A Musical Love Letter
We have grown up together. I don’t actually remember a time when you weren’t ‘always around’. To think of a planet without you is just not possible as the mark you have hammered deep into this earth is not just profound, it is permanently rooted and buried, with layers being added on as each year has passed us. The world changes when certain performers and musicians appear. There is a seismic shift and, all of a sudden, it’s like you were just meant to be here with us the whole time. As the audience, our imaginations run wild when we hear a certain sound for the first time, a particular voice, see a band member in a magazine or in a music video and then fall in ‘musical love’ from a distance. Many have tried to emulate you, and the list of musicians and performers that you have influenced over the decades is endless. Many have tried to get close to you but your Kiss Army have held on tight and never let go. In the 60’s there was Beatlemania, in the 70’s we had Abbamania, then starting in the 80’s it was Kissteria. Australia went crazy for you and it was pandemonium watching the scenes on television as it became a real-life version of a movie scene, parents asking ‘What on earth is this ‘KISS’ band?’, ‘Look at that make up!’, ‘What do they really look like?’, ‘What is he doing with his tongue?‘, kids declaring ‘Listen to this!’ and ‘I want to be like them!’. Parents didn’t know what to make of it all as their previously chill children turned into KISS-obsessed monsters declaring ‘Mum, I need this album’, ‘Dad, I need this other album’, wearing their parents down and waiting for them to buy them that coveted vinyl.
Hearing the Dynasty and Unmasked records as a kid in the early 80’s (via two older sisters) started this musical love for me, which will never waiver. This is the type of background story that every KISS fan worldwide will have, this is when their atmosphere altered in density, the very first time they heard KISS. I just cannot imagine my music collection without all of those KISS albums firmly ensconced right in there. It is astonishing that their first Australian tour was in 1980, and the fact that we are now nearly at the end of 2022 and are being blessed by yet another tour, is truly remarkable. This behemoth that is KISS will be gracing us with their iconic live show one more (pandemic delayed) final time and yes, I am still in denial, but this has been a deep and loyal musical love affair that has lasted throughout these many years and Australia will be there right behind them one last time.
A KISS tour is a cherished event. There are travel plans to be made for those fans who don’t live near a venue, many have to prepare their outfits ahead of time and make sure they have their makeup purchased and ready to go. It is always a thrill to see ‘the magic of the KISS makeup’ in full bloom across the faces of the fans walking around the venue and I relish the outfits so lovingly made. It is extra sweet witnessing the much younger and newer fans embracing this tradition as they saunter in with their parents, or grandparents, and revel in the attention from others. How many bands have this type of ritual that has become an actual institution in itself? No one. But it isn’t just the pageantry that sets KISS apart from the others, it’s also the thumping rock tracks and anthems, the 1000% of energy that pulsates from that stage, along with the magnificence of the sets and pyrotechnics, with the anticipation of ‘What will they do next?’ How can we envisage our lives without the colossal impact of Kiss tours? I won’t for now. It may be easier to pretend that this is just another faux separation. They teased us once before with a final break up and Oh, did our hearts ache at the thought, but luckily, we have found our way back together again and have the chance to share some extra precious moments with them.
On Saturday night at the Qudos Bank Arena, it was Sydney’s turn to let loose and bring in the big guns for our final KISS show, and Sydney, you didn’t disappoint. The weather was back down to freezing but at least the rain finally eased to give the thousands of devotees a chance to make it in on time. I love the visual spectacle of a pre-KISS gig, which is like no other, and the payoff is always worth it, if you have the opportunity to arrive early to the venue. The anticipation is heavy with this intensity of love and affection that Sydney has for this legendary band. This is far from being my first time at this rock’n’roll rodeo but yet I still watch, look and absorb as the crowd is always so much fun and totally consumed by the KISS Experience that I don’t want to miss anything. I already notice the multiple generations of fans streaming in, with many showing their adoration in dress ups and makeup, along with the hardcore party animals who have already begun tonight’s revelling much earlier than the rest of us. I think of all the fans that have married to KISS songs, and done all of the other things in life, to KISS. The KISS tentacles spread far and wide and it’s extraordinary when you actually sit back and think about the longevity of the band and the impact of their music. We are so lucky to have yet another rendezvous and that ‘The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Show on Earth’ was brought to Sydney once more for a firecracker of an evening.
