of history.
Despite knowing how they sell everything possible with a KISS logo on it, (Including coffins!) and how it seems they focus on making money more than music, it was fun to see them in their true element rocking on stage. I wonder sometimes if they wish they hadn’t ever come up with the gimmick of wearing that make up. Or if they realize, they may have never made it if they didn’t dawn the “Demon” and “Starchild” look. I say this because throughout the show, KISS did some of their trademark live show routines. For example, Gene Simmons did his breathing fire routine, and his once upon a time, scary to me, coughing up blood routine. Paul Stanley ziplined to the middle of the amphitheater to perform a song on a mini stage that had been set up. Gene Simmons was lifted to the top of the amphitheater for a song, and at the end of the show the whole band was lifted up on huge risers. For what they lack in awesome songs, (my opinion only), they make up for in stunning visuals that rival no one. When I’m attending a show where I’m not a die hard fan, I like to look around me, to try to get a better point of view of how the show is going. I don’t think it’s fair to just send out my opinion when the band is there for their real fans. So I like to get a perspective on how they are reacting. This was a very interesting discovery. There were fans who knew what was about to happen, so they would tell their friends, “Oh, this is where Gene does…” or “Paul always does this.” and so forth. I would hate to attend a show with that guy. It’s like seeing the band Journey with someone who has memorized the setlist from past shows, and right before “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on, the guy next to me says, “Hey, they’re going to play ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ right now!” Seriously dude?! Not Cool! So anyway, enough of my past live show trauma. The fans that spoil the iconic routines are annoying. Don’t do that. It’s better to see the person surprised than give it away. Trust me. There were also the fans who had never seen these routines by KISS. Apparently they were raised in the wilderness with no television or pop culture magazines. But it’s fun to see the looks on their faces when Gene is spitting fire, or Paul is zipping his way across the crowd. Then there are the fans that know what’s going to happen, they’ve seen it a hundred times, and yet, they still absolutely love it. In my opinion, that is the true KISS Army. USANA Amphitheater was their church, and they came to worship their rock gods and observe their rituals. That made the show great for me. I love seeing fans happy to get what they came for. Due to curfew constraints KISS didn’t go off for an encore, they just played through to the end of their set. It felt a little less rock n roll to hear that, but I respect them for being cool, rather than sticking it to the man. Sometimes, the man needs a break from all the sticking it to him he’s getting. They closed the show with their enormous hit “Rock and Roll All Nite”. The pyro was going off, the fireworks were going off, about 8 billion, zillion, cagillion, strips of confetti was flying through the warm summer sky! It was as if it was the last song, of the last show they’ll ever do. And yet, no, this was the first show, of their 40th Anniversary tour.
Overall it was an epic night of hard rock, and classic people watching. I’m glad I’m able to say I’ve seen KISS in concert. They don’t hold back on the spectacular, and they have me almost convinced to buy a KISS toothbrush or maybe a neck pillow. Def Leppard brought me back to the good ol’ days, and yet, they were still fresh, and alive as always. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was to catch them on their next stop through town. I would recommend seeing either of these guys at least once. They certainly give you your money’s worth! I just left the show with one question. “Do you take sugar?! One lump or Two?!!!!!”
Def Leppard Setlist
Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)
Let It Go
Let’s Get Rocked
Two Steps Behind
Bringin’ on the Heartbreak (acoustic)
Pour Some Sugar on Me
Rock of Ages
King of the Night Time World
Hide Your Heart
Shout It Out Loud
I Love It Loud
Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
Detroit Rock City
Rock and Roll All Nite