Normally the sight of two of the originals of KISS playing together on the same bill would be a cause of excitement, but last night’s show at the Entertainment Centre put paid to that, probably for good.
As car crashes go, this was one of epic proportions.
The show itself didn’t sell out. It was postponed from an earlier date and Frehley was added to boost ticket sales. Clearly that didn’t work. Originally slated for the Ent Centre proper, it was moved to the Theatre, which was then shrunk in size to fit what appeared to be just over 600 people, all die-hard fans. Some even turned up in make-up, some of those were children. After buying tickets for $50, and talking to some who paid $80, you had to feel for those who bought tickets for the full price of $125 – $150, not to mention those who bought the VIP packages. But at least they got to go up on stage and sing, but more on that later.
Once inside the venue, the absence of any merchandising for sale was notable. You’d expect a money making machine like gene Simmons to take full advantage of his audience, albeit a small one, but no. No t-shirts, no posters, no books, no compact discs (let alone any copies of The Vault for $2,000+) – nothing. There wasn’t even a card table set up out the front of the venue with the usual enterprising pirates selling bootleg shirts and posters like the old days. This appears to be a massive missed opportunity, but it might be a case of the merchandising being sent straight on to the eastern states, as has happened in the past with acts such as U2 and KISS themselves. Very unGenelike.
As for the show itself, there was a lack of the usual explosives, bells and whistles that usually surrounds a KISS concert. But then this wasn’t KISS, just half of it. What was present was a stage and the musicians, playing naked compared to the glitz, flash and spectacle that is KISS. There wasn’t even a backdrop, projected or otherwise. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the extra crap often draws attention away from a sub-par performance. Going bare stage allows the act to either sink or swim on their own merits. Sadly, for this show, more sinking was done than swimming, or even floating.
The backing band Gene assembled were note perfect, as you’d expect from hired guns. Despite Gene and his band landing in Adelaide on the day of the show after a flight from Vancouver, Canada, the band showed no signs of rust; but then running on pure adrenaline will do that to a person. The same can’t be said for the main players. Ace had a day’s head start on Gene and his Band, and he looked, played and sounded like he’d just crawled out from under a bed.
The Gene Simmons Band met Ace Frehley for the very first time at the soundcheck that very evening, or so Gene told the crowd later. I believe him, as it was clear that what Ace was trying to play didn’t always match up with what the Band was playing. You can say a lot about Ace, but, as entertaining as he might be, he’s no longer the stage presence he once was. He forgot the words to his own songs – one member of the Gene Simmons Band had to prompt him more than once, and he also appeared to forget the solos that he wrote and popularised. Three songs in, during the classic ‘Hard Times’, it all fell apart. Ace forgot the words and looked to have forgotten what song he was playing. He blamed the guitars and the tech for that mess. He forgot where he was during ‘2,000 Man’ at least twice. Eventually the Gene Simmons Band came to his rescue and pretty much took over the proceedings. Ace, after assuring the crowd he was sober and no longer drank, and looking to masturbate the microphone at least twice, left a happy man.
The audience, well, some were happy, some wondered what the hell had just happened.
Gene Simmons then trotted out for his turn. Gene, wearing a long wig and what appeared to be an outfit thrown in the bin by Neil Diamond circa 1977, wasted no time and tore into solid renditions of the KISS classics ‘Deuce’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’ and ‘Nothin’ to Lose’. It was promising start, not spectacular, but decent enough, even if at the age of 69, Gene’s voice isn’t what it once was.
Gene then teased the crowd by playing snippets of other, rarely, if ever, performed KISS songs, before carrying on. The true highlight of the night came when a fan, named Rose, walked out and tore the house down with a stunning version of ‘I Was Made For Loving You’. “Ok,” said Gene at the end, “fuck off.” “No!” the audience yelled, “She can sing! Keep her up there!”
Gene dragged more people up. First was a bunch of VIP ticket holders, all women, most of whom looked like normal people on stage. That being they just stood there. The next lot were the guys, who came up for ‘I Love It Loud’. Yep. Ok then. They had fun and good on them. I’d have gotten up there if I could.
It’s worth noting that Gene, between songs, cracked a lot of wise. He lamented the fact that Australians had never gotten the show Hullabaloo as that ruined the punchline of a joke that he spent a minute or so building up. He was happy that we did see Mr Ed before making jokes about his favourite topics. Gene’s favourite topics for ‘humour’ include his dick (it’s six inches, or so he says, but going on his own finger-thumb measurement, the true length might be half that), how he isn’t allowed to have sex with young ladies on the road anymore because he’s married (boo!), mimicking Paul Stanley’s mincing moves, along with questions over Stanley’s sexuality and song writing, gays, sexually transmitted diseases, the Australian accent (he latched on to the old, tired, “That’s not a knife” routine, along with prawns and shrimps), his wealth – you know, the usual. Gene promised the crowd that KISS would be touring for the next three years but, after this show, I’m not sure I want to go anymore.
As if Gene’s poor attempts at humour weren’t bad enough it was his misogynistic jokes that brought the Theatre to a state of dead silence as he cracked not one, not two, but several jokes that would have made Kevin Bloody Wilson and Rodney Rude cringe. By the third such joke, even his Band physically winced on stage, but, hey, Gene laughed, and in Gene World, that’s all that matters. In the real world Gene needs to be locked in a Perspex case labelled “Only Open In Case Of 1960”.
When the Simmons Band played full songs, and sang, the show sounded worth the $50 and, to be fair, he played a lot of stuff that KISS, won’t go near. But when Gene stopped to share his ‘wisdom’ with the audience (one such pearl included locking a wife/girlfriend in the boot of a car for 24 hours on a hot day), the show became a train wreck.
I expect that the bulk of the crowd were really there to see Gene and Ace on stage, together, tearing through some Kiss songs. It wasn’t to be, they performed one song together, Rock and Roll All Nite, and even then Ace simply said he wasn’t going to be singing that.
Sure, it was one half of KISS, and as a fan of long standing (1978 to now) I could enjoy the night on a nostalgic level. But, also as a fan of KISS I felt cheated and very disappointed. Sure, we’ve all heard how Gene is an arsehole, and Ace can no longer sing, but to see it, first hand, is crushing.
God love you Gene Simmons, you cantankerous old bastard. Never, ever change. The world needs people like you, if only to remind the rest of us how far we’ve come and how sexist, racist and homophobic our grandfather’s generation really was.
Next time I’ll stay home and just YouTube some old KISS videos.
The Gene Simmons Band with special guest Ace Frehley. Entertainment Centre – Theatre Stage. 28 August, 2018. Ticket price: depends on when you bought them and from where.
Fractured Mirror, Parasite, Hard Times, 2000 Man, Rock Soldiers, Rip It Out, Love Gun, Rocket Ride, Strange Ways, Talk to Me, New York Groove, Shock Me, Cold Gin
Deuce, Shout It Out Loud, Nothin’ to Lose, Almost Human (snippet), Love ‘Em And Leave ‘Em (snippet), Two Timer (snippet), Calling Dr. Love, Radioactive, Charisma, I Was Made for Lovin’ You (guest vocalist), Do You Love Me, Plaster Caster, Sweet Pain, Long Tall Sally, Love Theme from Kiss, War Machine, She’s So Australian, I Love It Loud, All the Way, Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Rock and Roll All Nite (with Ace Frehley)
By Daniel Best