Once seated, I spy an older gentleman tentatively making his way down a set of stairs while wearing a replica of Gene‘s demon boots. That is dedication for you as those boots are notoriously heavy and difficult to walk in. Elsewhere, it’s families, couples and friends all coming together and chatting in excitement for a night they will never forget.
Our support act finally make their grand entrance and this is one band I wasn’t expecting on stage. Seven young guys dressed only in white undies move into position but, apart from being slightly distracting, Battlesnake can play very well and I really enjoyed the set with those four guitars playing in unison. They must be chuffed to have received the very last Sydney gig support slot for a mega band like KISS, what a life memory to have. Well done guys!
The time was nearing and the arena was packed. Even just the action of the KISS Curtain being lowered to cover the stage sets everyone off with loud cheers and whistles. It gets harder and harder to wait but when Led Zeppelin’s Rock’n’Roll winds down and the lights start to dim, KISS will belong solely to us for the next two hours. Music, lasers and pyrotechnics engulf the stage as Paul, Gene and Tommy slowly descend from the Heavens on individual platforms and we are already jumping head first into a blistering Detroit Rock City. The craziness has begun and this blazing tempo continues with Shout It Out Loud, Deuce and War Machine as fists pump the air and fans shout out each lyric.
I could think of so many set lists for KISS, they have so many beloved tracks that the songs continually keep popping into your head when you hope certain favourites may get played. What a delicious selection we have tonight as Heaven’s On Fire is up next. KISS are on fire and look like a million bucks, healthy and energetic, racing around and engaging the crowd at every opportunity. It’s a sight to behold when rock bands of this calibre can just keep bringing it at the highest level, year after year, and Paul’s taut tush would put many younger adults to shame!
We all chant I Love It Loud and never tire of watching Simmons perform his fire breathing specialty. Sonic Boom makes the list tonight and then we go back in time for some old school Cold Gin. My eyes wander and I notice a happy Dad dancing with his young daughter, swinging her around with much laughter being exchanged by the two of them. It’s so sweet of all you parents to bring your kids out for this extravaganza, creating KISS memories for the next generation. I have no doubt that your children will reflect on this night as they age and realise how fortunate they were to be a part of this special, historic occasion.
Next to come is the Tommy/Spaceman solo with pyrotechnics blasting from his guitar while lighting up the visuals of sky scrapers and flying saucers on stage. Guilty pleasure Lick It Up throws us back into 80’s hedonism but we love this tasty little tune, along with its animalistic music video. It brings out the sweetest little devil in the most wholesome of people. This is what rock is about, being unabashed and carefree and this is only one part of the successful KISS formula.
Speaking of formula, no one wants to hear the next classic song Calling Dr. Love for the last time, as Paul and Gene bring their familiar banter to the stage. Waves of sadness build and subside throughout tonight’s delight as I want to ignore the fact this really is the End of the Road. This leads us into a guitar play-off as Paul vs Tommy light up the venue and then it’s time for some Do You Love Me? It’s just hit after hit and we all want it to go on forever. I love the next track Psycho Circus, especially live. KISS just lift every recorded song to such a high level when it’s being played live, hence the success of all the KISS Alive! albums which started their own phenomenon.
Sassy feline Eric Singer had his highly entertaining and boisterous solo up next and I’m a sucker for drumming and the drummers of a band, so I lap this up while thinking to myself that I don’t want to see this for the last time either. That is how the emotions flowed at tonight’s gig, highs and then lows as 100,000 Years pummels and rips through the venue with such force, it brings you back up to this ferocious power of rock music. Gene’s iconic demon scene, with blood cascading from his mouth, is another concert visual that has its own life force. The crowd wait with bated breath as he begins with his head twitching, the facial expressions changing while his bass is selectively being flicked in the background. With the smoke and effects working their own magic behind him on stage, it was quite mesmerising and other worldly. Then the brash and domineering sneers, as the blood begins to drip and splatter, moves into a killer God Of Thunder as he is hoisted up high above the stage. Always so brilliant live, KISS concerts have repeatedly set the bar so high. They have always been dedicated to providing fans with the best possible concert experience, and the stage design for this tour certainly elevated the whole evening to another level.
