I don’t think there would be anyone with an interest in hard rock or heavy metal that could truly give you a value to the impact that KISS had on the genre. Arguably one of the most influential rock bands of all time, it seems that even 45 years into their career that the band is showing no signs of slowing down. So it came as no surprise when the double headliner bill of Gene Simmons and original guitarist Ace Frehley rolled into Brisbane, that the KISS army was out in force, and that the line into The Tivoli spanned it’s way down almost an entire block.
Space Ace was the first act to take the stage and jammed his way through an absolute set of classics. Songs like Rock Soldiers, Rocket Ride and Rip It Out were all appetizers for the fans while hits like Love Gun, New York Groove, and Detroit Rock City garnered the greater crowd response. There was never a dull moment, and this carefully cultivated setlist definitely won over the crowd.
Ace’s performance was technically brilliant – effortless and faultless, but it was the backing band that really energised the whole show. There was an artistic sense about each member, and while there wasn’t a showman side to their performances, their energy had a very exuberant effect on the overall performance. This was best exemplified through the shared vocal backing duties throughout the set, and even a guitarist and also the drummer taking lead vocal duties for a track each. Although this was Gene’s backing band, there couldn’t have been a better option to assist Ace on stage, as these talented musicians treated each of Ace’s original works, and the KISS classics as their own.
Normally the sound at The Tivoli is hit and miss, but on this occasion they seemed to have found the perfect mix. The drums were heavy, but not heavy enough to drown out the other instruments; the guitars flowed seamlessly atop the drums; and each of the microphones were set at just the right level to carry the vocals over the music. It really was the incredible mix that helped showcase these songs to the audience, and is an absolute credit to the sound guy on the evening for getting this aspect of the show 100% right.
While Ace’s performance was a purely technical masterpiece, with no added humor or flair, being very much ‘down to business’ — Gene’s performance was the polar opposite. It may have been due to the fact that Gene is a very enigmatic character in his own right, but from the moment he took the stage he commanded the attention of the entire crowd in a way that didn’t seem possible off the back of Ace’s set.
Gene and his band performed a choice cut of songs spanning throughout his career with the majority being KISS covers of tracks like Calling Dr. Love, Charisma and War Machine, with some of his solo work like Are You Ready and Radioactive also making an appearance. A cover mid set performed by his backing band of Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally got the crowd moving, but it was the KISS tracks that got the greatest response.
While the performance was everything that fans could expect it to be, it was the little barbs and jabs between songs that were an honest and humorous surprise. From changing the lyrics in She’s So European to She’s So Australian, and at one point asking the crowd what a ‘dinkum’ was (in reference to the Australian term ‘Fair Dinkum’), Simmons made every moment that he wasn’t playing guitar a memorable one that had many of the crowd in stitches.
Probably the only real disappointment throughout Gene’s set was the performance of ‘I Was Made For Lovin’ You’. There wasn’t anything wrong with the musical side of the performance, or the vocal side, with singing duties performed by a wonderful and incredibly talented Australian singer — but it was just a tad disappointing that neither Gene nor any of the capable backing band took on the duties for such a track, especially when one of the backing members had sung Love Gun earlier in the evening. When something as minor as that is the only blemish (and a personal one at that) in a set then you know it has been a successful night.
The icing on the cake for an amazing evening was Gene bringing Ace back on stage for the closing double header of Deuce and Rock and Roll All Nite. While KISS is still very much an active band, it was a real treat watching The Spaceman and The Demon on stage together to kick out a couple of classics, and was a perfect way to end a rocking evening.
Having nearly sold out the venue, it’s clear to see that the love Brisbane has for Gene, Ace and KISS is high. With a departing promise that KISS would be returning to the country in 2019, the artists left the stage to a very elated crowd, and one that will certainly be out in force at those promised shows next year.