Kiss: Los Angeles Forum, LA
'LOS ANGELES Police Department reminds you the use of fire works is illegal,' warned the notice outside the Los Angeles Forum. With all the bravado of rock'n'roll rebels, Kiss set up the whole stage with firecrackers, furnaces, Roman candles and what can only be described as exploding waste-paper bins.
What Kiss lack in musical subtlety, they more than make up for in special effects. Gone are the days when a band would go on tour with one transit van, a few instruments, a roadie and a groupie or two. The Kiss set-up boasted five truck-sized trailers, necessary when you're lugging giant mirror-balls, giant lighting rigs, giant Kiss logo, giant kinetic meccanno set, more amps than any other group has used on stage (so says their record co.), altogether a million dollars worth of chrome, glass and wires and a cast of thousands to operate it, round the country. Kiss are nothing if not visual.
It was a pretty strange crowd. Quite a number of outrageously garbed Kiss look-alikes of varying degrees of excellence, one or two good enough to be asked to pose for the younger kids' Instamatics. Otherwise the audience was made up of 50% white guys around 20, standing up and waving their fists at the stage, and 50% white pubescents, standing on their chairs and doing the same. All were devotedly loyal and appreciative. Which went down well with Kiss, who were recording a live album at the time (Kiss Live II, scheduled for release in October).
Unless it gets a good deal of mixing afterwards, the album doesn't look like stunning anyone with its musical quality though. If you closed your eyes to the visual distractions and concentrated on the tunes it was all rather flat. The backing music especially had a definite unreal quality, often sounding distant and blurred, a bit like a tape. Their guitars weren't visibly connected to the amps, so it's possible they were using the equivalent of radio mikes. It might help them play while suspended 30 feet in the air, but if that was the reason for the fuzzy sound it's quite a risk to take when recording live.
"Itis gonna be hot!" shouted Gene Simmons, as the set opened with a furnace-spouting dragon, and some fine bumping and grinding from the boys in the band. 'Everybody' was exhorted to 'just move yourself a little bit' to 'Christine, Sixteen', a rather undynamic rendition of their not bad hit single. But the crowd loved it, joining in when they weren't screaming.
Continuing their role as rock 'n' roll's naughty children, Paul Stanley shouted: "I know there are a lot of security guards here telling you to sit in your seats and be good boys and girls. That's a lot of bulls***". Which is why the audience stood on their seats, the bouncers went bananas, one poor guy got carried outside to a uniformed officer, and your reviewer was unable to report on the quality of the usually spectacular fire-breathing act during 'Firehouse' due to the number of bodies blocking the way. But the music was getting better, anyway.
"We want you all to rock 'n' roll and get a little bit sweaty," said Simmons. "There ain't nothing wrong with rock 'n' roll pneumonia, 'cos when you come down with a chill it's time to call out 'Doctor Love'." Cue for a song.
Kiss themselves performed with all the panache expected of four macho superheroes who have actually been immortalised along with Spider-Man and the mighty Hulk in a Marvel comic book this year. Top marks go to Simmons for throwing thunderbolts, thrusting out his (he says) seven inch tongue at regular intervals and dribbling blood. But Paul Stanley makes a fine sex symbol, Ace Frehley's exploding guitar trick is quite superb, and Peter Criss's firework display-cum-drum solo is a sight for sore eyes. For sex, outrage, silliness and, well, sheer spectacle, Kiss can't be beat.
The set closed with an enormous output of dry ice, fires and Roman candles to the accompaniment of 'Shout It Out Loud'.
Kiss's music may have the qualities of a sledgehammer, but if you can afford the aspirin it's a pretty good show.
© Sylvie Simmons, 1977