Not to be outdone, we have ultra-fit Paul about to make his mark with his own personal tete-a-tete with the crowd. First, he asks to be invited out to his solo stage platform at the rear of the dance floor. Always the gentlemen, he waits and then complies. Clutching the flying apparatus, he soars above the crowd until he reaches his spot for Love Gun. Another highlight for the fans as Paul gives the crowd towards the back of the venue their own special moments. But they don’t get just one song, Paul asks to sing another, and it’s the Dynasty album smash hit I Was Made For Loving You. Of course, this seminal track brings the house down, as it always has, and once again my thoughts linger to witnessing ‘Paul’s last personal Starchild moment’ with us. Say it isn’t so? After concluding these vocals, he flies back to the main stage where 70’s classic Black Diamond pounds the arena and Eric takes over the vocals.
It’s great when the drummers get their chance to sing after being in the back, hammering away, slightly detached from the audience. Eric then makes his way to the front as a sparkly white piano appears, and his lovely singing on the always popular and heart tugging Beth leads to another lady that we know very well, with Paul singing our Shandi. This 80’s love song is the Australian set list song that only we get to hear live on our lucky shores. I have had the satisfaction of hearing Paul’s tender acoustic live version of Shandi a few times now, along with the album version. Large KISS balloons float slowly from the ceiling as the lyrics pierce deeply… ‘tonight must last us forever’ and ‘when we should say goodbye, say goodbye, Oooooo, yeaahh’. Oh gosh, I don’t want to hear goodbye right now, Shandi won’t be the same song ever again. Tears begin to swell but I manage to hold the full-blown waterworks inside, for now. This has been an emotional evening and I doubt that I’m the only person here that has had to deal with the bittersweet realisation that the KISS Magic we’ve been a part of for decades, is coming to an end.
We need some Rock’n’ Roll All Nite to finish this aural and visual live musical feast. The fans go wild as they give a standing ovation and say goodbye to the incomparable Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, guitar wizard Tommy Thayer and cheeky cat, Eric Singer. No one wants to believe this is the end of this magical and brilliant musical adventure, even while the confetti is fired all across the venue. As the lights come on, the recorded version of God Gave Rock’n’Roll To You begins to play. The crowd is attempting to hold onto these last lingering moments with their idols, even though they have left the stage, as no one wants to go home. How can we blame them for that?
It’s devastating to be at the end of this era but the KISS legacy will live on and surpass us all. We will treasure our albums, t-shirts and memorabilia acquired over the years even more now. We thank you KISS for all of these wonderful years of bringing us musical pleasure in its many different forms. We thank you for the ridiculous number of tours that we have been spoiled with (was it 16 tours I heard Paul mention?). An unbelievable achievement! To all current and past band members: you always delivered your best and we have always appreciated all of your hard work when it came to entertaining us. Thank you to your nearest and dearest for supporting you, your Managers, Agents, Publicists, Producers, Set and Costume Designers, and to all of your many Crews from around the globe, who have all worked seamlessly together in the background to bring us your exceptional live shows and various musical outputs.
The monster that is the KISS machine is one creature that will not slink away quietly. The discography alone, that very few have achieved, with sales reaching over the one hundred million mark, not to mention the foresight of marketing yourselves and releasing the largest variety of KISS band merchandise that no other band has been able to match, is significant as you changed the game. Your music and performances have smashed through worldwide country borders and transcended languages and cultures. KISS, you have the widest spectrum of fans that I have ever witnessed over the years and there will never be another like you.
Even though you have an infinite number of paramours from all over the world, our connection is a true and pure musical love. Sydney loves you KISS, we will never forget you, and we know that you will never forget us….
Sealed with an ‘Aussie Kiss’. X
© 2022 MARINA KNEZEVIC (All Rights Reserved)
The first time I photographed KISS was back in 1980 when I marched in the Kiss Army, at the Sydney Town Hall, to welcome the band to our country on their first Australian tour. As they waved to the crowd from the balcony above, I eagerly snapped away with my little Kodak Ektra 1 pocket camera. The photos weren’t perfect but they are a cherished keepsake and reminder of that event and concert that followed.
My 15-year-old self would never have dreamed that, some 42 years later, she would be standing in a photo pit, in front of her life-long idols, capturing the magic of their final tour with a professional camera. Life had come full circle.
Time in the pit was short and sweet, and whilst I didn’t get to photograph all the things I was hoping to, I’m happy with what I did manage to capture, especially as this was my first gig in 3 years and I was incredibly nervous. I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing them to you.
Thank you to KISS for the music, fantasy, escapism and many, many KISS adventures I’ve had over those 42 wonderful years. I hope our stars align again somewhere one day – Anna