Entry for May 04, 2007

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First Encounter: Kiss 1974

(This stuff is priceless. Not because it’s so dopily written, but because it’s almost inconceivable there was a time when the very notion of Kiss needed to be explained to those who’d never heard of them. Here they were, just beginning–their second album not even out yet–making their living playing college bars and little suspecting they would soon be the biggest festering heap of rancid pus produced during the entire ’70s rock era! Or not! –dd)

If Kiss is any indication of the future direction of rock ‘n’ roll, we are all in big trouble.

The group’s concert at the Brewery Monday night was a mutated conglomeration of glitter rock, blood ‘n’ guts, high decibel thrills and images ranging from Batman and Star Trek to your typical Halloween party.

The magic was definitely not in the music. It was in the show.

Surprisingly, Kiss has strong enough pull in East Lansing to sell out the Brewery for two consecutive nights–though this might be easily explained when one considers the group’s rising popularity in Detroit. In fact, only a Detroit crowd could have loved this band Monday night, as it pioneered new loudness levels previously reached only by the legendary Blue Cheer.

At a uniform blast intensity, Kiss drove the very rowdy crowd to near ecstasy.

The group’s visuals were unusual, to say the least. Picture an Uncle Fester (of the old Addams Family TV show) lookalike, with hair, waggling a 12-inch tongue in and out as a prelude to spitting up “blood” on the strings of his bass guitar, a la The Exorcist.

Picture a drummer with a face made up to resemble a negative image of Felix the Cat. For his grand finale, he and his drum set rose four or five feet in the air while dry ice smoke blew out from the airborne set’s point of origin.

Lead guitarist Ace Frehley, looking like an extra in It Came From Outer Space, strutted back and forth onstage on his five-inch platform shoes while continuously increasing his volume, which, through two Marshall amplifiers, was sufficiently loud at the show’s start.

Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley was the least grotesque of the group, with just a black star painted over his right eye and a studded leather choker around his neck. Probably for the group’s teen appeal, Stanley spoke–or more correctly, screamed–to the audience between each number, and had no trouble in getting the entire crowd on its feet.

Between the smoke and flashing police lights, Kiss managed to play a convincing, though conventional, set of rock ‘n’ roll. As collective composers, the group leaves much to be desired, occupying a nether region somewhere between Bachman-Turner Overdrive at their best and Blue Oyster Cult at their worst.

A few numbers from the band’s second album were squeezed in during Monday’s performance. The album, on Casablanca Records, is due for release this week. Titled Hotter Than Hell, the album will again display Kiss as trendsetters, rumor has it, by having liner notes written in both English and Japanese.

Kiss, in concert, was not much to listen to, but after seeing a show filled with blood and police sirens, can anyone really complain?

(Michigan State News, 10/23/74)

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