“And on the 5th night, thou shalt be blessed with not just one Rock icon, but two, and Sydney shall receive a thorough rock’n’roll shellacking”, the Rock God said to his Disciples.
If that isn’t an understatement for last night’s corker of a night at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney, then I don’t know what is. KISS rock legends Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley gave us exactly what we wanted and more, exceeding our expectations. If you missed this night of rock’n’roll heaven, you really missed out!
The venue was heaving even before guitar wizard Frehley appeared on stage with members of Gene’s brilliant backup band (Ryan Cook, Philip Shouse, Jeremy Asbrock and Chris Williams) as support. What a way to start, with the cranking riff of ‘Parasite‘ ripping through the theatre. The band was giving it their all and the stage vibrating with a raw energy that continues to build as this rock extravaganza threatens to blow the roof off our temple of rock’n’roll worship. The crowd erupts and the KISS ever-faithful chime in with fervent voices, fists pumping and hair flying. The atmosphere is charged as we enjoy an extensive catalogue of classic Kiss anthems and solo material throughout the evening. Frehley’s unique, and instantly recognisable, riffs and vocals create a stir with more great classics like ‘Hard Times’ and ‘2000 Man’ coming our way. This is going to be a night of continual rock gems, as many staples from our treasured childhood record collections spring to life.
Only a few songs in and it’s a feeding frenzy as we devour ‘Rock Soldiers’, ‘Rip It Out’ and a killer version of ‘Love Gun’ (with Shouse on vocals), followed by ‘Rocket Ride’, ‘Strange Ways’ (with Cook on vocals), and yet another favourite with a thumping ‘New York Groove’.
Every song is blistering perfection. The support band are a formidable force as they slay through each number with intensity, and Frehley, so heavy but crisp, hasn’t lost any of his guitar magic or swagger.
‘Shock Me’ leads us into Frehley’s signature smokin’ ‘Guitar Solo’ and then takes us to ‘Detroit Rock City’ with Cook again on vocals, with a serve of ‘Cold Gin’ to end the set. All you need is that first bar of a Frehley riff and you know which treat is on its way. So distinctive, I look over at my colleague, who clutches her chest in awe and exclaims “Aaah, good for the soul”. Yes, indeed, and Frehley’s applause and ovation is more than warranted. What a display of rock’n’roll brilliance, and we still have Simmons yet to make it on stage. You have more than ‘still got it’, Ace Frehley. After last year’s tour with Alice Cooper, and now this tour, can we get you back again in 2019 for a headliner?
We needed that refueling break before Simmons graced our stage for his first ever solo tour. The excitement throughout the venue was more than palpable. I watched as security carried an overflowing box of water bottles to the front for the crazy ‘Gene mosh pit’. This throng of rock fanatics was getting ready for its next session of wickedness and another plethora of outstanding classic tunes. As the theatrical intro to ‘Radioactive’ echoed through the speakers, he appeared. A commanding presence as always, he cranks it up a notch with ‘Shout It Out Loud’ and ‘I’ from ‘Music from The Elder’ album. Not knowing exactly which songs would make the cut tonight was part of the fun. This rowdy crowd couldn’t get enough, regardless of which track was being played. Next up with ‘Are You Ready?’, then a beautifully heavy ‘War Machine’, and an out of the bag ‘Long Tall Sally’. What a thrill tonight was with this delicious display of Simmons mastery. The teasing of ‘Dr Love’, and a favourite I was hoping we would hear tonight, the devilish ‘Charisma’. The band are fearsome and passionate, hammering it out on stage with two of the most important and prolific rock gods that have ever lived. Four guitars tearing the house down, the crowd hollering and whistling continuously, it’s hard to believe this is Simmons’ first solo performing tour, and we pray it won’t be the last.
Then a witty version of ‘She’s So European’ (twisted into ‘She’s So Australian’) riled up the venue. Simmons constantly engaged with the crowd, his humour and charm shining through as he bantered in between songs, that twinkle in his eye showed us his passion for performing hasn’t dissipated. We’re just reveling in this very exclusive night of rock’n’roll magic and wishing it could become an annual pilgrimage. As ‘Love Theme From Kiss’ and ‘Let Me Go, Rock’n’Roll’ make the set list, I notice another big cloud of steam rising above the dance floor. Gene then introduces us to Virginia Lillye, a local firecracker, who lights it up with her killer version of ‘I Was Made For Loving You’. Wow, what a performance! Simmons stands back and nods in awe. Getting the seal of approval from this rock giant will be a moment for her to remember. Then it’s on to ‘Do You Love Me?’ as many lovely ladies from the audience join the band on stage. With many dreams coming true, their joy and enthusiasm was justified.
We get some more cool guitar riffs with ‘Sweet Pain’ and then some old school Simmons with the much loved ‘Radioactive’, which is how you could describe tonight! What a wonderful and satisfying celebration of rock music. If we could could bottle this up into a ‘KISS’ elixir, and take a little sip every day, what a happier place the world would be.
‘I Love It Loud’ sees more fans on stage as it ends with a crowd chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”, “Oi, Oi, Oi”. Simmons lets the crowd expel all their raucous energy before pummeling us with a spicy ‘Plaster Caster’. As if we weren’t already spoiled, Frehley makes it back for a cracking ‘Deuce’ and an epic ‘Rock and Roll All Night’. A virtual ‘KISS’ ending and fan-packed stage, rock and roll all night we did, literally. How can you not be bursting with pleasure? This was one very special event, filled with an already overflowing brim of heavy rock, superb musicianship, mixed with personality and finesse. To think of a world without ‘KISS’ and their music isn’t fathomable. I have tried but can’t imagine these musicians not being such a huge part of the musical journey. The crowd was flushed with euphoria as they exited into the cold night. Everyone knew they had witnessed an event that they will never forget. As we re-lived the evening over post-concert drinks, I could hear a fan near the Enmore yelling for Simmons two hours later. I agree, we another fix!
To have Simmons and Frehley ripping it up and showing us exactly what it means to be ‘Rock’n’Roll Legends’ was one of the highlights of our 2018 Australian touring calendar. Outside of KISS, they have produced some amazing solo material that deserves to be heard, shared and appreciated on a regular basis. All hail Rock’n’Roll and long live KISS!
© MARINA KNEZEVIC 2018. All rights reserved
Photography by Anna Bartle at rockchique.net
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