CAMDEN, NJ—KISS, newly inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this past April, played the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden on Aug. 3. This was the third of three dates in New Jersey over two weeks and the second of a South Jersey back-to-back double-shot, having played a rare appearance in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall the previous night. As part of a joint summer tour with Def Leppard, this is also the 40th anniversary tour for KISS celebrating the history of the band. From the makeup days of the ’70s, to the unmasked days of the ’80s and early ’90s, to when they put the makeup back on in 1996 on their reunion with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, few in the music industry can match the kind of ride co-founders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley have had over the last 40 years. Going on with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer in Ace’s and Peter’s respective make-ups may be controversial to some, but Tommy and Eric prove they put their all into a true KISS show.
The show actually starts in the parking lot, however. As I parked my car, I saw the people tailgating as if they were at the Super Bowl, and children were painting their faces in the guises of the Demon, the Starchild, the Spaceman, and the Cat. Adult, so-called, cosplayers were already in makeup and costumes. One of the most creative was a Gene Simmons in a medical lab coat with Dr. Love on the nametag.
The Dead Daisies from Sydney, Australia, opened up the night, walking out fittingly to AC/DC’s “Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation.” This was only their second night on the tour with KISS and Def Leppard, the first being the previous night in Atlantic City. Their sound was a polished hard rock with songs like “Lock ‘N’ Load” and their new single “The Face I Love.” They ended their set with a cover, a truly heavy version of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter.”
Def Leppard sounded as perfect as ever, having learned to layer their vocals many years ago with John “Mutt” Lange. The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” introduced them and the band finished the song live starting with the scream recently famous from CSI Miami as the Def Leppard curtain dropped. Joe Elliott took a lesson from Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and performed with a scarf tied to his mic stand. From there it was a collection of DL classics, starting with “Let It Go” to the likes of “Foolin’,” “Hysteria” and more. Def Leppard made a good use of the video screens that they shared with KISS, especially for songs like “Love Bites.” Dio and Whitesnake alum and recent cancer survivor, Vivian Campbell, was paid tribute to as Joe Elliott introduced him as “the boy who put the ‘fast’ in Belfast.” Campbell then started off “Armageddon It.” A nice touch was Joe speaking about the shared support of KISS and Def Leppard for the Wounded Warrior Project at the start of their encore. He then called upon their own so-called wounded warrior, Rick Allen, for the famous start of “Rock Of Ages,” followed by “Photograph” to end their set.
The KISS show itself was a mixture of new and old. Missing was the classic giant lighted KISS logo sign, but the huge video screen behind the band made up for it, mimicking the said logo whenever the occasion called for it. The new addition of the gigantic lighted spider that hung overhead and also served as a lighting network and a platform for the band at times is truly amazing.
“Psycho Circus,” title-track from the 1998 album, started off the show, followed up by the classic “Deuce,” after which Paul Stanley spoke about being in the Hall Of Fame now and saying it was because of the fans. He sounded a lot happier about it now, putting behind all of the controversy and conflict that led to them being inducted. Other classics followed such as “Shout It Out Loud” and “War Machine,” among others. Gene came out and breathed fire after the return of “Hotter Than Hell” to the set instead of the usual “Firehouse.” He also spat blood just before the classic “God Of Thunder,” as usual, but did not fly up into the air as he has for the past several tours, presumably because they had to leave room for the giant spider overhead. Paul still did his own flying routine, however, traveling out to a mini stage in the audience for “Love Gun” after making sure he is invited by the crowd. Another surprise addition to the set was “Hide Your Heart” from the Hot In The Shade album, which has not been played on a full tour in years. Curiously, they did not play any songs from their newest album, Monster, which they did play the first single from on their last American tour before the album came out.
Probably the biggest surprise change in the show was near the end after “Black Diamond,” where, instead of going backstage and coming out for the official encore, Paul explained that if they went backstage, it would mean they were not playing for them, the fans, and then went into the double finale of “Detroit Rock City” and, of course, the “rock ‘n’ roll national anthem,” “Rock And Roll All Nite,” complete with confetti flying everywhere. Admittedly, there were some who were still wondering what happened to the encore, but the stage time still matched up with Def Leppard’s, who still took a few minutes out for the encore illusion.
KISS gave a good representation of their 40 years despite the time constraints of sharing the stage in a double-billed show, and it was great for the old and new fans alike.